The Gobi March, the original race in the 4 Deserts Race Series, is one of the most unique and culturally rich races in the world. Competitors have experienced life-changing moments while tackling the stunning and challenging course. It is the culture, surprising scenery and local people that make the race so memorable.
Japanese competitor Takao Kitada sums up his experience perfectly as he admits that the races have changed him: "I have found my most shining place." There are many competitors who will be life-long friends but it was the nomads in the Gobi Desert along with the people in Hami, the host town, who have had the biggest impact on Takao and led him to his “most shining place”
There are many reasons to explore the beautiful vastness of the Gobi Desert along the most diversified course of the 4 Deserts Race Series: Tian Shan Mountains, alpine scenery, green pastures, quaint yurt villages, dry river beds, sand dunes, rough Gobi terrain and sandy Black Gobi Desert and more importantly the beautiful people along the way.
4 Deserts Club member and Grand Slammer Daniel Almanza from Mexico says: "In the Gobi March there was more interaction with the local population because we ran through villages and met with local people -- this was a support for me -- it was really special."
4 Deserts Club member Steven Garlick from the United Kingdom shares a particular experience: "In the Gobi, there was a very striking difference between huge turbines for the wind farms with the locals with very few possessions living in small communities - the people were all smiling and seemed very happy. Simplicity yet again."
A rich cultural experience awaits the runners as the course passes through numerous villages and homesteads of the local community. The Gobi March takes place along the Ancient Silk Road in northwest China. The influence of traders along the Silk Road over many centuries has resulted in a cultural melting pot of colourful ethnic groups. There are fifty-six ethnic groups recognized by China. The minority ethnic groups that will be seen along the course are mainly Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Hui.
4 Deserts Club member Anabelle Chartres rom New Zealand fondly remembers the moment during the Gobi March “when I came over the Tian Shan pass to a wide-open vista of snow-capped mountains.” This was the moment she knew she was hooked. “Huge rugged mountains were hugged by the clouds of the storm that was about to break - and there was not a soul around me. This to me is what these races are all about.”
The area is known for alpine scenery, vast green pastures, pristine lakes, the beautiful Tian Shan Mountains, yurt villages, an enormous sand dune, huge stunning sandstone formations of the Devil City located in the Black Gobi Desert as well as villages and farm lands of ethnic minorities where traditional ways of living and farming are still practiced.
Competitors will run through the Strange Rock Valley, over Barkhol Sand Dune, across the Tian Shan Mountains, through small villages along the foothills of mountains and then through rocky “Gobi” terrain to the sandy Black Gobi Desert.
4 Deserts Club member Fergus Edwards recalls his most memorable moment during the race: “Moving along the top of the hill crests with clear blue skies overhead, a vista over valleys and dry river beds stretching 10 kilometers in the distance and not a single other human being in sight.”
With all the Gobi March has to offer it comes as no surprise that it is sometimes named by competitors as their favourite race. When asked, Paul Chan from Canada, having competed in eight desert races in 2016, names the Gobi March as his favourite “without a doubt”, he continues, “The race is staged along the path of the historic Silk Road so this in itself is epic. The diversity of landscape and terrain you get to experience is simply amazing. You have grassland, mountains, river beds, rocky terrains, river crossings, and deserts all in the same race. On top of that, you get to camp in Mongolian style yurts, which makes it extra special!”
What are you waiting for? Find your “most shining place”.