The 100km race, made at high altitude, took place on Saturday, May 22, 2021 in the Yellow River Stone Forest, near the town of Baiyin, in Gansu Province (northwest). It was marked by sudden hail, icy rains, strong winds and mostly negative temperatures. Extreme conditions that captured 172 participants, including experienced athletes. Provincial authorities have sent a team to the scene to investigate the causes of the tragedy.
“Strong wind warning”
The Gansu Meteorological Office warned on Friday ahead of the race “heavy showers, hail, lightning and sudden strong winds”. The director of the Jingtai County Meteorological Office claimed to have distributed a special bulletin with “strong wind warning” for the race, according to the New China News Agency. According to information from the local press, the temperature would drop to -24 degrees. “My lungs were frozen and I felt like I was no longer in control of my body … I curled up in a survival blanket, pulled out a GPS track and pressed SOS before I lost consciousness,” testified a participant on the social network Weibo. He said he regained consciousness in a cave, where a shepherd placed him near a fire. Among those who died were elite runners, local media reported. One of them, Liang Jing, has won several ultramarathons in recent years. Huang Guanjun, who was deaf and dumb, won the marathon for hearing-impaired men at the 2019 National Paralympic Games.
21 people running a mountain ultramarathon died in northwest China after hail, icy rain and a stormy wind hit a high race in Baiyin, Gansu Province.
– Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) May 24, 2021
Chinese media point to “marathon fever”
Authorities are urging the Chinese population to play sports. Running has thus become a very popular discipline among the middle class. According to the Chinese Athletics Federation, in 2019, at least 1,900 races were held. According to her, the number of marathons organized in China between 2014 and 2018 multiplied by 40. This is not the first time that the practice of running in China is news for non-sporting reasons.
The “marathon fever,” as the Chinese media refers to the phenomenon, has attracted a number of unprepared participants who ingeniously compete to achieve the best of times. In addition to the need to stay in shape, the race for a degree or career leads some to resort to all means to include good sports performance in their resume. In 2018, traffic cameras in the city of Shenzhen (south) spotted 258 runners cheating, crossing shortcuts during a half marathon. In 2019, the participant rode part of the Xuzhou Marathon (East) on a self-service bike for rent. Faced with this unspeakable behavior, the authorities are now removing fraudsters by recognizing faces and tightening penalties. In 2019, three Chinese runners were suspended for life for sneaking into the prestigious Boston Marathon in the United States.