How I found myself running in a Mongolian marathon
The Mongol Rally, equal parts charity fundraiser and lunatic odyssey, was dreamed up by two bored Englishmen and held for the first time in 2004 with six cars. In 2009, more than 400 teams took part.”
L ast summer, a young Rotarian from Michigan, USA, set out to drive a 2001 Chevy Metro with 140,000 miles on it from England to Mongolia.
The Mongol Rally -- equal parts charity fundraiser and lunatic odyssey -- was dreamed up by two bored Englishmen and held for the first time in 2004 with six cars. In 2009, more than 400 teams took part. Ralliers can choose their own route to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, but their cars must have an engine no larger than 1.2 liters -- and no GPS. Getting lost is more or less the point, although those cars that make it to Mongolia are donated to charity.
“You are supposed to be on an adventure, not in a nursery class, so if the sky does fall on your head, prop it up with a windscreen wiper and carry on,” the rally website reads. “If you’re worried, stay at home.”
It was a siren call that Scott Brills couldn’t resist. Brills, a member of the Rotary Club of West Bloomfield, and his friend Collin Otto, took the team name Hardly Working and raised $1,650 for Mercy Corps Mongolia, one of the rally’s official charities. Brills, then 26, and Otto, 25, then collected an additional $7,000 to help build and outfit a kindergarten in Mongolia, a joint project of Brills’s club and the Rotary Club of Bayanzurkh 100 in Ulaanbaatar.
"We decided to drive to Mongolia in search of adventure, and adventure is most definitely what we got," says Brills, a 2007-08 Group Study Exchange team member from District 6380 (parts of Ontario, Canada, and Michigan, USA) to District 2440 Turkey. "Starting off with a half-year fundraising campaign for a seemingly ludicrous attempt to drive across a third of the earth's surface to deliver funds to assist in building and outfitting a kindergarten in a country many people had never even heard of, we had our work cut out for us.
"Throughout the 10,000-mile trip, we were accosted by border guards, held captive by corrupt police, stranded in no man's land between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and even had our vehicle die on a 10,000-foot plateau in the middle of Tajikistan -- just to name a few of our hilarious mishaps.
"But all of the challenges we faced over the nine-week journey are minor compared to the many positive experiences we had, the people we met, the scenery we witnessed, and the lives we helped change."
Visit Brills's blog for more