The 2009 Edition of the Gobi March, part of the 4 Deserts series of ultramarathons, will begin on Sunday, when a packed field of 127 competitors will set off from Gazi Village in the Xinjiang Province of China, on a a seven day, six stage race through the Gobi Desert, one of the driest places on the planet, averaging less than 8 inches of rainfall a year.
Each of the six stages in this year’s race are roughly 40km (24 miles) in length, with the exception of the grueling fifth stage, dubbed “The Long March”, which will cover 79km (49 miles) through the desert. The final day, Stage 6, is a mere 12km (7.4 miles) in length however, and is largely a ceremonial finish with the top competitors crossing the finishing line together. During that stage, racers will pass through the Old City of Kashgar, This ancient portion of the city is scheduled to be destroyed soon and when next year’s race returns, it’ll likely be gone altogether.
Competitors in the Gobi March are expected to be completely self sufficient while out on the course, carrying all the food, water, and other supplies they will need for the day with them. The Gobi is a harsh and dangerous climate, the hottest and driest in all of China. It also holds the distinction of having the point that is the most distant from a ocean than any other on Earth. The legendary Silk Road once passed through this region as well, and portions of this year’s course follow some of that route. Despite the fact that it is a barren desert, competitors will still have to deal with altitude to some degree too. The path will reach as high as 3000 meters (9800 feet) at times.
Good luck to all the competitors. Enjoy the scenery and the race!
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