China decides to ban ultra-marathons in wake of mountain event disaster

China decides to ban ultra-marathons in wake of mountain event disaster
Chinese authorities will now suspend races at the first sign of danger

China has decided to ban all ultra-marathon-styled races in the wake of a tragedy last month where 21 runners died during a 100km race due to extreme cold.

The General Administration of Sport (GAS) of China has now said that such events are insufficiently regulated and lack well-defined safety standards. It suspended all these types of races with immediate effect.

The announcement said, in Chinese, that: “On 22 May, the public safety incident at Bayin City Stone Forest 100km Trail Race in Gansu Province, in part due to sudden changes in weather, caused a great loss of human life – a lesson imbued with deeply felt grief,” reported the South China Morning Post.

“In order to fully guarantee the health and to safeguard the lives of the people, races in mountainous areas, cross-desert races, ultra-distance races and other such newly popular sports activities that involve high risk, [where] management duties are unclear, regulations not perfected and safety standards not clear-cut, are suspended from this day,” it said.

According to GAS, a comprehensive assessment of the risks involved in all distance sports events, including emergency rescue, topographic and meteorological factors, are needed when such events are organised. These races must be suspended at the first sign of danger and safety incidents must be prevented from happening again, it said.

It was not immediately clear what kind of races were included under the broad categories mentioned in the announcement. But it is likely that the suspension will extend to most races that are outside urban regions, not on asphalt roads, and the road races longer than marathon distance.

While 21 people had died during the 22 May event in the Gansu region, six were rescued by a local shepherd.

The incident led to the suspensions of several officials and a pledge from GAS that it would carry out a thorough examination of safety standards of long-distance events in future.

According to SCMP China’s running boom started around a decade ago and since then spread across the country with ultra-marathons, trail, desert and high-altitude races. Such events attract hundreds of participants including some of the world’s best runners.