If it's the 14th June it must be the GOBI MARCH…

You might remember that I did an article on the ‘Ultramarathon – The Four Deserts’ (Atacama, Gobi, Sahara, and Antartica) the other day… the Atacama Crossing has already happened, but now it’s the turn of the Gobi March.

The Gobi Desert is in China and is known as the windiest desert in the world. It is also a cold desert, and it is not uncommon to see frost and occasionally snow on its dunes. It is in a rain shadow created by the Himalayas. It is the 5th largest desert in the world.

The race this year will be located around Kashgar in an area called Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture. It will be the 6th time this race has been held along the old silk route and it has become the largest international sporting event in Western China.

The host city for the Gobi March (China) 2009 will be Kashgar or ‘Kashi’ as it is known by the locals. Kashgar is in the extreme West of China, the Southwest extreme of Xinjiang, at a junction between two branches of the old Silk Road.

It is a colourful region with an historically important background. Kashgar has been an important trading centre since the days of the Silk Road, and it still is today. The population is a mixture of Ugyurs, Han Chinese, Kyrgizs, Tajiks and Uzbeks. Together with central-Asian merchants visiting the markets and workshops, the city boasts a colourful ethnic variety. The city is said to have the largest bazaar in Asia – something fun for those not participating in the race.

The Kashgar oasis is where both the northern and southern routes from China, around the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts, converge. It is also almost directly north of Tashkurgan through which traffic passed from Gandhara, in what is now northern Pakistan, and Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. The famed Karakorum highway, the highest paved road in the world, links Islamabad, Pakistan with Kashgar over the Khunjerab Pass.

The majority of the area where the Gobi March will be held is closed to tourists, requiring special permits. The course is expected to reach an altitude of 3,000m (9,800 ft).

Some interesting facts about the starting field:

This year’s field will contain roughly 150 people from about 30 countries. The youngest competitor is 19 years old (from the United States). The largest contingent of competitors is expected to come from the United Kingdom and the largest contingent of competitors from Asia will come from Hong Kong.80% of the competitors are expected to be male and 20 percent female.The average age of competitors will be around 38.5 years of age. Four of the competitors in the Gobi March 2009 have summitted Mt. Everest…

Feast your eyes on last year’s Gobi March and you’ll get a very good idea of what these competitors are letting themselves in for…

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