21 ultra-marathon runners have been killed after extreme weather conditions hit a 100-kilometer mountain race in northwest China.
The high-altitude Huanghe Shilin Mountain Marathon began on Saturday morning in sunny conditions but by 1pm, the weather conditions had turned, with freezing rain, hail stones and gale winds lashing runners in Gansu County.
A Hong Kong marathon group called Hong Kong 100 Ultra Marathon confirmed in a statement released on Sunday that one of China’s well known ultra-marathon runners, Liang Jing, was among those who died.
The marathon group said Liang had been a “favorite” member of the Hong Kong trail-racing community and regularly participated in the annual Hong Kong 100-kilometer trail race, and was the runner-up in the last two years.
Temperatures reportedly dropped in the Yellow River Stone Forest as runners started reported suffering from hypothermia, while others went missing, forcing the marathon organizers to call off the race and launch a search party of 1,200 people to scour the complicated terrain.
Janet Ng, a race director of the Hong Kong 100 Ultra Marathon, said she was not in a position to comment on the importance or safety of the Gansu marathon, but noted that the trail-running community is mourning with great sadness.
One participant who survived was quoted as saying:
“At one point, I couldn’t feel my fingers (because it was so cold). At the same time my tongue felt frozen, too.
“I retreated back to halfway down the mountain, and entered a wooden cabin at the direction of a rescuer.
“There were already about 10 more runners who came down earlier and we waited for rescue in the cabin for about an hour. Eventually about 50 runners came and took shelter in the cabin.”
By Isaac Dachen
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