At the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer decided in 2013 to go on an ‘exciting holiday,’ as she put it. Signing up only six weeks before the race meantshe didn’t have the ten months of preparation that some of the other competitors had had. At first this may seem careless, but as we talk it becomes a
fascinating theme about Lara’s approach to life: on the surface it appears to be dreamy, but it actually has a lot of merit to it and underneath the exterior
is a very sharp athlete with a great approach to life.
Her teachers at school may have told her that she didn’t take things seriously, yet she sees this as a gift. “People get down when things happen, I don’t
take myself seriously,” she says. This allowed her to approach the Mongolian adventure from a completely different angle. For her it wasn’t about going
and trying to win, it was about going and coming back having grown, having learnt. “I knew I would come out with something,” she says explaining her view
of the race.
For Lara success is measured on a different set of scales - which as her teachers said, could look like she doesn’t take things seriously. However, Lara’s
view is actually that she sees failure and success as equal. Why? Because she sees things from a different perspective: she wants to enjoy life and the
adventures it brings, she maintains that to reflect on trivial things and get upset by them is pointless. Learn from them and embrace them; find a way
and make it work.
In the middle of nowhere, riding on your own and having to stand in the stirrups has had a positive affect on Lara. “When there are no people around
no one can define you, only you yourself,” she reflects about the hours and hours spent on her own. This in no way romanticises the adventure or diminishes
the challenge, but further demonstrates her exciting world view.
Of course it was tough, but for her it was about seeing past the pain and seeing the bigger picture. Having said that, she readily talks about the
challenge. “It was so tough!” she says, and then explains in more detail: “...so much pain all over your body and mental pain, waking up like you hadn’t
been to sleep...” Add to this falling off horses in some of the remotest parts of the world and then seeing them bolt off with NO ONE around….
For Lara, it’s about what one gets out of the experience. “I was blown away by the Mongols’ hospitality. Here you are in the middle of nowhere, they
give you their bed, tuck you up and want nothing for it.” Adventures like this can’t fail to affect you. She asks, “what if I knocked on doors in the
UK (where she is from) and asked to stay the night with a stranger? I think most doors would be slammed in my face. I want to do things differently.”
Lara may be an adventurer, but its not just about her own adventures - it’s about learning, growing, enjoying life and giving back in a number of
different ways. It has also however made her want more. “I’m greedy for adventure now,” she says excitedly.
Lara’s desire was to come back having had an adventure, knowing that she was going to ‘get something from it’. Well, she did in more ways than one.
She won the Mongolian Horse Derby in under 7 days and became the first woman to win the race! A feat that can in no way be underestimated. The interesting
thing is that to this day she is downplaying it. For Lara what is more important, and what she speaks about with more passion, is the experience: the
good and the bad, it is all positive in her mind.
Where she will go next and what she will do is all in the planning stage now - but what is sure is that she is looking at things in a very different
way to many other people. On the surface it may seem too laid back, but this is a Mongolian Derby winner, the first woman to win the race; and a tennis
player and Welsh capped Lacrosse player to boot.
Lara shows again that athletes come in many different forms, they look at things in different ways and gain different things from their various pursuits.
In addition, Lara also has a very specific view of life: one that embraces all around her, one where negatives are a positive and where she defines
herself, not anyone else.
I look forward to her next adventure!
Photos courtesy Lara Prior-Palmer