RACE INFO

ITINERARY GOBI MARCH (CHINA) 2017

Host Town for the Event

    Hami, Xinjiang Province, China

    Note :The best route to get to the host town of Hami (also known as Kumul) is:

  • Fly into an international gateway city (Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou)
  • Then take domestic flight(s) to Urumqi
  • There are a number of domestic flights to Urumqi every day. There are also some direct international flights from Dubai (UAE), Istanbul (Turkey) and Moscow (Russia)
  • There are a number of domestic flights to Urumqi every day. There are also some direct international flights from Dubai (UAE), Istanbul (Turkey) and Moscow (Russia)
  • Contact us for details on how to arrange these bookings by on info@4deserts.com.

Event Hotel
  • Hami Hotel
    No.4 Yingbin Road
    Hami, Xinjiang ( 哈密宾馆
    新疆哈密市迎宾路4号 )
Thursday, 15 June
  • Volunteers arrive (any time) at the Hami Hotel
  • Volunteers stay overnight at the Hami Hotel
Friday, 16 June
  • Volunteer training (all day)
  • Competitors arrive (any time) at the Hami Hotel
  • Competitors & Volunteers stay overnight at the Hami Hotel
Saturday, 17 June
  • 09:00 : Competitor Briefing
  • 10:00 - 13:00 : Competitor Check-In, including administrative, medical and equipment review.
  • 13:00 - 14:00 : Lunch.
  • 15:00 : Depart for Camp 1
Sunday, 18 June
  • 08:00 : Start / Stage 1
Monday, 19 June
  • 08:00 : Stage 2
Tuesday, 20 June
  • 08:00 : Stage 3
Wednesday, 21 June
  • 08:00 : Stage 4
Thursday, 22 June
  • 08:00 : Stage 5
Friday, 23 June
  • Stage 5 (continued)
Saturday, 24 June
  • 10:00: Stage 6
  • 12:00 (noon) : Finish
  • 19:30 : Awards Banquet
  • Competitors & Volunteers stay overnight at the Hami Hotel
Sunday, 25 June
  • Departure
*Note that all times are approximate and may change.

LOCATION & CULTURE

The Gobi March takes place in Hami region in the eastern part of Xinjiang Province in China in the area of the Ancient Silk Road and the Tian Shan Mountains, one of the largest mountain ranges in Asia. A county-level city in Xinjiang, Hami has a population of 540,000 and three major ethnic groups: Uyghur, Kazak and Hui. Their colourful culture and unique way of life make Hami one of the most unique places in Central Asia. Influenced by the traders and visitors of the Ancient Silk Road over hundreds of years, many visitors associate Hami with the neighboring countries - It’s easy to forget you are in China!

Located in close proximity to the Tian Shan Mountains, Hami is known for alpine scenery, vast highlands, green pastures and pristine lakes. The region has a number of highlights: in addition to the beautiful Tian Shan Mountains, it is famous for vast grass lands, yurt villages, sand dunes and huge stunning sandstone formations of the Devil City located in the Black Gobi Desert and villages and farm lands of ethnic minorities.

Hami is an oasis city that is particularly well known for its sweet melons, as well as cotton and grapes. Hami and the surrounding areas are also full of colourful markets that sell local delicacies including fresh and dried fruits, nuts, naan break and shies kebab as well as handicrafts and souvenirs. It’s worth spending some extra time in Hami before and / or after the event to enjoy the host town that rarely sees visitors from outside China.

Map of the Silk Road. The host town of Hami and the past locations of the Gobi March are highlighted:

Gobi Desert

The Gobi Desert is the largest desert region in Asia and the fifth largest in the world. It is also the windiest non-polar desert in the world. The climate that the area experiences varies greatly depending on the specific location due to the topography, which varies from plain, desert and mountain climates. The area annually experiences temperatures of up to 40°C / 104°F in the summer and has been known to drop to -24.4°C / -11.9°F in the winter whilst receiving only 27mm / 1 inches of rainfall annually. The area selected for the Gobi March 2014 has been closely guarded by the Chinese government due to its border position and distance from Beijing and as a result there have been very few outsiders freely exploring the area.

History

The Gobi March was founded in honor of three missionaries: Mildred Cable and sisters Francesca and Eva French. Mildred Cable and Eva and Francesca French were Christian missionaries who began their work in China around the turn of the century with the China Inland Mission. After more than 20 years of doing routine missionary work in China, the trio headed northwest - to the Gobi Desert and beyond. Many of their colleagues were shocked. Some wrote, saying in more or less parliamentary language, 'that there were no fools like old fools.'

The women were not deterred, traveling for months by ox cart before arriving at the City of the Prodigals, the last city inside the Great Wall, named for its reputation for attracting criminals. Here they set up a base where they spent winters. The remaining eight months of the year they evangelized, traveling the vast trade routes of the Gobi Desert in Gansu and Xinjiang Provinces. They made a point of visiting the poor, feeding orphans, healing the sick and educating girls. More than once they were assailed by bandits, and were caught up in local wars and even the occasional blinding blizzard.

Mildred Cable once said: "Only a fool crosses the great Gobi without misgivings." But with every painstaking step Mildred took, she was to see parables for life … a life that embraced the message she had come to bring. "In this trackless waste, where every restriction is removed and where you are beckoned and lured in all directions… One narrow way is the only road for you. In the great and terrible wilderness, push on with eyes blinded to the deluding mirage, your ears deaf to the call of the seducer, and your mind un-diverted from the goal."

Upholding a community of thought with these pioneers and their maverick determination, RacingThePlanet held its first 4 Deserts event, the Gobi March (China) 2003, in the very same region of the Gobi Desert that this trio traversed more than a century before. Like Cable, who had "become part of its life" after crossing the length of the desert more than five times, so does each participant of the Gobi March (China) become a part of the history and legacy of this majestic land.

A special award, the Cable-French Trophy will be presented to a competitor who best exemplifies the characteristics of Mildred Cable and Eva and Francesca French.

Culture

Competitors will obtain a rich cultural experience as the course passes through numerous villages and homesteads of the local community. Minority ethnic groups include the Mongols, Uyghurs, Kazakhs and many more. Brief descriptions of some of these cultures are provided below.

The Mongols

The Mongol culture is one of generosity and hospitality. Historically nomadic pastoralists, Mongols consume milk - from sheep, horses, deer and camels - and meat as their daily staples. Tender, boiled mutton, is representative of their traditional food.

Mongols in China adopted many of the values and political structures of local culture even while preserving their own culture and heritage. Mongol rulers took many steps to preserve the rituals, ceremonies and flavor of traditional Mongol life. For example, the ritual scattering of mare's milk was performed every year; and before battle, libations of koumiss (alcoholic drink made of mare's milk) were poured and the assistance of Tenggeri (the Sky God) still invoked. Traditional Mongol shamanism was well supported, and shamans had positions at Khubilai Khan's court in China.

Many Mongols continue to wear their native costumes of fur and leather, extravagant feasts in the Mongol tradition were held on Khubilai Khan's birthday and the birthdays of other great Mongol leaders, and the sport of hunting, a quintessential Mongol activity originally designed as training for warfare, flourished. And when a Mongol princess entered her eighth or ninth month of pregnancy, she continued the custom of moving to a special ger or yurt (the traditional Mongol home) to give birth.

The Uyghurs

The Uyghur nationality is mainly distributed in the Xinjiang Province. Uyghur people speak Uyghur, have their own writing characters, and are largely Islamic. Uyghurs have absorbed many different aspects of Arabic, Asian and European cultures to forge their own unique legacy and tradition. Uyghur men wear doppas, a cap varying in shape and size between cultural minority groups in the region - the particular doppas Uyghurs don are usually square. The Uyghurs were renowned for their advancement in medical and engineering capabilities, sharing much of their knowledge through the gateway of the Silk Road to provide the best of the East and West fusion. Cuisine, art, medicine, technology, literature and music were just some of the outlets of this eclectic expression.

Despite having been considered part of China since the mid-19th Century, the Uyghur retain vestiges of their cultural autonomy in small ways, such as keeping their time zone 2 hours apart from the official Beijing Time. Their households are characterized by flat roofs with trap doors on them. One of the most idiosyncratic and memorable things about this region, is how each homestead painstakingly decorates the entrances and doorways of their properties, no matter how humble or remote they may be, with exquisitely decorated niches, carved from plaster.

The Uyghur nationality attaches great importance to clothing – they are always tidily dressed with ornate jewelry and headpieces. All the Uyghur people wear small four-corner flower hats, and are famous for their delicate and labor intensive use of embroidery and other handiwork on much of their clothing.

The Kazakhs

There are about 1.1 million Kazakhs in China, about one eighth of the size of the Kazakh population in Kazakhstan. The Kazakhs have traditionally been organized into clans that have later turn into tribes. Important Kazakh tribes in China include the Kereoy, Naiman, Kezai, Alban and Suwan. The Kazakhs make up about 7 percent of the population of Xinjiang. They are excellent horsemen and have generally kept their nomadic ways of life. There are not many roads on the grasslands and horses are still the ideal way to get around. The Kazakhs enjoy freedom and their settlements are often far away from others.

The Kazakh diet and the diet of most minorities in Xinjiang includes mutton, nan-bread, and tea mixed with sheep or horse milk. Mutton is often eaten in big chunks by hand and nan-bread is dipped into tea with goat's milk. Unlike Chinese, the Kazakhs produce dairy. Yogurt, milk dough, cheese, butter and fermented horse’s milk is part of their everyday meals. The Kazakhs raise sheep, horses and cattle. Meat is preserved by curing and smoking.

The Tajiks

Of Persian descent and tradition, the Tajik people are an eclectic population of more than 42,000 in Xinjiang Province alone. Since ancient times, the Tajik people have lived in the Tashkurgan area in the Pamirs, which was both a gateway to China's western frontier and a key communications center between the West and inland China. They speak the Persian branch of the Indo European language family as well as the Uyghur language.

Over the centuries, the Tajiks have adapted their style of dressing, eating and living to accommodate the harsh highland conditions where they reside. Men wear collarless long jackets with belts, over which they add sheepskin overcoats in cold winter. Their style of headdress is usually a tall lambskin hat line with black velvet and decorated with embroidery. The women adorn themselves with long aprons and sometimes wear a head covering that is rectangular in shape and white.

The Tajik people were originally herdsmen and hunter-gatherers, viewing it as taboo to eat the flesh of animals that died of natural causes. The Tajik are a very sensitive culture, with festival rites and rituals strictly observed, as are dress etiquette rules and regulations.

The Tajik nationality had a strong influence in Chinese culture and folklore. In 643, when the Monk Xuan Zang of the Tang Dynasty brought home Buddhist scriptures from India, he stopped over in what is today's Tashkurgan and listened to local Tajik fairy tales. Later he recorded these tales in his 'Notes on the Western Region of the Great Tang Dynasty.'

The Kyrgyz

With a name that defies translation, the Kyrgyz people are known to have existed for thousands of years, since 109BC. The word Kyrgyz is thought to have originated from folklore to mean “forty,” as in “forty tribes” or “forty girls” in reference to a heroic tale of the Epic of Manas, a Kyrgyz poem twenty times longer than Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad combined. Often recalled at Kyrgyz festivities, the Epic of Manas is the classic centerpiece of Kyrgyz literature and is a tale of morality and philosophy.

An alternative translation of the name for this fascinating people is “imperishable.” Although never quantified, the perseverance of many of the Kyrgyz rites and rituals over time bares testament to the resolve of these people. Similar to other minority groups in the Xinjiang Province, the Kyrgyz are of Turkic descent and share archaeological, historical, linguistic and ethnographic traits with idiosyncratic differences unique to their own culture. Traditionally, the Kyrgyz dress evolved into an eclectic clothing style adapted to both sedentary and nomadic lifestyle. Western and Eastern influences such as felting, weaving and quilting are used to great effect. Particularly interesting, was the adoption of Western style such as Western dresses (for women), suit jackets and trousers (for men) combined with embroidery commonly found in India. The Kolpok hats remain some of the vestiges of the Kyrgyz traditional dress, and even these can vary in shape and size to include tall, short, brimmed and also brimless.

COURSE DESCRIPTION

The format of the course of the Gobi March follows a similar format to all races in the 4 Deserts Race Series - 250 kilometer / 155 mile, 7-day, 6-stage, self-supported endurance footrace. Competitors will go through a variety of terrain and scenery with many highlights along the way. This section includes an overview of the terrain, elevation, distances and checkpoints - the full course notes will be given to each competitor at the competitor check-in in China.

The Gobi March course is located in the Hami region in Xinjiang Province, China. It follows the area of the Ancient Silk Road and is the most diversified course of the 4 Deserts Race Series combining a cooler weather mountain trail race and a hot desert race. The course follows the Tian Shan Mountains, one of the largest mountain ranges in Asia, and it crosses the mountain range on Stage 2. It takes you through Alpine scenery, pastures and yurt villages, river beds, sand dunes, rough Gobi terrain and the sandy Black Gobi Desert famous for its huge stunning sandstone formations. You will also get to experience the colourful culture of the Uyghur, Kazak and Hui ethnic groups who live along the course

MAP OF THE COURSE


 

DISTANCES

The total distance of the Gobi March is 250 kilometers / 155 miles over six stages. The distances of each stage are listed in the box below. Note that all distances are approximate - the exact distances will be provided in the course book that competitors receive at Competitor Check-In in China.

Stages Estimated Distances
Stage 1 35 km / 22 miles
Stage 2 37 km / 23 miles
Stage 3 42 km / 26 miles
Stage 4 44 km / 27 miles
Stage 5 80 km / 50 miles
Stage 6 12 km / 7 miles

*NOTE: that all distances are subject to change.



 

ELEVATION

The Gobi March course has a total of 3,116 meters / 10,223 feet of elevation gain and 5,117 meters / 16,788 feet of elevation loss. The lowest point of the course is at 170 meters / 560 feet and the highest point is just under 2,900 meters / 9,500 feet.

Lowest Point 170 meters / 560 feet
Highest Point 2,897 meters / 9,504 feet

TERRAIN

The 250-kilometer / 155 mile course will take competitors through beautiful landscapes, rough terrain and unique cultures off the beaten track. The course is primarily on tracks, trails and off-road. Terrain will consist of a combination of grassland, fields, some soft sand and dunes, rocky terrain, river beds, gravel tracks, river crossings, climbs and descents. The course does not include technical climbing.


 

CHECKPOINTS

During each stage checkpoints are located approximately every 10 kilometers (6 miles) along the course.

At each checkpoint competitors must:

  • Be logged on arrival by event staff
  • Take a minimum allocation of drinking water for the next section of the course
  • Abide by any instructions given by the event staff due to changing course conditions (e.g. thunderstorms, sandstorms, fog, terrain changes, etc.)

At each checkpoint competitors can:

  • Rest for a short period of time
  • Take advantage of the shade that the checkpoint tent provides
  • Seek advice and treatment, if appropriate, from the medical doctor at the checkpoint

Please note that adverse weather conditions and other factors can result in changes being made to the course.


 

THE LONG MARCH

The much-anticipated Stage 5 in all of the 4 Deserts Race Series events is known as The Long March. Generally, this stage is between 70 and 90 kilometers (43 to 56 miles) long, roughly double the length of the previous four stages.

The stage follows much the same format as the previous ones: checkpoints are located about 10 kilometers (6 miles) apart; however, many competitors will take the opportunity (the only one in the week) to have a few hours of sleep at a designated Overnight Checkpoint.

At the Overnight Checkpoint, there will usually be a tent in which competitors can sleep as well as a campfire or stove where hot water is available for drinks and meals.

QUICK FACTS - 2016 Show All   |   Hide All

The Gobi March (China) is part of the 4 Deserts Race Series which was named by TIME magazine as one of the Top 10 Endurance Competitions in the world.

The Gobi March course is a 250 kilometer / 155 mile long and stretches over 6 stages. It is the most diversified course of the 4 Deserts Race Series combining a cooler weather mountain trail race and a hot desert race.

The course crosses the Tian Shan Mountains (one of the largest mountain ranges in Asia), takes competitors through Alpine scenery, yurt villages, sand dunes, and the Black Gobi Desert which is famous for its huge stunning sandstone formations.

Uyghur, Kazak and Hui ethnic groups form approximately half of the population of Xinjiang Province. Their colourful cultures make Xinjiang Province one of the most unique places in Central Asia. Influenced also by the traders and visitors of the Ancient Silk Road over hundreds of years, many visitors associate Hami with the neighboring countries - It’s easy to forget you are in China!

More than 50% of Gobi March 2017 competitors are expected to have completed a previous 4 Deserts or Roving Race, with 50% joining the 4 Deserts Race Series for the first time.

The fastest finish time on any Gobi March course is held by Vicente Garcia Beneito of Spain with an overall time of 23 hours and 12 minutes in 2012.

The fastest finish time on any Gobi March course is held by Vicente Garcia Beneito of Spain with an overall time of 23 hours and 12 minutes in 2012.

Approximately 20% of competitors run the entire course, 60% combine running with walking, and 20% walk the entire course. The fastest completion time is expected to be around 24 hours and the slowest around 70 hours.

During the Gobi March, competitors, volunteers and staff are expected to consume up to 15,000 liters of water in total.

Competitors are required to pass through up to 30 checkpoints throughout the seven-day event before crossing the finish line.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Show All   |   Hide All

What is the Gobi March (China)?

The Gobi March (China) is one of the four races that comprise the world renowned 4 Deserts Race Series of 250 kilometre / 155 mile, six-stage, seven-day, self-supported rough-country, endurance footraces. In 2016, the Gobi March will celebrate the 50th race of the 4 Deserts Race Series which started near the historic city of Dunhuang, China in 2003 to witness a new sport's introduction to China.

Is the Gobi March an ultramarathon, adventure race, expedition race or other extreme race?

The Gobi March is part of the 4 Deserts Race Series. We like to think of the 4 Deserts Race Series as its own unique category or genre. The races are ultramarathons but do not fit into the classic definitions of these. They are not adventure races or expedition races. Instead, we call the 4 Deserts Race Series, self-supported rough-country endurance footraces.

What is the format of the Gobi March?

The Gobi March is a 250-kilometer / 155-mile race which is split up into 6 stages, over 7 days. The approximate format is provided below.

Stage 1 40 km / 24 miles Day 1
Stage 2 40 km / 24 miles Day 2
Stage 3 40 km / 24 miles Day 3
Stage 4 40 km / 24 miles Day 4
Stage 5 80-100 km / 50-62 miles* Day 5 and 6
Stage 6 14.0 km / 8.8 miles Day 7

NOTE 1 - The distances shown above are approximate.

NOTE 2 -Competitors must carry all their own personal gear, food and clothing in a backpack. The only assistance provided to competitors is water for drinking and preparing food (typically freeze dried meals), tents to sleep in at night and professional medical and operations support.

Why was this location chosen for the Gobi March?

Deserts are separated into four categories: subtropical, cool coastal, cold winter and polar. The 4 Deserts Race Series are located in the largest desert of each category, also representing the driest, hottest, coldest and windiest places on Earth.


The Gobi Desert is the largest Cold Winter desert which is created by the rain shadow effect in which a tall mountain range causes warm moist air to rise and cool. As the air cools water vapour condenses out and falls as rain or snow, leaving the air dry and creating a desert on the lee (upwind) side of the mountain.


The course for the Gobi March, the has been set up to pass through one of the most beautiful, pristine and untouched land on Earth.

Do I have to sign up for the whole series or can I compete in just one event? Which event do I have to complete first?

You may complete the Gobi March (China), Atacama Crossing (Chile) and Sahara Race (Namibia) at any time. There is no specific order in which you must do the events, and you do not have to complete all three. However, if you are interested in competing in The Last Desert (Antarctica), then you must have successfully completed at least two of the other 4 Deserts in order to qualify.

What is required in order to take part in the Gobi March?

There is no qualification required to take part in the Gobi March, but competitors must be healthy and maintain a certain level of fitness. All competitors are required to submit a medical form with information on fitness level, a form with emergency contact details and a stamped doctor's certificate two months before the event.


The first to compete in the Gobi March is to fill out the on line registration. The deposit then needs to be paid to secure your place.

Who typically competes in the Gobi March?

The typical competitor is a high achiever - someone who believes in maximizing every opportunity in life. Our competitors generally work full time, some have families, many perform community service and all lead healthy lifestyles. Our competitors consist of medical doctors, professors, investment bankers, small business owners, actors, entrepreneurs, journalists, top athletes and coaches, military professionals, managers and stay-at-home moms and dads. We have many father/son, father/daughter, mother/son and brother/sister competitors. The events are international with approximately 40 countries represented in each event. At a normal event, 20% of competitors are women and 80% of competitors are men.

How much time do I need to do the Gobi March?

The race is set up to allow for generous cut-off times.


Approximately 20% of competitors will run most of the course, 60% combine running with walking, and 20% willwalk the entire course.


A competitor that can complete 40 kilometers / 25 miles in 8-10 hours will be able to meet the cut-off times

I don't think I can run 250 kilometers, can I still make the cut-off times?

The event is set up to allow for generous cut-off times. Approximately 20% of competitors will run most of the course, 60% combine running with walking, and 20% willwalk the entire course. A competitor that can complete 40 kilometers / 25 miles in 8-10 hours should be able to meet the cut-off times.

How much training is required?

Our competitors are busy people – we don't expect them to train all the time, but a minimum amount of training is expected. Some competitors complete the event with minimal training; others want to win and spend many more hours training. Each competitor has his or her own goal. We simply want people to finish.


There are a number of resources available to help people prepare and train for the Gobi March; some of these are listed below:

  • Expert articles prepared by doctors, health and sports professionals on a variety of topics related to training, preparation and medical care. All of the articles are available on the The Outdoor Store website and in a special Competitor Area of the Gobi March website.
  • The expert article titled Preparing for an Event is a particularly useful to help get started.
  • Competitor blogs are a great way to collect training tips to implement into a personal training plan. The blogs also provide a way for competitors to share questions and advice with one another.
  • Contact us for more information or to get connected with other competitors.
How far in advance do I need to sign up?

The 4 Desert Race Series races are very popular - some sell out more than one year in advance. We recommend that prospective competitors complete an online registration as early as possible


- at least six months before the start of the event. Places are confirmed upon receipt of the deposit payment. Once the event is full, new applications will be added to the waiting list.

What is included in the entry fee?

The entry fee for the Gobi March includes almost everything from the arrival at the event hotel on Friday before the event start until departure on Sunday after the event conclusion. Specifically, this is:

  • International staff and medical support throughout event
  • Bottled water for the duration of the event
  • Campfire with hot water available for cooking / making warm drinks in the mornings and evenings for the duration of the event
  • Tented accommodation during the event
  • Transportation to Camp 1 and from the finish line to the event hotel
  • Two nights of hotel accommodation (one night pre-event and one night post-event, double occupancy)
  • Pre-race and post-race breakfasts and one pre-race lunch
  • Awards Banquet ticket (including dinner, awards presentation and photo slideshow)
  • Finisher's medal
  • Official event t-shirt or jacket

Additional costs to consider are flights / transport to the event hotel and mandatory equipment.

What medical support is provided?

A fully qualified team of medical doctors from the United States, many of whom have attended a number of 4 Deserts Race Series races over the years, work at each race. Most doctors are emergency physicians with affiliations at Stanford University and other reputable medical schools.


During the race, there is a medical doctor at almost all checkpoints to offer assistance and care on the course. There is also a medical tent located at every campsite where competitors can seek medical assistance or advice. Note that this is a self-supported race, so each competitor must bring the mandatory medical items listed in the equipment listbut there is no penalty for visiting the medical team.

What equipment do I need?

Competitors must carry ALL mandatory equipment items, including food and electrolytes, at all times during the event. An equipment list list with mandatory gear requirements can be found on the equipment page of the Gobi March website. The equipment list has also a section of optional and recommended gear items.


Failure to have every mandatory item in the quantity required will result in time penalties or you may not be allowed to start the race.

How much does an average competitor backpack weigh?

When full, most competitor backpacks range in weight from 7-15 kilograms / 15-33 pounds, with the average backpack weighing 9 kilograms / 20 pounds (without water). Note that the backpack weight will decrease each day as food is eaten and items are used along the course.

Where do competitors sleep each night?

At the end of each stage, competitors, volunteers and staff gather in incredible campsites managed by a local camp team. The desert campsites are typically located in spectacular places with clear views of the nighttime skies. Competitors sleep in tents of up to ten people. There are also camp fires in the mornings and evenings to boil water and cook food.

How do I get to the start of the race?

We provide information on common flight routes and local contacts to help competitors make arrangements to get to the host town / city in China. We also provide information on staying additional nights at the hotel, airport transfers, domestic flights and other travel arrangements.

How can my friends, relatives and supporters follow the race?

The Gobi March website is updated daily during the event with real time breaking news, stage updates, results, competitor blogs, features, and hundreds of photos and videos. Supporters can follow the event by:

Can I volunteer at the Gobi March?

The 4 Deserts Race Series typically accepts 16-20 volunteers for the Gobi March each year. Those interested in volunteering should complete a volunteer application as early as possible – we receive many more applications than we can accept. The volunteer team works hard during the event, but the job is fun and very rewarding – many volunteers return to 4 Deserts races year after year.

What else is special about the Gobi March?

Each event highlights the most spectacular, unspoiled scenery and indigenous culture in the region with the hope of preserving the culture for generations to come. At the Gobi March, competitors experience the friendship and warmth of the Ugyurs, Mongols and Kazakhs. All three groups have their own unique cultures.

What is the best part of the Gobi March?

Many say that the best part of the event is meeting other competitors and making new friends from all over the world. Many competitors meet up after the event, stopping to have dinner when passing through another competitor's hometown or getting together regularly for social events. Others choose to register for additional events as teammates. Some competitors have even met their future spouses!

Can I run for a charity?

Absolutely – we encourage it. Giving back is one of the primary themes of the 4 Deserts Race Series Mission. Many of our competitors have raised significant amounts of money for charities all over the world. We do what we can to help you promote your chosen charity and there are two expert articles written by past competitors:Why and How You Should Fundraise and Top Ten Steps to Raising Money For Charity

My absolute goal is to complete The Last Desert in Antarctica. Can I compete in this event first?

No. The Last Desert (Antarctica) is an invitation-only race - it is only open to those who have completed at least two of the other 4 Deserts races, including the Gobi March(China), Atacama Crossing (Chile) and Sahara Race (Namibia).

Any last words to describe the 4 Deserts Race Series?

Life enhancing for all, life changing for many.

 

EQUIPMENT

Competitors are required to carry mandatory equipment items during the week of the event. Mandatory equipment will be reviewed at Competitor Check-In at the host hotel and on the course during the week of the event. Failure to have an item will result in a penalty or not being able to start / continue the event.

Download the Equipment List to make sure that you know what is required for each mandatory equipment item. You can also review the photos and descriptions of each item below. All items are available at the RacingThePlanet Store.

Your backpack / rucksack should be capable of carrying all of your mandatory and optional equipment. A 25-30L backpack is optimal. When full, most competitor backpacks range in weight from 7-15kg / 15-33lbs while the average backpack weighs 9kg / 20lbs without water.

Note: There is no one backpack model that works for everyone.

The waterproof bag must be a minimum of 35 liters in size. There is a chance of rain, and it is vital that you keep the contents of your backpack (in particular, your sleeping bag and camp clothes) dry. Using a combination of smaller waterproof bags does not fulfill this requirement.

The minimum requirement combination of sleeping bag plus bag liner is 0°C / 32°F. If you are sensitive to cold temperatures you may want to look at combinations below this temperature.

Competitors are required to carry two light sources during the event one must be a headlamp or handheld torch. Both lights must be strong enough to use when on the course at night on uneven terrain.

The red flashing light is required in in addition to your headlamp and back-up light. This is to be attached to the rear of your backpack and switched on when you are on the course in the dark.

A small knife or multi-tool has multiple uses during the event.

A whistle can be used to attract attention in case of an emergency. Note that many backpacks include a whistle on the buckle - this is not sufficient. You must have an emergency whistle.

A mirror can be used to attract attention in case of an emergency.

The survival bivvy / bag must be a closed bivvy bag (not a blanket) made of reflective material. We recommend a thick bag that you can repack easily as you may want to use it over your sleeping bag in cold or wet weather conditions.

Any model of compass is adequate however, a compass as a part of a watch is not sufficient.

Note: There is no navigation in the event.

Ideally bring more than one eating utensil (e.g. fork or spoon) in case you lose one.

You must have minimum of 60 ml / 2 fl oz of sunscreen. Choose a brand with high SPF that is waterproof, sweat-proof and non-greasy.

Lip sunscreen is necessary to protect lips from the sun.

Bring an adequate 7-day supply (at least 12 mild pain relief pills) so that you are not dependent on medication from the event medical team.

Important Note: You should seek advice from your doctor about any medication that you plan to take during the race, including any form of painkillers. If you take painkillers, Tylenol / Paracetamol / Acetaminophen are preferred over anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen / Neurofen / Advil / Motrin / Naprosyn and others. It is NOT advised to take anti-inflammatory medication on the course. Please read the expert article called Painkillers Used during Ultramarathons for more details.

The following list is a minimum requirement for the blister kit. You may need more supplies based on your experience and prior history of foot blisters:

  • 10 x alcohol wipes
  • 2 x hypodermic needles or safety pins
  • 1 x roll of paper tape (i.e. Micropore)
  • 1 x roll of elastic tape (i.e. Elastikon)
  • 5 x Spenco 2nd Skin or Compeed pads

Note 1: Lubricant such as Bodyglide or Loob is also highly recommended. Foot powder is recommended for feet that sweat a lot.

Note 2: You should try to anticipate the amount of supplies you will need for 7 days. If you do not bring enough supplies, you could be at risk of developing more severe blisters that could jeopardize your ability to finish the race.recommended. Foot powder is recommended for feet that sweat a lot.

The compression bandage must be a minimum size of 7.5 cm/3 in wide x 4.5 m/14 ft long (6 cm/2.4 inches in diameter).

A minimum of 10 safety pins are required for attaching your bib number and event patch and for multiple uses during the event. Heavy duty, large pins work best.

A minimum of 60 ml / 2 fl oz of alcohol gel is required. Alcohol wipes cannot replace alcohol gel, but you may choose to carry both.

A 7-day supply of toilet tissue is mandatory as no tissues / paper will be provided for toilet use. It is recommended to also bring wet wipes.

Competitors should wear trail or running shoes. Consider buying your shoes 1 to 2 sizes larger than you would normally wear to account for swelling and tape for blisters.

Two pairs of socks are required, but 6-7 pairs are recommended to allow for a fresh pair for each day on the course. Many competitors wear two layers of socks at one time.

Two pairs of shorts / tights / pants are required. One pair must cover your full leg.

One shirt is required, but we recommend two shirts, including one that is long-sleeved for sun protection and / or warmth in cold temperatures. Quick dry materials in light colors are recommended.

Temperatures in the desert can get very cold. This must be a warm top (preferably fleece or down jacket). An alternative is a thick, long-sleeve capilene top.

The jacket must be fully waterproof (preferably also windproof) to keep you dry and warm.

A rain poncho is required for additional warmth and wet protection. It is lightweight and easy to put on / take off when the weather changes.

It is required that you wear a cap with a neck cover (such as legionnaire design) or have a cap with a Buff to cover both your head and neck.

A warm hat is required for cold temperatures. A Buff does not fulfill this requirement.

Full finger gloves are required for warmth in the cold.

Any pair of UV protection sunglasses fulfills this requirement. Only 1 pair is mandatory but it is recommended to take 2 pairs as sunglasses are often lost or broken.

You must provide your own nationality patches to wear on both sleeves of all tops (including jackets) throughout the event. These are in addition to the 4 Deserts patches which are provided by the 4 Deserts.

We will send you a set of eight 4 Deserts patches approximately 6 weeks before the event. You do not need to purchase these patches.

You must be able to carry containers that can hold 2.5 liters of water at all times. We advise having capacity for 1.5 liters in bottles or a bladder that are easy to access and fill up. In addition to this, you must have a separate Platypus SoftBottle for 1.0 liter (or 2 soft bottles for 0.5L), which folds up inside your backpack, when not being used.

You must have a hydration system that is able to hold 2.5 liters of water at all times. The most common choices are:

Bottles: These allow for more flexibility they can be attached to the shoulder straps of your backpack, put in a front pack, kept in the backpack with a Platypus Drink Tube or carried by hand.

Hydration bladders: A popular choice, but sometimes difficult to know how much fluid you have drunk; can also be difficult to fill quickly.

Maintaining your body's electrolyte balance is critical for a safe race. It is strongly recommended to bring a mixture of electrolyte tablets and electrolyte drink powders. You must bring a minimum of:

  • Enough powder to make a minimum of 30 liters of drink OR
  • Enough salt tablets / Endurolytes for 30 hours on the course (usually minimum is 1.5 tablets per hour=45 tablets) OR
  • A combination of both, e.g. powder for 15 liters of water and tablets for 15 hours on the course.
  • If you expect to spend more than 30 hours on the course then you should increase this accordingly. It is vital that you test your electrolyte plan during your training and follow the amounts recommended on the packets.

You are responsible for your own food for the duration of the event. You need a meal for the night before the race as well as a minimum of 2,000 calories / day during the race (7 days) for a minimum of 14,000 calories in total.

We recommend using freeze dried meals as your main food source. Hot water will be available at all campsites.

We also recommend considering energy bars/ gels, nutrition supplements, drink mixes and on-the-go snacks to supplement your regular meals.

BEHIND THE SCENES Show All   |   Hide All

Campfire Comfort

The campfire is an integral part of the 4 Deserts Race Series and Roving Races. Nurtured and tended by our local staff, who keep a constant kettle of water boiling, the fire could be counted as the greatest luxury at a 4 Deserts event. After a hard day in the desert, there is nothing quite like the camaraderie and comfort provided by the fire. An opportunity to meet fellow competitors, swap tips, marvel at some of the ingenious meals being prepared, goes a long way to help ease sore limbs. Before competitors awake in the morning, the fire is rekindled and the kettle of water boiled for breakfast - a blissful cup of tea or coffee and a bowl of Porridge with Strawberries are perennial favourites to savour as the sun rises.

Flags and Banners

Handmade flags and banners are used in all 4 Deserts races, including the Gobi March. Sometimes the Chinese locals help with displaying the banners. At the Gobi March 2006, expert Kazak horsemen carried the flags to start the event. In addition, nationality flags line the start and finish line each day typically representing 40 or more nationalities.

World Class Volunteers

Volunteers are carefully selected from around the world to ensure a variety of nationalities, language abilities, fitness levels and general experiences to form a world class support team able to work successfully in challenging conditions. Approximately three volunteer applications are received for every available position. View our Gobi March 2017  staff and volunteer team.

Media Coverage

There is a fast growing global community interested in 4 Deserts races - not only friends, family, supporters and former competitors, but also a wide range of media as well as a fanbase of people inspired by the dream of one day competing. To keep up with the demands of this expanding community, we are constantly developing our media capabilities.

The 4 Deserts uses a combination of satellite and mobile communications to distribute content from the races to our website and to broadcasters around the world. During each stage of the race we post updates to the website about race leaders and individual competitors several times per day. We also post daily video highlights captured by staff, volunteers and competitors.

At least 150 photographs are uploaded daily from the race capturing the locations, highlights and spirit of the event. We also distribute daily features about competitors and the locations as well as stage updates on the race website. Overall positions and timings are logged on the website as soon as possible after the last competitor crosses the finish line of each stage and competitors' blogs and emails are posted and sent out each evening.

Remote Communications

The 4 Deserts communications system features top of the line ruggedized computers and lightweight tablets. The Gobi March features twenty of the most powerful portable transceivers (or handheld radios) available, twelve 25W mobile transceivers (car radios) and two repeater stations. In addition, staff will utilize Iridium satellite phones as backup – the only satellite provider with global coverage from Pole to Pole. In some areas of the course, standard cell phones will be utilized. To obtain broadband internet coverage, the 4 Deserts will use BGAN satellite terminals which have been successfully deployed in all the major deserts of the world including Antarctica.

The Glowstick Path

The 4 Deserts is bringing 3,500 glowsticks to mark the Gobi March course in the evening hours. These glowsticks are purchased directly from the factory to ensure that they offer maximum light while in the hot and cold climate of the desert.  In addition, special highly reflective tape is attached to each pink marker as back up in case the glowsticks fail or are taken by children along the course.

Giving Back

The 4 Deserts endeavours to give back to the local community. In 2013, RacingThePlanet and the Esquel Y.L. Yang Education Foundation launched a seven-year scholarship program, called the Esquel-RacingThePlanet Scholarship Program, which supports education for local girls in the Xinjiang Province. The 4 Deserts has collaborated with the foundation since 2005 by donating sporting equipment, computer centers and more than 8,200 books to schools along its race routes.  It has also sponsored Operation Smile missions and raised funds for the victims of the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008. RacingThePlanet and the 4 Deserts will never waiver in its efforts to support charities and worthwhile initiatives around the world.

The Finish Line

The finish line of Stage 6 is a time for celebration for all race participants to enjoy the past week of hard work. Finishing competitors receive their finisher medals and everyone partakes in food and drink. There is local music and sometimes dancers providing entertainment.  The finish line takes an enormous amount of thought and planning, but sometimes plans need to be changed. In the past, we've had to purchase wheat fields and hire elderly men as the cheering squad.  Oftentimes, we've had children from local schools attend the finish line to cheer on those reaching the finale of 250 kilometers.

Pewter Medals

Competitors that finish the Gobi March receive specially designed pewter medals presented at the Stage 6 finish line. Each medal is made of the highest quality pewter from Malaysia and weighs 345 grams.

Expedition Foods

Expedition Foods is the official food partner for the Gobi March 2017. Expedition Foods pioneered the concept of expedition foods by providing highly nutritious, delicious and lightweight food and has built a reputation on quality, service and choice, boasting arguably the largest range of meals available in the world. Expedition Foods’ 800 Kcal range is the highest calorie to weight food available on the market. Expediton Foods has recently introduced a regular serving range of 450 kcal meals as well as an extreme energy / regular serving for two meal range.  Expedition Foods’ objective is to provide a mix of traditional meals with dishes from around the globe. The diverse menu, which appeals to all tastes, is coupled with continual innovation and product development. Expedition Foods can be found at www.expeditionfoods.com.

Water

In 2015, the 4 Deserts Race Series introduced 25L re-useable bottles of water to reduce trash and lessen the environmental impact. By using this new water system, we have reduced the amount of rubbish generated from plastic bottles by 70%. This is part of the 4 Deserts Race Series values to leave no trace.  During the Gobi March more than 15,000 liters of water will be consumed by participants as they complete the course and prepare their meals at the Camp each night.