“It's known to be a proper challenge, not a pony trek”, says Alice Gully, 46, co-owner of Aardvark Safaris.
In a few months' time, Heriot-based Gully, along with her friend, Kate Mactaggart, 46, who lives in Jedburgh, will be taking part in the Mongol Derby - otherwise known as the toughest horse race in the world. Only 40 jockeys are selected for this grueling event, which takes place from August 7-20 and covers a 1000km route through the Mongolian Steppe.
The horses are semi-wild, temperatures are expected to range from freezing to 38 degrees centigrade, riders will survive on a diet of offal and mutton, and the terrain covers mountains, rivers and desert. Usually, half of the riders quit or are injured before the finishing line.
It’s definitely not going to be a sedate trot, and the duo, under the name Doddie5 Dazzlers are participating in order to raise £30k for Doddie Weir’s My Name 5’ Doddie Foundation, which raises funds to help improve the lives of those affected by motor neurone disease.
“It sounds like an incredible challenge and we can't wait to hear more about their adventures. Over the last four and a half years we have been fortunate to receive support from all kinds of adventurous, bold and inspiring people who have come up with so many exciting and imaginative ways to help us”, says the charity's CEO, Jill Douglas. “We are committed to a world free of MND and invest significant amounts into targeted research projects. We will continue to invest in the most promising research to help find new treatments, gain improved knowledge and ultimately find a cure. We also give grants to support people living with MND and this wouldn't be possible without the support of our amazing fundraisers and supporters. We wish the Dazzlers every success."
The intrepid pair have already gone over the £10k mark and were always committed to this specific cause.
“For us, it was a no-brainer that My Name’5 Doddie would be our chosen charity. I live close to Doddie’s father and know his wife through horses, and Kate comes from a family of excellent ruby players – mutually it was an easy choice as it is a charity we both felt connected to”, says Gully. “Kate and I are determined to make a serious contribution to finding a cure for MND, it seems mad that there isn’t one, with modern day medicine”.
To prepare for the impending challenge, they are each undergoing an intense training and exercise regime. This includes cycling 100 miles and rowing 21,000 meters per week, as well as a weekly 5k run, 20,000 steps per day and over seven hours in the saddle each week.
“As we get closer to the race, the training is starting to become all-consuming, and while the days are getting lighter and warmer, you still need motivation”, says Gully. “Every time I think about slowing down on a cycle or cutting my time short on the rower, I just think ‘I don’t have MND and I CAN enjoy this amount of exercise’. Now that we have a £30k target, there is no way we can’t be anything but fabulous and in the best shape possible to tackle the race.”