Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Rescue workers carry a stretcher as they work at the site where extreme cold weather killed participants of an 100-kilometre ultramarathon in Baiyin, Gansu province, China, on May 22, 2021.

STRINGER/Reuters

Twenty-one people, including two of China’s top marathon athletes, died after freezing rain and high winds struck a 62-mile mountain race in northwestern China, local officials said Sunday.

Liang Jing, 31, an ultramarathon champion, and Huang Guanjun, the winner of the men’s marathon for hearing-impaired runners at China’s 2019 National Paralympic Games, were among those found dead, according to state news media.

The deaths prompted outrage in China, with online commentators questioning the preparedness of the local government that organized the race, held at Yellow River Stone Forest Park in Gansu province.

Story continues below advertisement

Hours into the event Saturday, the weather suddenly deteriorated as the runners were climbing 6,500 feet above sea level to the 12-mile mark, according to Zhang Xuchen, the Mayor of the nearby city of Baiyin, who fired the starting pistol. Runners dressed in shorts and T-shirts were suddenly facing freezing conditions, and rain turned to hail. Some passed out from the cold.

“In a short period of time, hailstones and freezing rain fell in the area, and there were strong winds,” Mr. Zhang said. “The temperature dropped sharply.”

Some of the participants sent a video message asking for help, and authorities sent a rescue team that assisted 18 of the athletes, Mr. Zhang said. The race was called off by 2 p.m. Saturday.

By evening, officials had started a huge rescue effort involving 1,200 people in search-and-rescue teams, along with thermal imaging drones and other equipment, state media reported. In video footage from China’s state broadcaster, rescuers could be seen fanning out into the dark with flashlights, some in combat fatigues, others in blue or orange jumpsuits with helmets.

The race, which began at a tourist site near the Yellow River and followed a route through canyons with huge stone stalagmites, had been organized by the local government for the past four years. It was seen as a way to promote tourism in the area, which is in one of China’s poorest provinces.

This year, 172 people participated in the 62-mile race, while hundreds of others were registered to run in shorter events. Officials said 151 race participants were confirmed to be safe, and that one last missing runner was found dead Sunday morning. Eight people were being treated at a hospital.

Mr. Zhang said the rescue efforts had been complicated by a landslide after the rain. The region is prone to mudslides and floods.

Story continues below advertisement

By Sunday, discussion online in China focused on the apparent failure to prepare for the possibility of extreme weather. Some questioned whether organizers had paid enough attention to the weather forecast.

The news that two elite runners were among the dead amplified the public anger. The state-owned Beijing News reported the death of Mr. Liang, who had won several ultramarathons in China in recent years. Two runners who helped with the rescue effort confirmed the death of Mr. Huang, according to the state-owned Red Star News.

Steve Brammar, the race director for the Hong Kong 100 ultramarathon, said Sunday that Mr. Liang was among the best ultraendurance athletes in the world.

“We will miss his long, thoughtful, honest answers to questions at the press conferences and his powerful, brave running style,” Mr. Brammar said in a message posted on Facebook. Mr. Liang ran in the Hong Kong race last year.

“We will always remember him at the finish line of the 2020 event, holding his baby and hugging his wife,” Mr. Brammar said.

The Gansu province government has set up a team to investigate the deaths, according to state news media.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Zhang apologized at a televised news conference Sunday.

“As the event organizer, we feel deeply guilty,” Mr. Zhang said.

“We express our sorrow for the victims and our deep condolences to the families of the victims and the injured.”

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies