China bans ultras, trail running amid Huanghe Shilin mountain marathon tragedy

China has banned all ultramarathons and off-road racing following the recent tragedy of the Huanghe Shilin Mountain Marathon in which 21 runners died on May 22. A report from South China Morning Post (SCMP) says the Chinese government has determined that these races do not have sufficient safety standards, so they have declared a moratorium on events for the foreseeable future.

The 100K race was held in China’s Gansu Province, and when it started, the weather was perfect for a race. Within hours of the start of the race, however, conditions changed and the riders were hit by freezing rain and hail. Many of the 172 athletes on the course wore only shorts and t-shirts, making them all the more vulnerable to the sudden cold snap on the mountain.

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Seeing the dangerous conditions, organizers canceled the race at 1 p.m. and sent a rescue team of hundreds to the course to help the runners. The search team managed to save 151 athletes, but 21 died and eight others were taken to hospital.

The tragic result made headlines around the world, and the General Sports Administration (GAS) of China ultimately decided to end all racing. As reported by the SCMP, according to the GAS announcement, “the public security incident at Bayin City Stone Forest 100K Trail Race in Gansu Province, in part due to sudden changes in weather, caused great loss of life – a lesson imbued with a deeply felt sorrow “.

The announcement went on to say: “In order to fully guarantee the health and protect the life of people, races in mountainous areas, races in the desert, ultra-distance races and other sporting activities Newly popular that involve high-risk management tasks are unclear, unrefined regulations and unclear safety standards, are suspended from this day.

A snapshot of the SANFO Ultra 168 ultramarathon in Chongli, a district not far from Beijing. Photo: Martin Bissig

The ban is not permanent and the GAS will now conduct a review of the country’s safety standards for such races. The GAS announcement included a note on emergency rescue teams, which officials say is paramount for these events.

the SCMP The report states that no specific races have been named in this ban, but it is assumed that all events held outside cities and not on roads will be removed from the Chinese racing calendar, along with races of 12 and 24 hours and any road run longer than 42.2K.

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