The ultramarathon in China that killed 32 people has left the country reeling, but some are still trying to find out what really happened. Survivors have been threatened for speaking out against an event they say is largely unregulated and unsanctioned.
The “ultramarathon china deaths” is the tragic event that took place in China. The survivors were threatened for speaking out about the incident.
In the underground residence where he harbored the injured athletes, Zhu Keming
When Zhang Xiaotao awoke, he found himself in a cave with a fire to keep him warm. He had no clue how he’d ended up where he was.
A passing shepherd discovered Zhang’s frozen comatose corpse and wrapped him in a blanket before carrying him to safety over his shoulders. He was one of the fortunate few.
21 people died in an ultra-running race in northern China in May this year due to terrible weather conditions: hail, torrential rain, and strong gales caused temperatures to plunge, and no one appeared prepared.
Only a few people felt safe discussing what occurred, and several have been intimidated as a result.
On race day in Baiyin, a former mining town in China’s Gansu province, the sun shone brightly. A total of 172 competitors were ready to run the Yellow River Stone Forest national park for 62 miles (100 kilometers).
The organizers were anticipating pleasant weather, as they had in the previous three years. They even had some of the racers’ cold-weather gear relocated ahead on the route so they could pick it up later in the day.
However, a chilly wind started to blow just after Zhang got at the starting line. Many of the runners shivered in their short-sleeved shirts and shorts as they huddled in a nearby gift store for refuge.
Zhang got off to a good start in the race. He was one among the first to arrive at the first checkpoint, gliding across the rocky mountain slopes with ease. Things began to go awry soon before the second checkpoint, some 20 kilometers into the race.
He subsequently remarked on Chinese social media, “I was halfway up the mountain when hail began to fall.” “Ice pelted my face and obscured my eyesight, making it impossible to see the way properly.”
Despite this, Zhang continued. Huang Guanjun, the men’s hearing-impaired marathon champion at China’s 2019 National Paralympic Games, was suffering terribly when he passed him. He crossed across to Wu Panrong, another runner with whom he’d been maintaining pace from the start.
Wu’s voice was wavering and he was shivering as he talked. Zhang wrapped his arm around him and the two continued to walk together, but the wind got too fierce and the terrain too slick for them to continue.
Zhang was overtaken by the wind as he continued to rise, with gusts reaching up to 55 mph. He’d pushed himself up from the ground many times before, but now he was losing control of his limbs due to the bitter cold. It felt like it was -5°C outside. He couldn’t get back up this time when he fell.
Zhang quickly wrapped himself with an insulating blanket. He grabbed his GPS tracker out of his pocket, punched the SOS button, and then passed out.
Despite weather warnings, organizers failed to take precautions, according to a report.
Another runner, who goes by the moniker Liuluo Nanfang, was struck by the frozen rain closer to the rear of the pack. It seemed like bullets were flying at him.
As he advanced, he saw someone approaching him from the top of the mountain. The runner said that it was too chilly for him and that he was leaving.
But, like Zhang, Nanfang determined to keep going. The wind became stronger and he became colder as he ascended higher. On his journey up the mountain, he saw a few more rivals coming down. His whole body, including his shoes and socks, was drenched.
When he eventually realized he had to stop, he sought out a decently secluded location and attempted to warm up. He pulled out his thermal blanket and wrapped it over his torso. The wind blew it away very quickly since he’d lost practically all feeling and control in his fingers. He shoved one into his mouth and held it there for a long time, but it was ineffective.
Nanfang’s eyesight was clouded and he was trembling as he began to descend the mountain. He was perplexed, but he knew he had to keep on.
He encountered a member of the rescue squad who had been deployed when the weather changed halfway down. He was led to a little wooden shack. There were at least ten people inside who had opted to leave before him. After about an hour, the number had risen to roughly 50. Some witnesses claimed to have seen competitors collapsing by the side of the road, foaming from their lips.
“Their eyes were red when they stated this,” Nanfang subsequently commented on social media.
The Yellow River Stone Forest is a national park and tourist attraction in Gansu, China.
Meanwhile, the shepherd had rescued Zhang, who had stripped him of his wet garments and covered him in a blanket. He wasn’t alone within the cave.
When he awoke an hour later, he saw that other runners had taken sanctuary there as well, some of whom had been rescued by the shepherd. The rest of the gang had been waiting for him to awaken so they could all descend the mountain together.
Medics and armed cops were waiting at the bottom. According to official media, more than 1,200 rescuers were sent throughout the night, aided by thermal-imaging drones and radar detectors.
Authorities verified 21 individuals perished the next morning, including Huang, whom Zhang had passed, and Wu, the runner with whom he’d maintained pace at the start of the race.
Despite warnings of bad weatherexternal-link in the run-up to the event, planners failed to take measures, according to a report.
As word of the killings spread on social media, many people wondered how such a catastrophe could occur. Some contestants, such as Zhang and Nanfang, elected to write about their experiences on the internet in order to assist others understand what they were going through.
However, Zhang’s message, titled ‘Brother Tao is fleeing,’ vanished immediately after it was published.
When his statement was re-uploaded by Caixin, a Beijing-based news website, a fresh message surfaced on the account a week later, pleading with the media and social media users to leave him and his family alone.
Zhang’s account was eventually suspended when his story was called into doubt. Some accused him of bragging about being the only survivor at the head of the group, while others threatened his life.
“We don’t want to be internet superstars,” he said on Facebook, adding that the guy who rescued him had also suffered public pressure and “other things.”
He stated, “Our lives need to be calm.” “Please, no one bothers me or questions me, particularly my buddies in the media.”
The survivors weren’t the only ones who had to deal with the stress.
On the race course, rescuers look for and treat injured competitors.
After querying how her father was “let to die,” one lady who lost her father in the race received social media harassment on Weibo. She was accused of disseminating false information about China and of employing “foreign forces” to do it.
Huang Yinzhen, whose brother died, was pursued by local authorities, who she alleged were attempting to prevent families from communicating to one another.
“They simply keep watching us because they restrict us from contacting other family members or media,” she told the New York Times. external-link
In China, families of people who have died in comparable situations – when officials are held responsible – are often pressured to keep quiet. The administration does not want social media attention drawn to any potential flaws.
In June, a month after the event, 27 local authorities were sanctioned. Li Zuobi, the Communist Party secretary of Jingtai County, was discovered dead. He died after tripping and falling from his flat. Homicide was ruled out by the police.
The Baiyin marathon is only one of several events in a nation where running is becoming more popular. Its terrible ending has cast doubt on the future of similar gatherings.
China staged 40 times more marathons in 2018 than in 2014, according to the Chinese Athletics Association (CAA). According to the CAA, there were 1,900 “running races” held around the nation in 2019.
Many small towns and areas sought to capitalize on this prior to Covid’s arrival by staging events in order to increase tourism and help the local economy.
Following the events in Baiyin, the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection accused race organizers of “focused on economic gains” while “refusing to spend more in safety.”
With the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing only months away, China has put a moratorium on extreme sports like trail running, ultramarathons, and wingsuit flying until it revamps safety laws. It’s unclear when they’ll start up again. According to reports, not even a chess tournament was spared from the new regulations.
However, without events like this, those who want to participate, possibly even future great athletes, are disappointed. Athletes may take things into their own hands in certain situations, as Outside Magazineexternal-link points out, traveling into the mountains without any regulation and placing themselves in danger.
“If this tragedy has destroyed the top layer of the mass participation pyramid – as seems probable – there’s no knowing what impact it would have at the lower levels,” Mark Dreyer, who runs the China Sports Insiderexternal-link website, commented on Twitter.
“The long-term consequences of this unfortunate – and preventable – catastrophe might be devastating.”
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