Gobi March 2009: The Long March is in Progress!

Kashgar 24
Today is Day 5 of the Gobi March, the stage race ultramarathon that started last Sunday in Gazi Village in the Xinjiang Province of China and will continue into this weekend, with competitors crossing the Gobi Desert on foot.

The race has moved into its fifth stage, the infamous Long March, which is nearly 80km (50 miles) in length, and stretches out over two days. According to the Gobi March website, some of the racers have reached a temporary, over-night camp, and have elected to stay there for the rest of the evening, while others will continue racing well into the night, hoping to reach the stage finish line early tomorrow, where they’ll rest up for the final stage, which is a short 10km (6.3 mile) run through the Old City in Kashgar on Saturday. That portion of the town is scheduled to be demolished, and will no longer exist by the end of the year.

Heading into today’s grueling stage, American Eric LaHaie holds down the top spot in the race overall, with a 1 hour and 15 minute lead over France’s Carol Riel. Sean Abbot of the U.S. is in third, with Wei Weichao of China and Shane O`Rourke of Ireland in fourth and fifth place respectively. Diana Hogan-Murphy, also of Ireland, is currently running in 16th place overall and is the top female competitor heading into the Long March.

Racing through the Gobi, like all the 4 Deserts Marathons, is a demanding experience to say the least. The landscape is dominated by exposed rock more than sand and dunes, and the temperature can swing dramatically between day and night. The region gets less than 8 inches of rain in a year, and the Gobi stretches in all directions, covering more than 500,000 square miles, making it the second largest desert on Earth behind the Sahara.

All of that said, I’d still love to be there! 🙂

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