Chinese shepherd saves six runners during fatally cold ultramarathon

Rescue workers in the area where freezing conditions caught the runners.
Rescue workers in the area where freezing conditions caught the runners. Photo credit: Reuters

A shepherd in China's Gansu Province saved six runners from the freezing temperatures during an ultramarathon by helping them into a cave he had stocked with emergency food and supplies.

A total of 21 competitors died as a result of the freezing conditions during the ultramarathon. 

China National Radio reported that Zhu Keming was tending to his sheep on Saturday when the extreme conditions hit. He took shelter in a nearby cave where he had stored firewood among other supplies for emergencies.

When the first runner came past in distress, Zhu led them back to the cave the Guardian reported

Four other competitors made it into the cave and told the shepherd about more struggling people outside.

Zhu went out into the freezing conditions and found a sixth runner on the trail, who he carried back to the cave. In total, he rescued three men and three women.

“I want to say how grateful I am to the man who saved me,” the sixth runner wrote on Weibo, the Chinese social media site, according to the BBC. “Without him, I would have been left out there.”

But now people want to know why the race organisers weren't more prepared for the emergency.

In a televised news conference on Sunday, Mayor Zhang Xuchen of nearby city Baiyin said: "As the organiser of the event, we are full of guilt and remorse."

"We express our sorrow for the victims and our deep condolences to the families of the victims and the injured."