31 May 2012 Hong Kong – The world’s most well-known multi-stage footrace, the Gobi March 2012, will see 42 countries represented, including a record number of participants from across Asia. From Sunday, 10 June through Saturday, 16 June 2012, 163 competitors will participate in the six-stage, 250-kilometer self-supported footrace across the Gobi Desert as the Gobi March returns to the Kashgar region for the ninth edition of the event.
The Gobi March 2012 sees three women’s champions from recent RacingThePlanet events taking part, making the women’s race the most competitive ever.
Germany’s Anne-Marie Flammersfeld, 33, won this year’s Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2012, while Nahila Hernandez San Juan of Mexico, 37, was the quickest woman in the Sahara Race (Egypt) 2011. With Canadian Stephanie Case, 29, women’s champion of RacingThePlanet: Nepal 2011, also competing, the winners of the last three RacingThePlanet events, excluding May’s RacingThePlanet: Jordan 2012, will vie for the title in the Gobi March 2012. Spain’s Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito, 36, who was the overall champion of the Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2012, is the favorite to win the men’s category.
While experience in the 4 Deserts Series of 250-kilometer, week-long races over rough terrain is a definite asset, over 60 per cent of competitors will make their RacingThePlanet debut in the Gobi March. Forty-four competitors from Greater China, including 25 from Hong Kong and 17 from Mainland China, will take part on their home terrain, further demonstrating the growth of endurance running events in the region.
For the first time since 2009, the race returns to the Kashgar region, with the historically and culturally rich city of Kashgar as the event’s base. Among the scenic highlights is Shipton’s Arch, known locally as Heaven’s Gate, a natural arch taller than the Empire State Building. It took National Geographic years to find the fabled arch, which was documented in Eric Shipton’s memoirs of life in the far west of China. The course will also take competitors through local Uyghur villages, where residents have rarely been visited by outsiders.
Says RacingThePlanet founder Mary Gadams: “The Gobi March 2012 is shaping up to be an incredibly competitive race in the women’s competition with three recent champions taking part. I’m especially excited to see so many countries represented with a large number from Greater China and across Asia as the sport continues to develop at a rapid pace.”
The annual Gobi March is a self-supported race. With the exception of water and a place in a tent, competitors are required to carry all of their equipment, supplies and food for the duration of the race.
Three teams will compete in the Gobi March 2012, including Team Esquel, a three-person squad from China, including one participant from Xinjiang province; Team STC, a four-member triathlon team based in Shanghai; and Team JDRF Born to Run from Australia, whose five members are aiming to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam in 2012.
In total, 18 competitors are in the hunt for the 4 Deserts Grand Slam – completing the Atacama Crossing, the Gobi March, October’s Sahara Race and The Last Desert in Antarctica all within a single calendar year. In addition to Team JDRF Born to Run and Atacama Crossing champions ￼￼Flammersfeld and Garcia Beneito, competitors such as Indian psychologist Shrimathi Swaminathan and French journalist Cecile Bertin are aiming for to reach the rare achievement. American student, James Gaston, 21, is extending the challenge to complete all 1,250 kilometers of RacingThePlanet events in 2012 – only two people have achieved this to-date. He is competing with his sister, Tara Gaston.
The Gobi March will again support the Esquel Y.L. Yang Education Fund through various fundraising activities in the local area, including providing a computer lab for one of the local schools.