21 Runners Killed By Freak Weather During Ultramarathon in China

On Saturday, in northwest China’s Gansu Province, nearly 200 runners laced up for a 100k ultra race through mountainous and exposed terrain. A sudden, freezing storm blew in while the competitors were on the course, crossing a 6,500-foot pass. Heavy hail, bucketing rain, and freezing winds disoriented and stopped many of the competitors. Sadly, 21 of them died on the course.

Competitors were required to carry GPS trackers and timing chips. When many of the runners failed to register at checkpoints, a 1,200 person search party went looking for the missing.

Some first hand accounts of the tragedy have begun circulating in Chinese media. One competitor who was running near the front of the pack was halted by extreme winds and punishing hail and hit the SOS button on his GPS unit. He passed out and later woke in a cave, carried there by a shepherd who found the man unresponsive on the trail.

It appears most of the runners were dressed in light clothes, anticipating warmer conditions.

Liang Jing, 31, one of China’s best runners, has been confirmed among the dead.

“The incident has sparked public outrage on Chinese social media, with anger mainly directed at the Baiyin government and unhappiness over the lack of contingency planning,” reported the BBC.

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