China suspends all long-distance races after death of 21 runners

China has suspended all ultra marathon and long-distance races after 21 runners died when extreme weather struck a race last month.

High winds and freezing rain hit participants in a 100km ultramarathon in Gansu province.

The race was halted when some of the 172 runners went missing, and a rescue operation was launched.

Now China is suspending all high-risk sports events that lack clear oversight, rules and safety standards.

The suspended sports include trail running, desert trekking, wingsuit flying and ultra-long distance races, according to a statement by China’s General Administration of Sport.

It is unclear how long the suspension will last.

According to the Chinese Athletic Association, 481 trail races and 25 ultra-marathons were held in 2019.


The ill-fated race took place in Yellow River Stone Forest, a tourist site in Gansu province, on 22 May.

About three hours after the start, a mountainous section of the race was hit by hail, heavy rain and gales, causing temperatures to plummet, according to officials from the nearby Baiyin city.

Many runners reportedly lost their way as the weather affected visibility.

Surviving participants said the forecast had predicted some wind and rain, but nothing as extreme as what they experienced.

More than 1,200 rescuers were deployed, assisted by thermal-imaging drones and radar detectors, according to state media.

The operation continued through the night into Sunday morning, during which time a further drop in temperature made the search even more difficult, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

The deaths sparked public outrage on Chinese social media, with anger mainly directed at the Baiyin municipal government and a lack of contingency planning.