21 FATALITIES IN CHINA: IS ULTRARUNNING GETTING TOO EXTREME?
Last weekend, the ultrarunning community was hit with a tragic loss, as 21 runners were caught and killed in a storm while on a 100-kilometre race through China’s northwestern Gansu province. In the past, death or serious injury during a race has affected individual runners on a case to case basis only, and the recent incident rivals even the worst of the mountaineering disasters of the past (note, Everest 1996).
The sport itself has gained a ton of popularity over recent years, and leaders have pushed the limits of the activity into the rugged extremes. Ultra races cover long distances, may take up to several days to complete, often cross rough terrain at highly variable elevations, and may see wild and unexpected swings in weather. Most racers are left to sort out their own food, shelter and support through remote and high altitude regions. As the intensity of the sport increases however, there is criticism that newbies to the activity are not getting sufficient mentorship and instruction in regards to trip planning and safety, and many are putting themselves at great risk by being unprepared. Unfortunately, last weekend’s incident in China now stands as an example of that.
In response to the recent tragedy, this article in the New York Times dives deeper into the ‘ultra’ of ultrarunning, and explores the ways the sport may be becoming too extreme.