Cross-country tragedy maps the fate of China’s new middle class

The appeal of cross-country running is obvious.

At the beginning of May, I came back from Tibet and ran just 6km each time. Yesterday afternoon I ran through the city, and the word “off-road” came to mind as I ran past traffic and construction sites. I sent out a friend circle, “Imagine yourself as the escaped leopard. “

In this state of mind, I ran 12 kilometers, and my speed increased compared to the previous days. Of course, it’s pretentious to imagine off-road or to imagine yourself as a leopard, but that’s really what it feels like to be real, and it’s not wrong for you to call this a hallucination.

Just yesterday at about the same time, in the Yintai Xian Yellow River Stone Forest scenic area in the city of Baiyin, Gansu, a real 100 km off-road race was held, and the runners encountered extreme weather, and eventually 21 people were killed – they suffered high winds, rain and hail, and severe loss of temperature left some people unconscious, in other words, they were frozen alive.

Videos began circulating on Jitterbug on the night of 21, with people clinging to each other and wrapped in white plastic sheeting. There is also a widely circulated picture of a group of runners embracing together in a wasteland, the picture is still, but we can still feel the chill that makes people shiver.

This scene, in fact, is a microcosm of the entire cross-country marathon security system – rudimentary, primitive, completely unprofessional, and finally only rely on instinct.

Among those killed were ultramarathon leader Liang Jing and Paralympic champion Huang Guanjun. We haven’t got all the information about these 21 people, but it’s likely that the more “good results”, the more likely they are to meet with misfortune, because The “gods” are the ones who are likely to be at the front of the pack and unable to withdraw in case of danger. -Psychologically, they also have a stronger “quest to finish” and ambition to overcome difficulties, which aggravates the possibility of tragedy.

I read an “old story” about Liang Jing, who won the 100km trail marathon in Hong Kong in 2018. However, he was disqualified from the championship because he “grabbed” someone else’s water bag three times during the race to refill it. The person who complained about him thought that he was trying to reduce the weight of the race, and deliberately brought less water so as to get a better result.

Turning up such an old story is not disrespectful to Liang Jing, who is an outstanding player, a great god, and has the ambition to win the championship. Especially today, we should feel sad for his death, and should also pay tribute to him. However, his “past” is still worth thinking about: why do we run, why do we participate in extreme sports like 100km cross-country?

Liang Jing’s last back must be lonely. The 21 people who died, most of them elite runners, must have been delighted when they first encountered the difficulties and challenges they craved, which brought real excitement to the race – but their tragic fate also reflects the state of the extreme sports industry, chaotic, elementary and lacking in professionalism.

That widely circulated autobiography, “What Really Happened in the Yellow River Shilin 100km Off-Road Race”, mentions a cash prize of 1,600 yuan for finishing the race. The author, a rescued runner, ran into a retreating runner as he advanced, and said, “Sixteen thousand and you’re just giving up? This detail made netizens send out “for 1600 yuan to send life “This idea is a great disrespect to the runners, in fact, no ultra-marathon enthusiasts are running for the prize money.

In China, marathons have become popular in the past few years along with the emergence of the new middle class. At the top, it is the elite professional managers like Wang Shi and Yu Liang, while most of those who run cross-country on the Gobi Beach are students of various business schools and MBAs, a new urban middle class that seems to be niche but holds the right to speak, and the prize money of 1600 yuan is not enough to make them sell their lives. In fact, they run and travel around to participate in races, an act of spending money rather than making money.

Of all the marathons, the 100km cross-country (and supposedly the 200km or longer) is certainly the most attractive. Such a race, to suffer and risk, to endure the loneliness that is unbearable to people, is the right thing to do, but also to spend money to buy “certification”, run through 100 kilometers, as if evolved After running 100 kilometers, it is as if one has evolved into some kind of “new man”.

This reflects the situation of the new Chinese middle class: they are bitter inside and long for a new life through asceticism or a transformation.

This is the charm of “wild”, which at least offers unlimited possibilities. From “outdoor” to “wild “, witnessed the change of the urban middle class dream in these 20 years. “Off-road”, whether by car or on foot, is the only new religion that combines asceticism and enjoyment, and 100 km off-road running is probably the most extreme “religious experience” out there.

However, the falsehood of this pursuit or dream is also here, the “extreme wild” is needed “Absolute safety” to guarantee. Like the 100 km cross-country held in Hong Kong, there is a large group of volunteers, there is also a complete medical and logistics team, and even the transfer of sick and wounded helicopters have become standard – the participants also have a better mentality, and do not have to eat the pain and The participants also have a better mindset, and do not have to suffer and “overcome the suffering” ambition.

Such “cross-country” is incredibly expensive, and perhaps unaffordable for the new middle class in the mainland. 1,600 yuan in prize money can stir up inner waves, which more or less shows that our “cross-country” is still cheap. The “cross-country” is still cheap and lacking in security – which is also like the fate of the whole new middle class.