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Chinese state media has reported that 21 participants in an ultramarathon at Yellow River Stone Forest Park in Gansu Province were found dead due to extreme conditions.
The race in northeastern China totaled nearly 200 runners who ran in the mountainous terrain and met with freezing conditions near the 12-mile mark. Things only got worse from there.
A total of 151 participants from the race were confirmed safe by the state media report, though some had to be rescued from the blistering conditions. Using flashlights, runners were able to flag down rescue units that were called to the event after being called off later that afternoon.
Participating in the race were marathon favorites Liang Jing and Huang Guanjun, whose deaths have been confirmed.
Family members, friends, and fans of the marathoners have issued a strong response to the event’s organizers, claiming that planners disregarded many safety concerns. While one racer claims that the conditions could not have been foreseen, organizers did receive a number of warnings about possible inclement weather.
The race happened in the city of Baiyin, whose mayor Zhang Xuchen, responded, “As the event organizer, we feel deeply guilty … We express our sorrow for the victims and our deep condolences to the families of the victims and the injured.”
According to an NPR report, “Baiyin city’s local branch of the National Early Warning Information Center had warned for the past three days of hail and strong winds.”
Rescued participants described freezing cold climates, heavy winds, rain and hail.
The news is a devastating story for the marathoning community and for sports fans all over the world, inspiring some to begin a 62-mile journey — equal to the distance of Saturday’s race — in remembrance of the 21 deceased runners.