For the first time in Derby history, we have three Mongol Derby winners. William Comiskey, Heidi Telstad and Marcia Hefker-Miles crossed the finish line hand in hand at 9.48am. All three of them will share the Derby title and we will have to source another two trophies. We spoke to Marcia at the finish camp.
Congratulations Marcia. How was your derby?
My experience was so fulfilling. I was so lucky, I’m so thankful to the crew, to all the Mongolian herders, and of course the horses. I don’t know how anything else could compare to it.
I had some falls but they were all on trying to mount. I stuck with those same horses, the herders kept telling me that if i could just get on, they were good horses and they were right. 95% of them were fantastic. The 5% that didn’t like me still gave me heart.
What did you think of the horses?
Those ponies have so much ferocity. They are so fearless, they’ll do anything for you. I have wonderful horses at home but I don’t think i’ve experienced horses that have as much soul and heart as these horses do. My motto, it comes from Lonesome Dove, "theres nothing like riding a fine horse over good country." I've really been living that.
How will you be celebrating?
By staying at the finish line! I wanted especially to see Courtney, my very dear friend come in since we rode most of the ride together.
You must have had a difficult moment yesterday, when you separated at Urtuu 22 as she sat her U14 penalty. What was going through your mind?
We rode together so we had lots of time to talk about it, leading into it. It was 2 stations before, I actually had a horse that was part of that 5% - he had a lot of heart but did not have a lot of go. we really lost a lot of time, getting left behind. I was begging her to go on, and then we'd even out with her penalty. Courtney said she decided she did not want to ride on. It had happened multiple times, sometimes one of us would have a horse that was not as fast as another and pairing it with a faster horse could make it go. She would not leave me. My goal had always been to finish as well as I could, and I was going to continue on. I didn't want my goals to affect her - she had confided in me she wasn't in it for the win, she wanted me to go on. When I left she said: "if I change my mind, I'm going to catch you because I know how!"
How do you follow the Derby?
I don’t know! But there will be something. It's so tough becuase you are so isolated on the race. I can't wait to relive everything that was happening to the other riders. It'll be fun to keep living this with different stories. Plus, I have my endurance horses at home so I have two 100mile races next month.
Most of all, I can’t wait to hug my family and reassure them that I’m ok. It’s hard to look your family in the eye and say I’m going to do something for fun that’s extremely dangerous. I just want to hug them and say thanks for believing in me.
What will you take away from Mongolia?
The people, the sights the horses. Everywhere I look it’s so beautiful. The culture, the people, the views. I truly know I'll be back.