SAMANTHA Anderson has swopped her 1909 Humber pedal cycle for ponies to tackle the gruelling 1 000km Mongol Derby.
The reason is, “Motorbikes can’t love you back,” joked Sam.
She took a leap of faith by adding her name to the pool of entrants wanting to take part in the Mongol Derby.
Sam said being accepted was a wake-up call as she had never ridden endurance on a horse and was faced with the exciting and stupidly daunting challenge of riding 1 000kms in 10 days on semi-wild Mongolian ponies with no comforts or support.
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To go from zero to hero she enlisted the help of her family and friends.
“I owe a life time debt of gratitude to a number of people who have been amazingly generous to me,” said Sam. Her partner, Kevin Tebbutt, Dube Pricemoor, Craig Gillespie, Craig Egbrink, Pete Dommit, Mark and Elsa Fraser and Wiesman Nel have all helped. She said there were three she owed a special thanks to who have helped shape her abilities in preparation for the event.
“The first is Glynn Redgrave, an extremely talented horse whisperer who had the terrible job of trying to teach me to ride unbacked race horses at Summerveld in the hopes that I would learn to handle semi-wild ponies.”
After breaking three ribs in her first couple of weeks of training, Sam was undeterred and still trains with Glynn every Friday.
The second person is Megan Frost.
“This amazing woman, who I had never met, agreed to loan me two unbacked ponies, Skyla and Gabriel to train on. Gabriel bolted properly the second time I rode her and I fell off, onto my butt, and she got the nickname Faulty Bolty,” laughed Sam.
She rides both ponies after work and on weekends for as much time as work responsibilities, family commitments and day light hour’s permit.
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When it became too dark to ride horses at 4.30am, Sam began running with 19-time Comrades finisher, Dave Findlay.
“Dave had to put up with me swearing my way to the top of all the 1 000 Hills in Drummond because I couldn’t run to save my life,” she said.
Things have improved in the last three months and Dave is ever hopeful that Sam will run alongside him during his 20th Comrades Marathon next year.
Sam will head to Beijing on 24 July to apply for a visa for Mongolia as there is no Mongolian Consulate in South Africa.
This, she admitted, was a risky way to start her journey.
She intends to rest and take in the sites of the Chinese capital before, hopefully, landing in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital three days before pre-race training begins.
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Sam will face conditions of extreme heat during the day and cold temperatures at night. During the race she cannot carry more than 5kgs of luggage for the 10-day race.
She will change ponies every 40kms during the race and riders will self-navigate the course with GPS’s and sleep at night with local, nomadic Mongolians.
“If I get all the way to Mongolia and get on my first pony and hit the deck, I would have had the most fun in my life getting there.”
She said her aim was not to win the event but to finish it, savour the experience and create a lifetime’s worth of memories.
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