He borrowed thermal underpants, a balaclava, food and mini-crampons from his fellow competitors – “I was a walking charity shop” he admitted – before setting out in his £70 shoes, bought from the fashion retailer Joules.
After Losing Luggage, Man Completes 100-Mile Race in Dress Shoes and Jeans
It would be hard enough completing a 100-mile ultra marathon across a frozen Mongolia-n lake with the proper equipment. Peter Messervy-Gross performed the feat wearing his everyday fashion brogues.
Mr Messervy-Gross, 47, had spent months accumulating winter weather kit for the Mongol 100 challenge. But his bag was lost by the Russian airline Aeroflot and rather than give up, the father-of-three decided to plough – or more likely slide – on with one of the world’s toughest challenges.
Sporting his four-year-old leather work brogues and the jeans he wore on the flight, Mr Messervy-Gross managed the remarkable feat of walking the 100 miles across Khövsgöl Nuur, known as the Blue Pearl of Mongolia, in just four days. Temperatures at night dropped to minus 30 degrees centigrade.
He had tried to buy replacement running shoes in a department store in Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar but discovered to his horror that nowhere stocks footwear to accommodate his size 13 feet.
“It was like the Ugly Sisters trying on Cinderella’s glass slipper,” he told the Daily Telegraph, “I couldn’t squeeze my feet into the running shoe. It wouldn’t fit and they just don’t stock anything bigger than a size 11.
“When my airport bag still didn’t show up, the penny dropped that I would have to do the race in the brogues.”
Mr Messervy-Gross along with four other competitors in the race, organised by the UK firm Rat Race Adventure Sports, had lost their luggage in Moscow airport as they transferred flights to Ulan Bator. The other four got theirs back before the race start; Mr Messervy-Gross, who lives in Jersey with his wife and family, was not so fortunate.
Fellow competitors dubbed him ‘the rogue in brogues’. Most of them wore specialist high-end winter walking boots or shoes while eight completed the course wearing ice skates. One cycled across the lake.
The race took its toll and Mr Messervy-Gross, a chief information officer with a tech company, suffered painful blisters but no more.
“When you run a race like that your feet swell because you’re on them for so long – I literally became too big for my boots,” he explained, “It did get pretty uncomfortable, my feet blistered really badly and especially on my little toes, which was quite painful.”
He added: “My shoes held up surprisingly well – I’m just a bit allergic to putting the things on now.”
Perhaps inevitably, Mr Messervy-Gross, whose wife Melissa is a champion triathlete, got his holdall back on the last day of his Mongolian adventure. “We were at the airport after finishing the event – and my luggage turned up 15 minutes before check-in for our return home,” he said. “I never found out what happened to my bag, but after I told my family what happened they were all so proud of me for carrying on. I’m so glad I stuck it out.”
He explained that the trek had become a different challenge once he undertook it in his brogues. “It changed from being a foot race from A to B and turned into a whole different adventure about a group of people helping me out even though they were suffering too,” said Messervy-Gross, a dual UK-New Zealand citizen who has lived in the Channel Islands for 20 years.
Jim Mee, founder of Rat Race and organiser of the Mongol 100, part of its ‘bucket list’ series, was impressed by Mr Messervy-Gross’s perseverance. “He did this with pure gusto despite his circumstances,” said Mr Mee, of a race his company has called “the most surreal, audacious and hauntingly beautiful adventure challenge known to Man”. And that was before anybody attempted it in brogues.