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After a Week of Extremes, the Gobi March 2015 Concludes

17 Jun 2015 06:05
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Credit : RacingThePlanet

After a Week of Extremes, the Gobi March 2015 Concludes with an All-American podium and All-Female Afghan Ultramarathon Team Making History

[7 June 2015, Xinjiang, China] — An epic 12th edition of the Gobi March has drawn to a close in China’s far north eastern province of Xinjiang. It was a race of extremes with weather veering from a snow blizzard to driving rain, searing heat and a sand storm – with the final stage of the race cut short due to the unexpected weather conditions. Nonetheless, it proved to be an historic race.

Adam Kimble of the United States emerged as the overall winner, completing the course in a time of 25:39:33. The 28-year old was taking on his first 4 Deserts race here in China. “It was incredible,” he said. “I am so happy that I met so many life long friends. The varied landscape and terrain was incredible.”

Daphne Tsalli took 1st place in the women’s category. The Greek / Norwegian-competitor who is based in the United Kingdom finished in a time of 32:07:05 and in 12th place overall. “This was my first race so I didn’t expect to win,” she said. “Thank you to the doctors for taking care of me. Thank you to the volunteers for helping me. Thank you to my running partner for supporting me and being there for me the whole race."

Taking 2nd place overall was Ralph Crowley of the United States, just 5 minutes behind the leader. Ralph also came 2nd in The Last Desert (Antarctica) in 2014. “The Gobi threw everything at us,” said the 30-year old. Third place went to Kyle McCoy, a former solider with the US Army. This was an historic race as for the first time three American competitors took the top three places on the podium.

The 2nd placed woman was Song Jeong Mi of South Korea, who came in 17th place overall. “I wasn’t able to complete the Sahara Race (Jordan) last year because of an injury,” she explained. “So I came to the Gobi March hoping to at least finish and beat my personal best.”

Six teams took part in this year’s race with China’s Xiamen University emerging as the champions, putting in an astonishing performance and coming in 35th place overall. The team consists of Zhan Youyi, Liang Xinde, Chen Yuzeng, Wang Zhongwen and Yu Guandi. “The win isn’t so important,” said team captain Zhan Youyi. “We are like sisters and brothers and we made it through the race together and that’s the most important part.”

It was a race of extremes this past week with competitors facing an astonishing range of weather in the expanses of the Gobi Desert outside Hami in Xinjiang Province. The week opened with snowfall, followed by driving rain, then searing heat and finally finishing with a sand storm – prompting organizers to complete the race a day early.

Nonetheless, it was an historic week that saw some compelling victories. Team Asma’i, the first all-female ultramarathon team from Afghanistan completed the course—making history and proving their great resilience having encountered numerous obstacles to train in the lead-up to the race. There was also victory for the three blind competitors who took on the race—Wang Qi of China, Takahiro Muraki of Japan and Vladmi dos Santos of Brazil.

The competitors spent the week racing through a great variety of landscapes, from sand dunes to high pastures, a mountain pass, alpine lands dotted with yurts and flat out Gobi. Competitors were able to interact with the local communities who populate this area, staying in a Kazak villages one night and yurts on another.

“This was a truly humbling edition of the Gobi March,” said Riitta Hanninen, Event Director of the Gobi March. “Seeing competitors like the all-women team from Afghanistan and the three blind competitors tackle this challenge and overcome it with such courage, not to mention the entire field of competitors taking on such an astonishing diversity of weather extremes, was incredibly inspiring. It’s always a great honor to return to Xinjiang Province and work with the communities here—and we look forward to returning in 2016 for our 50th race.”