PARK PLAYS RACE CARD
A running event organized by the local government aims to bring attention to a stunning natural attraction in Yumen, in Gansu province
worldwide gathered at Yumen national park to get close to its pristine nature and challenge themselves. “Its natural beauty combined with its rugged terrain form a perfect background.”
The Yumen National Park swept more than 300 professional runners from home and abroad off their feet in September with its attractions — the Danxia landform, its silicified wood, a volcano and a desert.
Situated in Yumen city in the northwestern province Gansu, the park is pristine with hardly any sign of human intervention.
The race was organized by the local government in conjunction with the Nanjing Migu Interactive EntertainmentCoto bring attention to the park.
“Its natural beauty combined with its rugged terrain form a perfect background,” says Witold Smieszek from Poland, the director of the race.
Yumen, which plans to open the nature reserve to the public from next year, organized the race here as the mountains, the canyons, and sand plains have not been seen by many people.
“We wanted the runners to have the experience of a lifetime, featuring a challenge, a reward and happiness,” says Smieszek.
“Athletes taking part in the race did not just run the course, finish and leave, but rather enjoyed the local festivities and atmosphere.”
Safety and showcasing the region’s natural beauty were taken into account when charting the challenging racecourse.
The organizers also ensured that vehicular access was possible and placed volunteers at key locations along the running trail.
The course offered an unparalleled diversity of terrain, with the first section taking runners through stunning narrow sand canyons, and the colors going from red to green to white and to gray in amatter of 20 kilometers.
The trail was very narrow posing plenty of challenges to the runners.
Then, just as the course reached the volcano, ittookthecompetitors to theGobi plains— a seemingly flat yet very difficult part of the race — and then headed toward the high mountains on the other side of the valley.
The mountain section began with a climb of 1,500 meters over 8 kilometers, testing the endurance and strength of every competitor.
It (the trail) then went over a mountain ridge, referred to as the Devil’s Ridge.
At the very top, an altitude of 3,200 meters, the runners could turn around and see the course behind them.
“This point in the race was to reward the runners for all the hard work done,” says Smieszek.
After that, the trail headed down toward the finish line, where a fire, food, music and friends waited.
Speaking about the trail, Yun Yanqiao, who won the first prize, says: “There were many ups and downs, and the last 20 kilometers rose 1,500 meters, and was practically vertical and needed hands and feet to pass.
“It was an amazing run,” says Yun, adding that the Gobi and Danxia landform were pleasing to the eye and made for an easy running experience.
The 29-year-old, who lives in Beijing and entered the race to promote a low-carbon lifestyle, says: “I saw contestants use rubber foldable cups instead of disposable paper ones.
“Running is part of a low-carbon lifestyle and I usually walk or run if the time allows it,” he says, adding that people living in big cities often take a bus even the destination is one stop away.
Yun, who discovered his love for running when he took part in the Beijing Marathon in 2006, right before he went to college, completed the race in 21.5 hours.
After that, he begin practicing systematically. both He then stood seventh in an event featuring running, boating and cycling at Shandong province’s TaishanMountain in 2007.
“I then took a shine to cross-running, which allows one to get close to nature and does not make running boring,” he says.
Now, running is an integral part of Yun’s life, and the runner, who lives near the Olympic Park, wakes up at five every morning and runs 20-30 kilometers before heading to work. His efforts have paid off. Yun has won many long-distance running events, including ones staged in Gansu’s Dunhuang and Zhangye, andMinya Konka in Sichuan province, this year.
“The whole point of running is to make peace with yourself and enjoy it. If you follow someone else’s pace you might end up messing up your race,” he says.
Professional runners Witold Smieszek, director of the race in Yumen National Park