2016 Candidate Race: Bussière Xi Shan Trail Challenge in Beijing

The 1st Bussière Xi Shan Trail Challenge was held in Beijing's Haidian District last weekend, a Candidate Race for the 2016 Asia Trail Master series. Candidate races are races that have already applied for entry into our series next year, and pending evaluation of this year's edition, will indeed do so. Xiaozhao Zhao was at the scene last weekend and reports on an event struck by adverse weather conditions. 

Nearly 700 runners participated in the race which consisted of 4 categories: 88km, 42km, 21km and 10km. Among those runners, approximately 140 raced in the 88km (total ascent  4400m) while 160 in the 42km (total ascent 2300m) respectively. The time limitation for 88k is 24hrs, while the 42km is 12hrs.

The West Hills (= Xi Shan) of Beijing is affiliated to the huge Mount Taihang Shan, which embraces the west and the north of Beijing. The Yangtai Shan (1282m above sea level) of the West Hills is the highest point of Haidian District. There is also a large natural view scenery zone in the West Hills—the Phoenix Ridge. In the sunny days without smog, you can have a splendid view around here—steep cliffs, huge trees and Buddha temples from ancient areas, dense forests and winding trails.

The West Hills is not only famous for its natural beauty, but also for its unique story in the WWII. During the war time, the local guerrillas used this area as their supplying line and covert caches for the fight against Japanese intruders. Many heroes gave their ultimate sacrifice for the final victory in Sep, 1945. A French doctor named Jean Jérome Augustin Bussiere, who had a Master in Chinese and had lived in Beijing for nearly 30 years when the war broke out, stood together with the Chinese people and risked his life and career to smuggle medicine along the trails and footpath in the forest here to help the guerrillas and civilians. The command post of local guerrillas is not far from the Mansion of Bussiere in the West Hills. In 2014, Jinping XI, President of China, highly recommended Mr. Bussiere and his great courage and effort under in the 70 anniversary of China-France establishing diplomatic relations. The organizer of Bussiere Challenge Beijing Xishan Trail also hope to pay respect to Mr. Bussiere in their own way—by organizing a tough running event named after him. 

The 88km category started at 0800AM, 2nd, May while the 42km category started 10minutes later.

In 88km, we can see quite a few familiar faces in the trail running community of Mainland China, such as Zhijian DING, Changgui QIU, Fuyue LI and Shuwen CHEN.

Zhijian graduated from university 3 years ago and has kept running despite a lot of pressure at work. His specialty is coping with technical and steep downhills.

Changgui and Fuyue have something in common: 40+ years old, harsh childhood, dedication to training in their limited spare time and extraordinary toughness and peace of mind, which has made them extremely competitive in all the trail races they ran so far. They often score places on the podium of a trail race.

Shuwen is a finisher of 2013 Tour des Geants, but compared with the 3 abovementioned runners, he does not have unique skills. But he is very experienced in running at night.

In the female field, Runqing MAO, a teacher from a university in Tianjin attracted the most attention before the race. Mao is not only good at descending but also highly resistent to exhaustion. Compared to her results in races, her training is one of high efficiency-cost ratio.

All things went smoothly until top runners stormed to the entrance of a trail after a long ascent by stone stairs. The volunteers showed the wrong direction, and runners followed their instructions. Nearly 30 runners of 88km and 42km ran in the wrong direction until they realized how far they went—almost 3km. Despite this unfortunate incident, most runners considered the extra distance as a surprising bonus. It did not affect the outcome of the race neither. 

Zhijian led the race almost from the start to the end, while Changgui and Fuyue took up the 2nd and 3rd positions in turn. But Changui and Fuyue missed a sign a second time later on in the race. 

Around 5 or 6 o’clock, a downpour began and a strong wind began to blow. The organizer altered the course according to the weather forecast and their emergency back-up plan: a shortcut to lower the difficulty and total distance of 88km to 63km in consideration of the safety of runners and volunteers.

In the end, the rainstorm ensured no more than 20 runners finished the long distance race. By the time of 4 AM, all the runners had returned to the finish line safely, which was of course the most important thing. 

Top 3 male:

1 Zhijian DING-11:18
2 Fuyue LI-11:53
3 Changgui QIU-12:47

For top females, Runqing Mao lost her way several times and ranked 2nd, while a new face, Xuetao ”Bee Queen” Wu,  became the champion in her debut race over a +50km  distance. It took them about 5 hours to run alone in the rain and then the dark wild. Ultra trail running is the game for brave and tough girls.

Top 3 female:

1 Xuetao WU-14:05
2 Runqing MAO-15:28
3 Ning ZHAO-15:54

In the 42km, we also saw familiar elites like Kailun WEI (from Liaoning Province, the fastest Chinese with best rank in the Tour des Geants: 107hrs 25min, 59th overall), Duanyang BI(Marathon PR under 2hrs 45min) and Qiuyu MENG(finished Vibram HK100 within 14 hrs) plus Jingfeng LIU(F, Marathon PR under 3hrs 15min). For those who practiced along the course already a couple of times, experience was their secret to finish, or even prevail. 

There was an innovation in this race, which is also the first attempt in a trail running race in Mainland China. If a runner of 88km category wanted to switch to 42km category, he/she could do so at a special checkpoint under the supervision of organizer’s representative. 1 UTMB point was still available after switching, but of course there was no access to the podium of the 42km. The race director, Mr. Daqing WANG said that it is the TNF100HK gave him inspiration to set this rule in regulation.

Top 3 male:

1 Dunyang BI-04:54
2 Linhu LI-05:06
3 Jindong LI-05:23

Top 3 female:

1 Jing LIU-06:36
2 Yan SHI-06:58
3 Liping WANG-07:12

Father & Son

Maofu WANG is the son of Yan WANG and Jingli ZHANG. Wang is a devoted trail runner and photographer in his spare time along with his wife, Jingli. As a Tecnica-sponsored runner, Wang will run the 2015 Tour des Geants this autumn in Italy and he also finished several 100km in Mainland China and Hongkong with solid performances. In 2014, he completed the TNF100km Beijing (105km, total ascend 6900m) in dark night and in dense fog within 20hrs. In Bussiere Challenge, he ran the 21km with his little son all the way. ”This is a good opportunity to teach him the meaning of challenge and achievement, as well as enjoy and respect the nature. Of course, he is very happy all the time. He finished the 21km all by his own efforts because I told him if he relies on my strength, he will be disqualified by the organizer. And, I trust his determination and fitness.” Wang said. “At the first I am a little worried about them because I lost contact with them, perhaps due to the bad signal of mobile phone. But on seeing them back at the finish line so happy, I am really excited! I am so proud of my family. ”Jingli said. She was a volunteer in the timing group and photographing during the race and offered more than 12hrs service.

The race director also appointed Maofu, the youngest finisher of 21km to distribute medals to some 21km finisher behind him. Maofu enjoyed it as a game, he also set the record of the youngest volunteer.

Furthermore, a charity running group including 10 handicapped runners finished 10km and they will continue their adventure in Gobi desert in Gansu Province soon.

Regarding the many participants on the 21km and 10km, most of them were recreational hikers and it was their first try of trail running.

Despite the bad weather conditions for the long distance runners, the event brought a lot of smiles. The organiser has taken note of the technical issues faced by some of the runners and will solve these for next year's 2nd edition.