Running Through History – A Like The Wind feature on the Mount Gaoligong Ultra

Photography by Alexis Berg

This story first appeared in Like the Wind #14

Through the foothills of the Himalayas and around some of China’s most biodiverse forests, a new ultra race burst on to the racing calendar at the end of 2016. With the backing of the Badwater brand, competitors knew the 168km event was never going to be easy, but the Mount Gaoligong Ultra combines technical territory with breathtaking landscapes undiscovered by mass tourism.

The Mount Gaoligong Ultra follows mountain trails up and down nearly 9,000m from Tenchong through the Mount Gaoligong National Park, rich with trees, ferns and wildlife including the red panda. One of the aims of the race was to draw the world’s attention to this stunning area of China, but history is as much a part of the route as geography. While sections of the race cut across the legendary Silk Road, the area around Tenchong was also hugely significant during the Second World War, where American pilots flew daring missions in order to disrupt the Japanese supply line.

Over the 36 hours of the inaugural event, photographer Alexis Berg captured the essence of the race: from the beauty of the terrain to the reaction of the indigenous population to the international circus that surrounds a major ultra. Following the reaction to the first event, the ultra world will return to Mount Gaoligong in spring 2018.

Above: The opening ceremony proceedings

Locals attend and spectate along the route

Above and below: A unique atmosphere – the start and finish areas in the city of Tenchong

Near the Myanmar border, the Gaoligong Mountains (高黎贡山) are a hidden treasure

Above: The event offered runners a unique perspective of the local culture and geography

Above: The rural route attracted many spectators

Above: Catra Corbett completes the race

Below: Spectators await the arrival of the last runners; about 60 runners participated in this inaugural event

Alexis Berg is a photographer and director

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