CHEYENNE – A Cheyenne native made history this week some 6,000 miles away from the Capital City.
Bob Long, 70, became the oldest competitor to win the Mongol Derby – the world’s longest horse race – Wednesday morning, according to a news release from the League of Adventurists International.
Long, who is originally from Cheyenne but now lives in Boise, Idaho, finished the seven-day, 1,000-kilometer race through Mongolia’s rugged terrain at 11:03 a.m. Mongolian time. He crossed the finish line just under two hours ahead of his nearest competitor, Wiesman Wels of South Africa.
“Age is just a number,” Long said in a statement. “It’s nothing – you just ride 650 miles. There’s nothing to it. I’ve only stayed overnight at one horse station; I’ve been staying with local families. They’re spectacular.”
Long changed horses 28 times en route to winning the 11th Mongol Derby – a race based on the “ancient horse messenger system used by Genghis Khan in a country where the horse is king, utilized for everything from cheese and meat production to transport and a symbol of wealth,” according to the release.
Tabbed as the toughest test in the world for equestrian endurance riders, competitors change horses every 40 kilometers at various checkpoints stationed throughout the country. Each rider must endure being in the saddle for up to 200 kilometers per day while facing the challenge of riding more than 25 different “semi-wild” horses, with varying bucking abilities, the statement read.
This year’s race featured 42 riders from as far away as the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand.
A competition often won by younger riders, Long reversed the trend by leaning on his years of experience, both on horses and being an outdoorsman, to win the race. He also battled Mother Nature along the way, riding through torrential rain, the blazing sun and frozen temperatures, along with the harsh terrain of Mongolia, according to the release.
As he crossed the finish line, Long carried a picture of himself as a child on a horse – one his mother, who died just a few weeks ago, took, and he promised her he would carry it with him in Mongolia. He described the race as a “rush,” according to the release.
“When I started, I was excited about riding horses, but I’m not so excited now,” he said.
Tom Morgan, head of The Adventurists, praised Long for his bravery and unwavering efforts en route to victory.
“(He) isn’t just the oldest, he has ridden better and stronger, camping out more, than anyone else,” Morgan said in a statement. “We opened up the course this year to make navigation a key skill again, and Bob absolutely nailed it.
“The man is tougher than a box of concrete.”