gobi-dessert-race

The hottest place in China is getting even hotter as it prepares for the RacingThePlanet event

It’s other name is “The Oven”, and who but RacingThePlanet would have thought of staging an ultra-marathon self-supported event here? But this is not the first time that they have held this contest-amongst-contests in the Gobi Desert and I am sure it won’t be the last.

Running in the Desert: The Gobi March 2005 by Adventure Nomad.

Competitors from 30 countries are preparing themselves for the experience of soaring temperatures and extreme weather, adding to the already challenging nature of the 250 kilometre rough-country footrace.

From the 27th June to the 3rd July, the Gobi March 2010 will take place in the Turpan Depression in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the first time RacingThePlanet has hosted the renowned 4 Deserts race in this location since 2005. Five years ago, temperatures reached as high as 50 degrees Celsius (in the shade) and with this year’s race taking place in June instead of April, competitors could be racing in similar if not hotter temperatures.

Mary Gadams, founder of RacingThePlanet, says “The competitors are going to find the heat in the Gobi Desert oppressive. It’s not humid, but below sea-level it can be stifling when there’s no breeze. They will also have to prepare for the worst as the weather is so unpredictable in the Gobi, storms can blow up from nowhere and temperatures can vary wildly between night and day and in different areas along the 250 kilometre course. Couple this with the changing terrains the competitors will face and the race will be a stern test of good preparation and adaptability.”

The race will be run in series taking place over seven days, with six stages totaling 250 kilometres. Competitors are self-supporting and, with the exception of water and a tent, carry all of their required equipment and food for the duration of the race.

This grueling yet rewarding challenge sees competitors of all ages, nationalities and racing abilities compete. In 2010 a record 17 Chinese competitors will take part in their “home” race, with a total of 51 participants who are resident in Greater China.

Top contenders in the race include Peter Osterwalder, 45, from Switzerland who finished second in the Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2009. 57-year old Johan Petersen from New Zealand is also expected to put in a strong showing, after his sixth-placed finish in RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009, the annual roving race outside of the 4 Deserts series. Josep Maria Romero Parra, 43, from Spain is another athlete to watch, having finished eighth among an extremely strong field in the Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2009.

But ‘ware the newcomers. There’s a strong field there too…

The race I reported on that was recently held in Namibia was enlivened by a light sprinkling of rain – this is unlikely to happen in the Gobi as it is a rain shadow desert formed by the Himalayas blocking rain-carrying clouds from reaching it. Hope is not entirely lost though as the highest rainfall in the Turpan Depression is  June when an average rainfall of 3.3mm might be expected! The climate of the Gobi is one of great extremes, combined with rapid changes of temperature, not only through the year, but even within 24 hours (by as much as 35 °C or 61 °F).

The Turpan Depression within the Gobi is the second lowest exposed point on the Earth’s surface (after the Dead Sea) with dry Lake Ayding (Moonlight Lake) lying at -154m. It is entirely below sea level and by some measures is also the hottest and driest area in China and so is also known as one of the Furnaces of China. It covers an area of 50,000 km².

This is one of the toughest endurance races you will ever encounter. As extreme as they come… Good luck to everyone.

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