|Gobi March||China||2 Jun 2013|
|RacingThePlanet: Iceland||Iceland||4 Aug 2013|
|Sahara Race||Egypt||16 Feb 2014|
|Gobi March||China||1 June 2014|
|RacingThePlanet: Madagascar||Madagascar||31 Aug 2014|
|Atacama Crossing||Chile||5 Oct 2014|
|The Last Desert||Antarctica||16 Nov 2014|
|Sahara Race||Egypt||15 Feb 2015|
|Gobi March||China||31 May 2015|
|Atacama Crossing||Chile||4 Oct 2015|
Five Shanghai residents are at the Sahara Race 2012, and we cornered them for a chat about what pulled them to this faraway desert. According to Niu Dongmei—China already enjoys a poetic connection to the Sahara Desert.
“The Sahara Desert itself is very special for Chinese,” Niu tells us and points to the Taiwanese author Sanmao (aka Chen Mao Ping) whose travels to the desert in the 1970s resulted in a series of famed novels. “The Sahara then has a special romantic meaning for Chinese. It’s a very special place and has its unique charisma. People would love to come here and experience it.”
Funnily enough, it was a story that brought the five competitors here in the first place. Wu Yihua explains that it was the personal stories of fellow Chinese competitors that captured their interest: “We heard about this RacingThePlanet event from two Chinese runners who joined years ago. In May, a team of four Chinese joined the Gobi March who shared their story and attracted our interest. After listening to their story, we thought it was not beyond our imagination or unreachable. So we decided to join the Sahara Race.” There is a unanimous feeling amid all five competitors that so far, the event is wonderful.“So far the experience is very good, far beyond our imagination,” says Xu Dong who is a manager of Dolphin Investment in Shanghai. “The course here is magnificent with good and different views all along the route. Sometimes it gets boring, but most of time it surprises you greatly with castles, ridges, sand dunes and rock formations.”
For Niu Dongmei, the race also offers time for inner contemplation—a rarity in the bustle of modern life. “We have got plenty of time to walk and think,” she ponders. “It’s a great chance to probe into your head and find your true self and pursuits. The race in the desert gives us time to look back on our life when we are moving forward so fast in daily life and work. We miss our family very much and are looking forward to devoting more time to family and life when we are back, which is the lesson that only occurred to us when we joined the race here.”
They’re thinking of their families and they’re also here for their communities back home. The Shanghai residents are using the event to raise funds and awareness for the Pearl Retrieval Program, which supports impoverished youths.
“We joined this race to specially promote one project to help more girls to get education,” explains Chen Huaiyu, who spends her days as a vice general manager at Greatwall Decoration Engineering. “We are also gaining funds to buy them books, desks at school and clothes. In some area of China, girls are quitting school to help their brothers to get better education. They need our help.”
One gets the feeling that the writer Senmao would be supremely proud.
By Clare Morin