You get out what you put in
Fri, Nov 24, 2017

Barry Armitage is doing epic horseback journeys. The former professional sailor has ridden many rides and thousands of kilometres over the years. In 2017 Barry won the Mongol derby, a 1000km race across the Mongolian steppe based on Genghis Khan’s messenger system established in the 13th Century with a fresh horse every 40km. CNN rated this race in the top 10 of the toughest endurance races on the planet. We have asked the extraordinary endurance athlete a few short questions.

My name is… Barry Armitage

I am… a horseback adventurer.

My biggest win was… the Mongol Derby 2017 in a time that smashed the previous record. 87 hours and 23 minutes to ride 1020km. 27 horses ridden over 7 days.

On foot or by horse? On horseback of course: four legs are better than two!

Trot or gallop? Galloping is exhilarating but over distance an extended trot gets you further faster.

Oat or grass? You get out what you put in: oats! Better fuel for horses.

The craziest ride I`ve ever done was… the last day of our third television series emulating an historic ride – 950km in 6 days. Things hadn’t gone very well. We had 205km to ride on the last day and had to push very hard. I was exhausted from an average of 3 hours sleep a night and kept dozing off in the saddle while cantering at 22km/h: quite an unsettling feeling and pretty dangerous but we made it!

100km or 1000km? 1000km. I tend to come into my own from day 4.

Flat or hilly? Hilly. Working the contours well saves your horse and never gives away height gained cheaply.

One day race or stage race? Stage race – the longer the better.

If I have a big lead in a race… I feel hunted. Do I keep pushing or ease off and look after the horse and myself? A terrible conundrum. Rolling the dice and chasing down the leader is easier and much more fun.  

How many hours do you train per week? Always too few.

Meat or vegetables? Yes please.

My favourite spot on this planet is… under that new goose down duvet on a rainy day in Cape Town.


I love… belting across the steppe on the back of a good horse knowing you’re going to take the lead!

If I had one wish… it would be to not break another bone coming off a horse!

My secret of success is… Preparation. Get your gear as good as it can be. Train hard: get strong and light. Then ride each stage as efficiently as possible. Don’t make mistakes. Spend every minute possible in saddle.

My biggest goal is… not to break another bone coming off a horse!

I always wanted to be asked that question: Would it be ok if we paid you to do what you do?


Foto credit: Julian Herbert