The China Race Disaster Is A Tragic Reminder That Trail Running Is Still An Extreme Sport - Men's Health Magazine Australia

The China Race Disaster Is A Tragic Reminder That Trail Running Is Still An Extreme Sport

When a storm struck a race in China killing 21 people, runners around the world have begun to ask questions about safety and the responsibility of staging endurance events. - by Jessica Campbell

Shutterstock

It was a tragedy few could ever have anticipated. When an unexpected storm swept across Gansu, China, competitors in a 100km ultra running race came to face extreme conditions and as a result, at least 21 runners died. Around the world, the news has garnered an outpouring of sympathy and grief and united the trail running community in mourning.

But as trail runners look to move forward following the tragedy, questions are being raised as to the safety of such endurance events and where the responsibility for staging these races lies. These days, the popularity of ultra-running can’t be underestimated. The sport has taken off in recent years and the global pandemic has only seen it swell as more people look to test their limits and engage in such feats of super-human endurance. From elite athletes to first-time runners all taking to the start-line, what happened in China is a painful reminder that even despite the popularity of trail running, it is still an extreme sport.

Just like any other event that takes place outdoors, trail runners are beholden to the natural elements and consequently, the sport is a dangerous one. Whether it’s up to runners to know whether they have the skill and capacity to take on such events, or the race organisers to be more discerning of entrants, remains to be answered. Certainly, as many have voiced, the victims in Gansu are not to blame. Rather, race organisers should have intervened and stopped them from starting.

Why It’s Time To Take Your Running Off-Road


5 of the Best Trail Races & Ultramarathons Around Australia

It’s something that has sparked wider debate, with the Chinese government announcing an investigation into safety standards nationwide. The allure of prize money often sees many enter the race in the hope of victory, but few make it to the end. The investigation is looking to examine whether provinces are in fact prioritising the economic benefits of hosting races at the expense of safety.

Already, race organisers are coming under scrutiny for the lack of direction when it comes to mandatory gear. The event simply had a “recommended gear” list that included sports drink, water, energy food, cap, sunglasses, bandana, hiking poles, wind breaker or waterproof jacket, warm undergarments and a first aid pack.

While the ongoing investigation is yet to reach any conclusions just yet, it’s fair to say that the tragedy of Gansu will be a lingering stain on the sporting landscape. The deaths of 21 competitors is deeply saddening, and the reality is that it could have been anyone. Amongst those killed was Liang Jing, one of China’s best ultra runners and international star. Despite having finished second at the Hong Kong 100, Jing was killed, proving that even though experience can help one reduce risks, when it comes to trail running, the extremes of nature are a force more powerful than man.

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

More From

Vana Care: Revolutionizing Disability Support with a Health-First Approach

Vana Care: Revolutionizing Disability Support with a Health-First Approach

In the dynamic world of disability services, Vana Care shines as an exemplar of innovation, compassion, and a forward-thinking approach to health and lifestyle for individuals with disabilities. At its core, Vana Care's story is one of a deep-seated commitment to enriching lives through a unique blend of fitness, daily activity mentoring, and an unwavering belief in the potential of every individual.

Gather Round
Faultless footy, cutting-edge cars, and an atmosphere like no other: a weekend in Adelaide for Gather Round

Faultless footy, cutting-edge cars, and an atmosphere like no other: a weekend in Adelaide for Gather Round

If there’s one thing Adelaide is known for, it’s turning it on when major events and festivals come to town. During the 2024 edition of the AFL’s Gather Round – otherwise known as the festival of footy – the city didn’t disappoint. Men’s Health was on the ground to soak it all up, exploring the city in select Toyota vehicles. Similar to the round itself, the cars from the AFL’s premier partner live up to the hype.