Chinese Organizers Jailed Over 2021 Ultramarathon That Killed 21 Runners

An infamous 2021 ultra-marathon that tragically killed 21 people has come full circle on its organizers.

The northwest China race turned deadly overnight on May 22, 2021, when desperate weather conditions suddenly befell the course. Disoriented runners scattered, either to safety or calamity.

Now, seven people who helped plan the event will face jail time. A court in Baiyin, Gansu (where the race occurred) leveled three- to five-year sentences on the individuals, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Dereliction of duty and “organizing a large-scale event that led to a significant safety incident” were among the charges.

Officials allowed the race to go on despite warnings of coming harsh weather. The forecasts came to bear early in the 100-kilometer outing. Rain and hail pounded the thinly clad runners, along with wind so strong that it flattened some to the ground.

“It was hard to stand up straight and move forward,” one survivor told Xinhua News at the time. “When the wind was the strongest, I had to grab the ground with both hands to avoid being blown away.

“I felt nothing but cold…I fainted halfway down the mountain.”

Thirty-one-year-old Liang Jing, a world-class ultramarathoner, was among the deceased. And while China’s long-distance running community had flourished leading up to the incident, it’s now laboring under tightened regulations. Beijing’s sport ministry suspended events, citing “national safety standards,” shortly after the incident, The Guardian reported.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.