Anger and confusion reign after a terrible, uncontrollable race in China in which at least 21 people were killed in extreme weather. Mayor of the Chinese city of Baiyin, Zhang Xuchen passed the dust on behalf of the running organization to apologize. “Our thoughts go to the relatives of the victims.”
The sun was still shining at the start of the 100km run in northwest China’s Gansu Province. As a result, many candidates started the track in T-shirt and shorts. By noon, however, the weather had shifted and the cold, frost and strong winds caused a dramatic drop in temperature in the mountainous region.
Frozen tongue and numb fingers
The staging of the running event suddenly received all sorts of videos with shouts of distress from the participating runners who were suffering from severe hypothermia. “I can no longer feel my fingers and my tongue looked frozen,” one surviving participant told a local media outlet. He and fifty other people waited for help at a log cabin near the road.
In cooperation with local authorities, the organization launched a rescue operation with 700 aid workers who went late at night to search for other missing candidates. On Sunday morning, local authorities reported that 151 participants had been safely found, but at least 21 people had died and a few runners were missing.
Fingers in the mouth
Another participant wrote their experience in a blog post afterward and posted it while the rescue operation was still underway. “I ran this race several times. The problem this weekend was the rough weather. There is a part where you have to climb with hands and feet. When I started climbing, someone came back. He said it was very cold there. I said to myself, Should I stop?” Now, am I wasting my registration fee and no longer have a chance to win the prize money? “
When the blogger finally doesn’t feel his fingers and doesn’t even help put it in his mouth, he decides to quit the race and get off anyway. “Step by step, very carefully. I felt dizzy and had to pay all my attention to avoid fainting.” He managed to take himself to safety and was one of the first to take emergency workers to a hotel. “Other people who were rescued told me that they saw two candidates lying on the ground on the road. But they couldn’t save them, because they barely had the energy to get themselves to safety.”
Chinese social media is raging due to the ongoing drama in Gansu. People wonder why the organization allowed the event to continue as a sharp drop in temperature was expected. “Why hasn’t the government done anything with those weather forecasts?” A user on the Chinese website Weibo said on Facebook. Another says, “Even if weather conditions are not anticipated, shouldn’t there be a contingency plan?” When running groups on WeChat, people respond to reports on news and sympathize with victims’ families.
Encourage more practice
The path passes over an area in the mountains at an altitude of two kilometers. The Marathon has been running annually at the same venue since 2018 and started as an initiative to encourage people to do more. This year, 10,000 people registered to the event, which has three categories: beginners, 21 kilometers, and 100 kilometers.
Mayor Zhang Xuchen expressed condolences and announced an investigation into the cause of the drama.