We were delighted to host Clement Dumont this week for a presentation on the truly epic Ultra Trail Gobi Race. Clement is the Founded and Editor of Asia Trail Magazine, Race Director for TransLantau and one of Hong Kong's best trail runners - so knows his stuff - but even then was one of the most inexperienced runners on the course.
For the record, UTGR is 400km of self-supported, self-navigated challenge through the Gobi Desert in Gansu and Xinjiang, following much of the old Silk Trail and passing over 60 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is single stage with a mind-boggling 148 hour cut-off.
Here are a few tips from Clement for anyone considering this life-changing adventure:
- This is all about the navigation. The headline 400km is as the crow flies but you need to self-navigate from waypoint to waypoint and often the easiest way will be indirect. It's incredibly easy to get lost in the dark. Clement ran 422km, which was one of the shorter distances. The navigation actually makes the race more enjoyable as you are always concentrating on the GPS.
- It's also a hiking challenge. The terrain was often very technical, mixing in rocky and sandy trail, canyons, high mountain (3,200m), sand dunes, flooded pasture and salt pans. Runnability was limited to maybe only 50km, so most competitors were reduced to mostly walking after the first day. The winner was Baibin from China, who was 6 hours behind the leaders on the second day but finished strongly. You definitely need to pace your speed and your sleep.
- Don't expect to sleep much. Baibin only slept 5 hours over 4 days, while Clement slept 9 hours. You can only sleep in the designated rest areas, which are 35-50km apart. Sleep deprivation will eventually be a big factor, with many runners almost ceasing to operate in the final days.
- Bag weights ranged from 4-6kg. Mandatory gear includes a sleeping bag rated to -10C, down jacket, satellite phone with batteries (provided), backpack, headlamp and spare batteries, plus generally at least 1.5L water between water points.
- Gear and nutrition... Extra cushioned shoes work well, but bring extra pairs as there are plenty of stream crossings and you need to protect your feet. Good gaiters are essential (but the sand will eventually get in and cause excruciating blisters on blisters) as is lip balm. Clement used a custom Paago backpack (with extra padding) plus Naked band for easy access items, plus a mix of Tailwind, real food and olives for nutrition.
- The cost of US$3,500 is on the high side but really worth it. UTGR is extremely well organised and safety is top rate, with a GPS trackers and satellite phone for all runners, plus a mobile HQ van in case of emergency. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a very unique and beautiful journey, and many times, he felt like he was the very first person to ever walk along that track.
For more details, please click on this link.
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