250 km running race in the Gobi Desert, China
Gobi March: 250 km running race in China (© P. Gatta)
The Gobi March RaceThe Gobi March is a 250 km (155 miles) running race which takes place in the Gobi desert, around Kashgar. Kashgar is on the western part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, near the border with Tajikistan. There are 6 stages in 7 days: almost 4 Marathons in 4 days, then 75 km, a rest day and a final stage of 16 km.
The Gobi March race is self-supported, which means that we have to carry all our clothes, sleeping bag, mandatory equipment, medical/safety kit and 7 days of food in our pack. The race organizer only provides us with water (10 to 13 liters per day) and the tents for the nights. Choosing the right kit and food is a real challenge as everything has to fit in a relatively small pack. The goal is also to keep the weight of the pack below 7 kg, without water.
The concept and difficulty of the race is very similar to the Marathon des Sables and all 4 Deserts races organized by RacingThePlanet: the Sahara Race, the Gobi March, the Atacama Crossing, Jordan, Madagascar and the Last Desert in Antarctica.
The temperature are a bit cooler in Gobi than in the other deserts, reaching a maximum of 35°C during the day but can go as low as 5°C during the nights. During the 2012 edition there was no sand dune but many rocky trails and many riverbed to cross. There were also many dirt roads and even some paved roads. The race took place between 1,500 m and 3,000 m of elevation with the Tian Shan, Kunlun Shan and Pamir mountain ranges in the background. Despite some nice stages, I found the Gobi March not as nice and scenic as the Atacama Crossing and the Sahara Race.
Statue of Mao in Kashgar (© P. Gatta)
All competitors arrived in Kashgar (also called Kashi, China) a few days before the race. On the Saturday we had the race briefing, equipment review, check-in and we went to the first camp in Gazi, a small village Southwest of Kashgar. The race started the Sunday morning and ended the following Saturday.
Mosque in Kashgar (© P. Gatta)
Kit and food for the Gobi March RaceSince I did the Sahara Race and Atacama Crossing just a few months ago, I reused most of the kit. I just took a few things off to minimize the weight of the pack.
Here are the kit for the 7 days of race:
- 1 Berghaus Octans 40 Pack (600gr)
- 1 Berghaus Argentium Cool Base Crew long sleeves Tee-shirt
- 1 Berghaus Argentium Cool Base Crew short sleeves Tee-shirt
- 1 Tight Shorts
- 2 pairs of Berghaus Fast Track Cushioned Socks
- 1 Berghaus Powerstretch Hat
- 1 Berghaus Sol Neck Gaiter (Buff)
- 1 Suunto T6D watch with heart rate monitor and Foot POD (distance/speed)
- 1 pair of sunglasses category 2-4
- 1 sleeping bag comfort 0°C
- 1 cap
- 1 foam mattress
- 1 pair of light gaiter
- 1 pair of Trail running shoes
- 1 Nikon AW100 camera + 3 batteries
- 1 knife, spoon & fork
- 2 headlights
- 1 safety kit: 1 red flashing light, 1 whistle, 1 life blanket
- 1 medical kit: blisters kit, alcohol, pain relief medicines, bandages, sunscreen
- Food, electrolytes, energy & recovery powder and vitamins
Kit and food for the Gobi March (© P. Gatta)
The Gobi March Race 2012
June 9: Briefing and transfer to Camp 1On the Saturday morning, 160 competitors coming from 42 different countries left Kashgar and after 2 hour of bus, we arrived in the camp 1, close to a small village. Because of the rain that occurred during the previous days, the camp 1 has been moved lower in the valley, very close to the village.
Camp 1 of the Gobi March (© P. Gatta)
Riders playing Buzkashi with goat carcass (© P. Gatta)
June 10, Stage 1: "Canyons and Camels" - 32 kmAt 1,800 meters of elevation, the night has been a bit chilly but sky was totally clear when we woke up. During the race briefing we heard that the race has been shortened to 32 km.
Start of the stage 1 of Gobi March (© P. Gatta)
Stage 1: the first section (© P. Gatta)
Runner during stage 1 with high mountains in the background (© P. Gatta)
This camp 2 was set in the village of Tashpushka. For once we slept in locals' houses instead of tents.
Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito won this stage in 2h37, I finished 7th in 3h119 and the last one finished in 8h.
June 11, stage 2: "Mars in the Gobi" - 39 kmWe have been told at the briefing that this stage will be nice, especially the section in the red canyons and that was the case. As usual, we started the race at 8am with a pleasant temperature.
After several kilometers running uphill, I passed the first check point in 20th position, still tired from yesterday. Then we entered the red canyons which was definitively nice and fun. The section was also more technical than the previous day with many up's and down's.
Runner in the red canyons (© P. Gatta)
Mountain views after the red canyons (© P. Gatta)
The camp at the end of stage 2 (© P. Gatta)
Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito won this stage in 3h15, we finished 5th in 5h12 and the last one finished in 9h50.
June 12, stage 3: "The Farmlands of Langeville" - 36 kmThis third stage started off in Langeville village. We ran for a while in the village with a forest and fields around us.
Start of stage 3 (© A. Gatta)
A local in a village between CP1 and CP2 (© P. Gatta)
Camp at the end of Gobi March stage 3 (© P. Gatta)
Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito won this stage in 3h46, I finished 4th in 4h38 and the last one finished in 9h30.
June 13, stage 4: "Stairway to Heaven" - 37 kmThis stage was supposed to be long and difficult... and it was. It was also very scenic, technical and fun. All started after a cold night but I guess it could have been worse at this altitude. Getting up in the dark and cold, still tired from the day before, was a challenge.
Running up toward the Shipton's Arch (© P. Gatta)
Shipton's Arch (© P. Gatta)
Between CP2 and CP3 (© P. Gatta)
Roller coaster... (© P. Gatta)
Camp at the end of Gobi March stage 4 (© P. Gatta)
June 14, stage 5: "The Long March" - 75.4 kmThe long march is the most feared day of the 4 Desert races. It is almost a double-Marathon after 160 km already done the previous days.
We woke up at 5am, after another cold night. We prepared our kit and got on a bus at 7am for a 2 hour drive to reach the start. I ate the breakfast in the bus and tried to get some rest. We finally started the 75.4 km stage at 10am and it was already hot.
Philippe running around the Camels (J. Ross)
Anne-Marie, Justus and John during the Long stage (© P. Gatta)
Justus in the sandstorm (© P. Gatta)
Anne-Marie in the sandstorm (© P. Gatta)
It was hard to find the trail as we could see one marker at a time in best case. At some point I could barely run against the head wind, but then I saw two women working on a field and I told to myself "shut up, stop complain and run". I passed the last check point in 60 km/h wind at least, fortunately it was coming a bit from the back. I took some extra water just in case I would get lost, constantly keeping an eye on my Suunto watch to check the distance.
Then I saw the finish line, so happy to finish 3rd in 8h38!!
Philippe finishing the Long stage of the Gobi March (© P. Gatta)
I spent some times enjoying this moment and welcoming Justus, George, Anne-Marie and John when they arrived.
Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito won this stage in 7h14, I finished 3rd in 8h38 and the last one finished in 24h15.
June 15: rest dayIt is always hard to fall sleep after the long stage, probably because of the tiredness and excitation. This time was no exception. I woke up tired, fortunately we could spend the day resting in a camp that is probably the nicest one of all 4 deserts races.
Beautiful camp for the rest day (© P. Gatta)
The Kongur (7,649 m), seen from the camp (© P. Gatta)
The tent #3, up: Dan, Fabrice, Youssef, Sanya, Brad. Down: Nicolas, Cécile, Philippe, Frederic (© P. Gatta)
June 16, stage 6: "The last old City" - 16 kmUntil the last minute we were hoping that this stage would be shorter than the 15 km announced, but Sam confirmed at the briefing that it will 15 km long. In fact several of us measured more than 16 km.
Mo, John, Anne-Marie, Justus and Philippe at the finish line of the Gobi March (© P. Gatta)
Local dance at the finish line of the Gobi March (© P. Gatta)
Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito won this stage in 1h08, I finished 6th in 1h15 and the last one finished in 6h15.
Local dance at the finish line of the Gobi March (© P. Gatta)
Gobi March Race Results145 runners have completed all stages of this 2012 Gobi March Race out of the 160.
The top 10:
- 1 Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito (Spain) - 23:12:33
- 2 Mo Foustok (Saudi Arabia) - 24:28:28
- 3 Philippe Gatta (France) - 27:45:11
- 4 Anne-Marie Flammersfeld (Germany) - 27:53:21
- 5 Justus Meyer (USA) - 27:58:51
- 6 John Ross (USA) - 28:53:20
- 7 Geroge Chmiel Jr (USA) - 28:54:42
- 8 Jochen Pfannenstill (Austria) - 29:42:01
- 9 Mustafa Kiziltas (Turkey) - 30:32:53
- 10 Fergus Edwards (Scotland) - 30:41:22