Ultra-Marathon Athletes from around the world are arriving in southern China

39 extreme athletes have checked in and are lined up at the starting line in Taklamakan 2010 for RacingThePlanet’s extreme ultra-marathon. Taklamakan is in a remote part of southern China and is one of the world’s largest sandy deserts.

To give you an idea of how extreme this event is, have a sneak preview (racingtheplanet) of the terrain that these hardened warriors will be tackling:

Taklamakan is the inaugural event for RacingThePlanet’s 100 series. Starting today in the desert region close to the ancient city of Hotan in China’s Xinjiang province it is the first of a unique series of 100 kilometre, single-stage, self-supported, rough-country footraces, staged in some of the most remote, least explored and unique places on Earth.

Open to both teams and individuals, the distance of 100km will be raced non-stop in a single stage and includes a generous cut-off time of 48 hours. A shorter 50 kilometre distance is also incorporated into each race. Competitors must carry a selection of mandatory items and pass through up to eight checkpoints to successfully finish the race.

20 countries from 4 continents are being represented including China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. South Korea has the strongest representation.

Ji Sung Yoo of Korea will be competing in his 13th RacingThePlanet event – which will give you an idea of just how addictive RacingThePlanet’s events are. Yoo has a best-selling book out on his exploits in  the past 12 events which would be well worth reading.

The climate in the Taklamakan Desert is hot and dry – precipitation is extremely low, averaging 24 millimeters / 0.95 inches per year. The air temperature in the summer rises to as much as 38°C / 100°F on the eastern edge of the desert.

Ancient travelers along the Silk Road feared the Taklamakan Desert which was known as the “place of no return” locally translated as “you go in and do not come out”.

The 100 kilometer long course has checkpoints approximately every 15 kilometers. It is anticipated that during this event competitors, volunteers and staff will consume more than 2000 liters of water over the two days. Coca Cola are providing the water for the event. The organisers do want everyone to come out of the desert!

The field boasts some very competitive athletes including Eric LaHaie, 29, from the USA, who won the 250 kilometre Gobi March 2009 and was runner-up to the record-breaking Ryan Sandes at this year’s Atacama Crossing, as well as two North Face sponsored competitors from China: Yun Yanqiao, 22, who was the champion of The North Face 100 Singapore in 2009 and who has a consistent marathon time of under 2 hours 40 minutes, and Xing Ruling from Beijing who was the ladies champion of both The North Face 100 races in Singapore and Beijing in 2009.

Eric LaHaie says of his decision to enter the race, “I’m running to challenge myself in a new way. I’ve done a couple of multi-day events, but only one 100 kilometre race. The Taklamakan looks amazing and I am really running to experience all that the desert and region have to offer: scenery, cultural interaction, history (the silk road), etc.”

The next  RacingThePlanet 100 is planned for Tibet in May 2011 and Australia’s Kimberley region a few months later in September, but Mary K Gadams, founder of RacingThePlanet, plans to extend the series globally.

We’ll be watching… and thank you to RacingThePlanet for the wonderful photographs.


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