Extreme weather led to the death of 21 ultrarunners at China’s Huanghe Shilin Mountain Marathon this weekend. When the 100K race started on Saturday morning, runners set off in perfect conditions, but as the day progressed, the weather got worse. By the afternoon, the course was hit with freezing rain, hail and heavy winds. Of the 172 participants, 151 were saved (eight of whom were taken to hospital), but 21 passed away.
I have no words
— Gary Robbins (@gary_robbins) May 23, 2021
Chinese paper Global Times reported that the weather got so bad that race officials called off the race and proceeded to send a rescue team of 700 onto the course to save the runners. While waiting for the search party, many runners became hypothermic, as the temperature in the mountains dipped close to freezing.
“At one point, I couldn’t feel my fingers,” one participant told another paper, according to CNN. “At the same time my tongue felt frozen, too.” At this point, the runner stopped following the course and instead focused on getting to safety. He said he met a member of the rescue team and was directed to a cabin. “Eventually about 50 runners came and took shelter in the cabin.”
One of the 21 runners who died on the course was Liang Jing, a well-known Chinese ultrarunner. Jing raced UTMB on two occasions, and he also finished second at the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji in Japan in 2019. His last race before the Huanghe Shilin Mountain Marathon came at the 2020 Hong Kong Ultra, a 100K run in which he finished second overall.