1,000km can seem like a long way in a car let alone on a bicycle. Add that it is unsupported, off-road mountain biking in temperatures as high as 40C and we're talking about a serious endurance challenge. Then make it a non-stop race, in teams of two, competing for $1m of prize money and you have what promises to be one of the most competitive and enthralling adventure races ever. Welcome to The Munga.
The brainchild of South African cyclist/adventurer/downright masochist Alex Harris the inaugural Munga is scheduled for December this year. The race will start in Bloemfontein and stretch all the way to the vineyards of Stellenbosch. The unprecedented prize money (1st place will receive more than the Tour de France winner) means that this race will attract the elite from a whole range of cycling disciplines.
But will it be the endurance riders, the mountain bikers or the road speedsters who prevail? How will team dynamics factor into the equation? Is it possible to complete the course in one sitting or will sleep strategies be a deciding factor? Is mental endurance transferable from other sports? Does prize money make a difference or is it more about intrinsic motivation and reward? Where on Earth do South Africans come up with these unhinged ideas for self-flagellation? And, as if there weren't enough questions already can a pair novices even complete the distance within the five day time limit?
I was first introduced to the Munga by a South African colleague on hearing that I had recently completed the much-hyped Marathon des Sables. If his intention was to put my modest running achievements into perspective, it certainly worked. The more I found out about the Munga the more it seemed to have been expertly designed to crush, both physically and emotionally, anyone daft enough to attempt it. And yet, I couldn't quite shake off the urge to find out how (or rather if) I would survive under such conditions. So, naturally, my first move was to recruit a like-minded individual rash enough to join in this quixotic adventure; fortunately I was able to find an old school-friend who actually knows a few things about cycling, George Ewart-Perks.
Having run a handful of ultramarathons I've become accustomed to thinking of myself as fairly durable (it helps to surround oneself with the 5k brigade and avoid ever socialising with other ultra-marathoners). We soon realised that The Munga is a completely different kettle of clichés. This is a race organised by people who cycle thousands of kilometers for the prospect of winning a blanket (Freedom Challenge). What on earth is going to happen when there is one million dollars up for grabs?
Over the next few months I will be chronicling our preparation (and likely failure) to tackle 'the world's toughest mountain bike race'. In doing so I hope to gain an insight into what drives people to take on these challenges and whether financial reward makes a difference. Whether you're interested in the psychology, the cycling, the adventure or you simply enjoy a bit of Schadenfreude, this should be an exciting experiment...
You can find out more or even sign up yourself at https://themunga.com/the-story
Suggest a correction