The Gobi March starts tomorrow

Whilst we sit here in our salubrious surroundings, 154 people (125 men and 35 women) have already completed registration and have been been taken to Camp 1 at Gaoyachun village for the official start tomorrow.

A quick reminder about this RacingThePlanet ultra-marathon:

  • The Gobi March (China) is part of the 4 Deserts series.
  • The Turpan Basin, where the Gobi March (China) 2010 takes place, is China’s lowest point of land on earth (and the second lowest in the world, first is the Dead Sea) , the hottest place in China and the most distant point from an ocean in the world.
  • Temperatures for the Gobi March (China) can vary greatly – in 2010 average temperatures will be about 10°C / 50°F on the early part of the course and 35-40°C / 95-104°F on the later stages. It could rise to 50°C.
  • The terrain will be a mixture of dry rocky river-beds, dusty tracks and sand dunes – roughly 20% of competitors will run the entire course, 60% combine running with walking, and 20% will walk the entire course.
  • The fastest completion time is expected to around 25 hours and the slowest around 80 hours.
  • The average backpack will weigh 8-9 kilograms / 20 pounds.
  • Thirty (30) countries are being represented in the Gobi March (China) 2010 with approximately 1/3 from North America, 1/3 from Asia and 1/3 from Europe. Some countries represented include Afghanistan, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Bangladesh, China, France, Hong Kong, India and the State of Alaska in the United States.
  • The average age of the competitors for the Gobi March (China) 2010 is 39.
  • The youngest competitors in the Gobi March (China) 2010 are Emma Fergusson from United Kingdom and Shuhan He from the United States. Both are 22 years of age.
  • The oldest competitor is 61 year-old Kumi Murakami who is a swimming instructor from Japan.Approximately 20% of the competitors are women and 80% men.
  • Competitors will be required to pass through up to 30 checkpoints throughout the seven-day event.
  • A full medical team will be working at the race. In addition to treating competitors, the medical team will also be conducting medical research on blister prevention.
  • During the Gobi March (China) 2010, competitors, volunteers and staff will consume more than 16,000 liters of water over the seven days of the event. Coca Cola will be providing the water for the event.More than forty (40) charities will be supported through the Gobi March (China) 2010.

This is one serious ultra-marathon. It has again been named by TIME magazine in 2010 as the #1 footrace in the world, and as one of the world’s top 10 endurance events.

Stan Lee, a 50 year dentist from Canada, is not content with doing just one of these formidable ultra-marathons, but plans to become the first person ever to do all 5 in just one year. RacingThePlanet have 4 classics each year and one roving marathon – this year it was in Western Australia.

When Lee was nearing his fiftieth birthday, he came up with the idea to attempt all five races. “I woke up one morning thinking that I wanted to do something significant in my life, so I decided to kick it up a notch. I turned 50 about six months ago and thought that doing five races would be appropriate. Running is like a drug and you always want to do more.”

Unfortunately Lee contracted a particularly vicious dose of bronchitis on the last day of the Western Australia event which took 7 weeks, 4 doctors and 2 courses of antibiotics. “I was off running for seven weeks so this is somewhat of a crash course. But I think I should be ready.  I am pretty confident I can do well despite the lack of training,” he said.

Australian Peter Jong, 33, is also going to give it a go… After deciding that he was going to join the 4 Deserts Club, Jong got talking to a representative of RacingThePlanet who had told him that no one had ever completed all five races in a single year.

That was all the incentive the Aussie needed.

“Naturally, if I was going to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam, then why not do the roving race as well, especially when it was being held in Australia?” says Jong. “In my mind, it was inevitable that I would compete in all five races in 2010.”

We have talked before about the comradeship that you find in events like this. Sure it’s nice to be first over the finish line, but these ultra-marathons are about a whole lot more than that. And the people who are with you on the trail, the friendships that are made, the hardships that are endured together, the desire they all have to cross the finish line, makes these events into something a lot more than a race you want to win.

Lee and Jong first met during the Atacama Crossing 2010 and hit it off immediately. While there were other competitors who had intended to complete all five races in a single calendar year, only these two have so far managed to stay on track. During the race, the pair ran the final 30 km of The Long March together, motivating one another to keep strong and finish.

Explains Jong: “I first met Stan halfway into The Long March in Atatcama. I was hungry and he had a packet of dried mango. How can you not be friends with a guy that offers you noodles and dried mango? At first, there probably was some competitiveness between us, but as time goes on, we’ve become good friends. Where we place and our times are second to helping a friend cross the line.”

The very best of luck to the pair of them and to everyone else who will be sitting in camp right wondering how the next few days are going to go…

It’s interesting to meet some of the volunteers:

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