Twenty-one people running a mountain ultramarathon have died in northwestern
China after hail, freezing rain, and gale-force winds hit the high-altitude race.
The experienced runners were racing on an extremely narrow mountain path up
3,000 meters when the extreme weather struck.
The 172 participants were caught off guard by the sudden conditions, with most runners
not dressed for winter-like conditions and wearing short-sleeved tops.
The 60-mile race also followed a relatively established course, having been held four
times, according to a participant in the race who quit and managed to make his way to
Participants were not rookies. One of the deceased was a well-known runner, Liang Jing,
who had won a 100-kilometer (62-mile) race in Ningbo, reported the Paper, a state-
backed newspaper based in Shanghai.
A woman who worked for the race organizer, Gansu Shengjing Sports Culture
Development Co., said there were no predictions of extreme weather for the day of the
race, according to Beijing News, a paper owned by the Beijing city government.
However, Baiyin city’s local branch of the National Early Warning Information Center had
warned for the past three days of hail and strong winds.
The race also followed a relatively established course, having been held four times,
according to an account posted online by a participant in the race who quit and managed
to make his way to safety.
But the weather caught them off guard, and on the morning of the race Saturday,
he already sensed things were not normal. The runners were not dressed for winter-like
conditions, many wearing short-sleeved tops.
“I ran 2 kilometers before the starting gun fired to warm up … but the troublesome thing
was, after running these 2 kilometers, my body still had not heated up,” the competitor
said in a first-person account that has been viewed more than 100,000 times on his
WeChat account “Wandering about the South.”
He later told the Paper that the forecast the day prior to the race did not predict the
extreme weather they encountered.