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The Journey from the 100km Asian Championships to the first National Championships: Tracking Steps taken by an young member of the IAU Family.

The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) have been advocating and promoting ultrarunning in the international realm for over twenty five years now.

Every year we welcome new members that join the association with unparalleled enthusiasm and zeal. In 2010, we saw our 50th member join the group.
If one goes into Central Asia, they come across a nation over 600,000 square miles and 2.74 million inhabitants. This country is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. With an already strong Olympic tradition in judo and wrestling, the national sporting federation, has newly ventured into the sport of Ultrarunning.
Mongolia joined the IAU this year and send its first athletes to participate in the Inaugural 100km Asian Championships held in Jeju, South Korea in March 2010.
Recently, I had the opportunity of discussing Mongolia’s entrance to the ultrarunning world with Unurbayar Sundui, General Secretary of the Mongolian Ultramarathon Federation (MUMF). He is part of an Executive Council that was set up to promote ultrarunning in Mongolia.
I asked Unurbayar about the growth of ultrarunning in the country. He replied, In circumstance of our country with drastic climate combined with plain field and broad lands of natural scene, our athletes are relatively hard bitten and patient. Thus, we expect great results in this sport in future and further development in our country.” Physical and geographical limitations are something that the athletes of this country will learn to overcome as they venture further into the sport.

Mongolia has had a strong representation in the Olympic events, particularly the judo competitions. However, the national athletes have participated in the not too distant cousin of the ultramarathon. Unurbayar alluded to this, “The fact that we participate in Olympic Gameswhere a marathon event is connected to it. As well we gained authority for participation in the Olympics with marathon event and we aim to attract majority of the marathon community to ultrarunning event.”

The MUMF is currently working round the clock to organize the first National 100km Championships. The event is taking place in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar on September 5th 2010. The race also has a concurrent 50km run that is being run on the same course as the 100km.  There is a lot of work that goes into the organization of that first national ultra event in the country.

I discussed the preparations of the national championships with Unurbayar and he shed some light on it, “Athletes screened in provincial and city district are invited to participate in the championship. At the first national championship that is going to be held, it covers the mass community screened.” He added, “International athletes are cordially invited to participate in it. It is in the approved calendar plan of MUMF.
Mongolia entered the world of international ultrarunning with the 100km Asian Championships in 2010. National athlete Dondogdorj Sodnompil completed the race in 10:12:01 finishing in 7th position. It is a truly amazing feat for someone with very little training and in his first international competition.

I asked Unurbayar about his impressions on the first IAU event that he attended. He beamed with joy and said, “We are grateful to get familiar with the organization, structure and features of the IAU Asian Championship to reflect in our practice.” The MUMF is incorporating a lot of what they learned in Jeju to their own race in Ulaanbaatar.  

The signs of a strong Federation are the presence of a strong leadership. The MUMF is closely supported by the Mongolian Athletics Federation. The Ultra Federation has a very proactive President in Baldan-Ochir Lkhagvajav and a strong directive with Unurbayar as General Secretary. Prior to my chat with Mr. Secretary, he was on a regional tour of Mongolia to promote ultrarunning and advertise the upcoming 100km National Championships.

I asked Unurbayar about the response of the local running population to the advent of this ultradistance event. He confidently shared, “Since the publicizing activities for ultrarunning event are getting intensified, we are confident that the interest for ultrarunning in the running community is getting raised.

The MUMF is steadily getting recognized in the country where ultrarunning is not the paramount sport. This is true of many of our athletic federation, including, several long time ultrarunning nations. Unurbayar added, “Our Managing Council approved the schedule and financial funding of the planned ultrarunning events with its meetings involving investments of sponsor organizations and companies affiliated.”

I was interested to learn more about the goals of this very young ultrarunning nation. Unurbayar helped me out with this, “We are working to constitute the following objectives: To prepare athletes to achieve category “B” in the next year’s IAU Asian Championships and the World 24 Hour Championship 2011, to enter the best national team possible with male and female athletes and to educate the community about ultrarunning by leading training and promotional activities.”

The group has been traveling around the country promoting coaching workshops planned for this winter. Long term plans in this sector include extending training programs for first aid workers and providing handbooks and guidelines for coaches and judges for ultra running events. 

The MUMF and the athletes in this young ultrarunning nation are on track to become veterans of the course. The process will take good leadership, due diligence and determination. There is no doubt that there is ample supply of this under the current format and with time we will see Mongolia well represented in the international arena. In the meantime we welcome Mongolia into our folds of the IAU Family!

Nadeem Khan
Director of Communications

P.S. This article is in the series of "Behind the Scenes with the Teams´. If you would like to highlight your federation, selection procedures or international race participation/performances, please contact me.

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