2017 Candidate Race: Baturu Trail: A journey of warriors
The 1st Baturu Trail is a race held in a place with the most weird name for racing in Chinese. It is a race with the most unique of old Manchuria features. It is a race with grueling challenges to test the warrior inside you. It is the 2017 Asia Trail Master candidate race, the Baturu Guanmenshan 50km in the Guanmenshan Scenery Zone of Benxi City, Liaoning Province, one of the main cradles and bases of the legendary Manchus, which established its own state and reigned China as the Qing Dynasty for 268 years with 12 emperors.
By Xiaozhao Zhao
The organiser of the Baturu Trail was honest: “We like making things harder, so runners will have an impressive and worthy tour and cherish their opportunity to race here with us more than in other places. Perhaps it is the most difficult 50 km in mainland China. The course is inspired by the selection of the Eight Brigades elite warriors under the direct command of the emperors of the Qing Dynasty. Only the lucky soldiers with extreme physical and mental competence were to be enlisted into the Eight Brigades in the early years of the Post-Jin state (Qing dynasty, later). Baturu is a Manchurian word referring to these ferocious soldiers. We also set an additional special time-trial reward for the runners who run the 50k: to every man finishing in 10 hours and woman smashing 11 hours, a big jade ring will be awarded. This jade ring was first used as a tool to drag the string of a bow, then it became gradually a symbol of bravery and power of the very influential Manchuria military leaders including the emperor himself. Of course, all race finishers will also be given an arrowhead-shaped medal, which is another feature of military traditions of the Manchus. ”
The hot debate of the race's difficulty, along with the tale of the big jade ring had attracted lots of attention in the Chinese running community. How tough is the race? There is a joke about the name of the event's venue called “Guanmenshan” (关门山 in Chinese, pinyin: guan-men-shan). In Chinese, Guanmen (关门 in Chinese, pinyin-guan-men) stands for closed door, while the first priority in any race for trail runners is to avoid being cut off by struggling to the finish line before the deadline. Probably the weird venue name alone suggested the nature of the challenge. Judging from the basic data, we find 50 km, 3800m elevation gain, 800m drop (1100m highest/300m lowest) and 85% of the route natural trail. However, this is not the whole story about its toughness. There are 7 major steep ascents/descents. Runners have to climb up and down among big stones in woods, cut though creeks by jumping along the narrow and wet boulders and endure the scratches of bushes with thrones as well as scorching sunshine of nearly 30 degrees Celsius in daytime. What’s more, all these are supposed to be done in a pressing 14.5 hours with 5 checkpoints that each have their own time limit.
Benxi is a famous city in the history of Chinese industrialization because of its abundance in coal and iron mines etc. It had been regarded as The Steel City for a long time. Being a Baturu is the best way to find the nature around such a city with its full spectrum of heavy industry.
The race is not only an exploration of your limit of persistence, but also a discovery of natural beauty. The Guanmenshan Scenery Zone is a great museum of geology. There are many spectacular landscapes sculpted by the forces of nature over millions of years ago, such as peaks, caves and cliffs. A variety of animals also live in this area with dense plants. It boasts 50 kinds of Class II protected animals and 120 kinds of maples alone.
The race course was well marked overall. However, in the dense forest, finding the marks still required patience and good feeling at times. A handheld GPS with pre-load track and ISO height curves will help a lot in some parts to increase your confidence in orienteering.
Logistics were great and well-organised. Abundant nutrition was piled up at checkpoints with smiling volunteers waiting for runners. Delicious local food such as hot mutton soup was offered as well. What's more, in the rest zone at the finish, roasted strings soups noodles and beer were entirely free for runners!
143 runners took part in the 50km race, top 3 of each gender group as follow:
Male (123 in all with 58 finisher in gender group)
Bo CHEN 07:42:03
Fuyue LI 08:00:51
Chunfu WANG 08:52:54
Female (20 in all with 6 finisher in gender group)
1Qian ZHANG 10:26:18
2Lihong ZHANG 11:13:21
3Yufen XIA 12:06:04
From the dawn to the dusk, in the end, around 10 males finished within 10 hrs and 11 females within 11 hrs. The total number of finisher is 64, that is to say, 45%.
Among all the runners, the low-profiled and old-school local semi-pro Qian ZHANG is a familiar prize hunter in many Chinese races, from the toughest 100km to the 1500m on the track. Even in her fifties now, she still scores podium places and collects money from races frequently thanks to her exceptional endurance. In daily life, she is an ordinary worker in a big steel company with her beloved family. Qian Zhang was clear about the Baturu Trail afterwards: “It is the most challenging 50 km I have ever run! But the organizer did an almost perfect job to make such an amazing race possible!"
Fuyue Li, second in the men's race, is also a familiar face on the podium of ultra trail races in Mainland China with a bunch of achievements such as winning the 2014 TNF 100 in Beijing in rain and mist. Running and taking care of his mother are all part of his very limited spare time as a plumber in Beijing Normal University. His kindness and his attitude of never complaining about harsh life conditions, has also built him a great reputation in the running community along with solid results in races. In late 2014, he made his debut in a very inspiring short film about the promotion of the BNU.
Another local runner, Hao Chen, ranked 4th in Asia Trail Master’s Ultra Trail Tu Wenchuan in the middle of May. “I am very happy with my race here. I helped the organizer with field jobs during preparation. During the 9.5 hrs route recon we estimated it might cost around 8 hrs for the top runners. In the end the winner came in 7 hours 42 minutes!"
The Baturu Trail may have a focus on the toughness of its 50km, but the organisation also offers 30km and 5km categories for beginning or less ambitious runners.
The campfire ceremony after the race added a great extra social element for all new running Baturus!