Gobi Desert 2016


Photo credit to Ultra Trail Gobi Race media


On September 24th, I flew out to Beijing, China, and from there traveled to Dunhuang City, Gansu Province.  On September 28th I began a 250 mile (400 kilometer) foot race in the Gobi Desert.  The start line was by the Ashoka Temple ruins, and the race route included typical desert dunes, high altitude climbs and mountain ranges, dried riverbeds, and the heritage route of the Old Silk Road.

The original inspiration for the race comes from a book written about the journey of a Buddhist monk, Xuanzang, who travelled through the Gobi Desert wilderness some 15 centuries ago.  In the words of Xuanzang himself: "When it is hot, the heat sears you like a flame, when it is cold, the wind cuts your flesh like a knife."  Night time temperatures will fall below freezing, and towards -15 Celsius higher up in the mountains.  During the day, the desert heat will reach the mid-30s.  It will be a tough environment to race in, with risks of both hyperthermia and hypothermia, and all the obstacles to progress that come with both.

The cut-off time for the race was a generous 150 hours, although the podium finishers completed the route within half that.  For me, this was my first desert experience since completing the Marathon des Sables in 2007.  Prior to that, I had spent time in the Egyptian Sahara every year from 1999 to 2006.  Since then, I have raced over mountains, in the Amazon, and in the Arctic and sub-Arctic.  It has been close to 10 years now since I set foot on deserts sands, and the proposition of a single-stage 250-miler with a good cut-off was extremely exciting.

More information on the race can be found here.



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