21 Dead in West China Ultra-Marathon Following Extreme Weather

By Alistair Baker-Brian, May 24, 2021

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In an ultra-marathon in West China’s Gansu province, 21 participants died and a further eight were hospitalized following extreme weather conditions over the weekend.

The 100-kilometer race involved a gruelingly mountainous route at Yellow River Stone Forest Park in Baiyin, Gansu.

A total of 172 runners took part in the race. At around 1pm on Saturday, May 22, most of the athletes were around 20 to 30 kilometers into the route when bad weather struck. 

The cold rain and heavy winds led many to suffer from hypothermia. More than 1,200 rescuers were deployed at the scene.


Satellite images show extreme weather, including heavy rain and high winds, sweeping across Gansu. Image via @中国气象爱好者/Weibo

Among the dead were some well-known names on the China marathon scene, including 31-year-old Liang Jing from Anhui province. Liang had previously been the winner of numerous domestic prizes. 

On Sunday evening, a local Baiyun television broadcaster was called out for airing footage from the race’s opening ceremony the previous day.

It featured clips of buoyant participants gearing up to start the race, as well as the race organizer wishing runners the best of luck. Some netizens pointed out that this was disrespectful to the loved ones of those who died and suggested it was a “second source of pain” for those already grieving. 

Marathon deaths have occurred in the past. Even standard 42-kilometer races in normal weather conditions have seen the deaths of healthy runners. However, overall deaths remain extremely rare.  

The death of 21 runners in a single race marks the Baiyin ultra-marathon as an unprecedented athletics tragedy. 

[Cover image via @华龙网/Weibo]

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