The first edition of Gaoligong by UTMB® ended at the weekend in the South Silk Road town of Heshun which lies at the foot of the Gaoligong Mountains.
Even though it was a first edition, 1850 runners took part and 25 countries were represented, including some well known names from the USA. The race was a collaboration between the French UTMB team and the Chinese organisers.
There were three distances: 55km, 125km and 160km.
The 55km (Tea and Horse Trail – THT)
The race promised a battle between the top Chinese and Western runners, and it delivered. China’s Li Yungui managed to defeat the USA’s Jason Schlarb, who is a 4th place finisher at UTMB®.
“At the end,’ said Li, jokingly, ‘I saw that the American was nowhere near, so I slowed down to a comfortable pace’. He won in 5:04:45. Schlarb was more than 18 minutes behind and another Chinese runner, Nuerkalide Aman, finished third, just over a minute behind the American.
Meredith Edwards (USA) won the women’s race.
The Chinese ultra runner Shen Jiasheng, who lives and trains at altitude in Yunnan Province, pulled away from his Japanese rival, Ruy Ueda, in the second part of the race and came out a winner by over an hour in 13:36:00. Spain’s Daniel Perez Fernandez was third, almost two-and-a-half hours behind Shen.
Two Chinese runners, Han An (19:58:46) and Qian Peng (20:46:34) came first and second in the female division, with Hong Kong’s elite runner Samantha Chan just seven minutes behind Qian, having battled through stomach cramps late in the race, which cost her the second position, and then almost catching Qian on the final stretch.
Lithuanian UTWT champion Gediminas Grinius, won in 19:58:46. There was a very high attrition rate for the race which put some of the leading Chinese contenders out of the running.
Visiting elites also suffered – UK’s Daniel Lawson, last year’s winner, was only able to finish 5th, and Michael Wardian of the USA, former world silver medallist at 100km road, pulled out with a bad stomach.
Two Chinese competitors, local hero Luo Canhua and Quin Yanzhong and took second (20h 46min 34sec) and third (23h 57min 18sec) respectively. After the race, Gediminas said that Gaoligong by UTMB® felt harder than UTMB® Mont-Blanc!
In the female division, American double UTMB® champion Krissy (27:19:38) beat Japan’s Kaori Niwa (29:26:49), with China’s Gu Haiyan in third (31:21:27).