Cpl. Paul Johnston nears a 13,500-foot peak near Tajik Village, China, June 19 during the Gobi March. The Gobi March is an ultra-distance endurance race across the Silk Road in the Gobi Desert. Johnston is a military policeman at Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji. (Courtesy of Cpl. Paul Johnston)
More than 180 racers competed in the Gobi March, which spanned 250 kilometers over mountainous terrain. Participants ran, hiked, and climbed their way through the seven-day course in Northwestern China. (Courtesy of Cpl. Paul Johnston)
Over one week in June, Marine Cpl. Paul Johnston lost nearly 10 percent of his body weight as he trekked across China's desolate Gobi Desert in a 250-kilometer endurance race, according to a http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ac95bc775efc34c685256ab50049d458/b58fc5633922bc84852573100006fb7f?OpenDocument&Highlight=2,gobi">Marine Corps report.
But that 20 pounds was nothing compared to what he shed to get into the Corps three years ago. Before he enlisted, the 6 foot, 6 inch native of Boone, N.C., weighed in at 350 pounds.
He dropped 55 pounds to enlist and got hooked on running along the way. Now a military policeman at Camp Fuji, Japan, the noncommissioned officer slimmed down to 245 pounds for the http://www.4deserts.com/gobimarch/">Gobi March, an ultra-distance race held June 17-23 in northwest China.
Racers must carry their own gear, food and clothing in a backpack, with only water, tents and medical assistance provided along the course of the six-stage trek. The average backpack weighs in at roughly 20 pounds, according to the Gobi March Web site. Checkpoints are spaced about 10 kilometers apart, with camp sites located at the end of each of the six stages.
Johnston http://www.4deserts.com/gobimarch/rtpgmtp2.php?SID=3&SBID=RC3&competitorsBiosNum=1">completed the race in 62 hours, 29 minutes, 16 seconds — enough to put him in 132nd place overall among 157 ranked finishers. The top finisher, Mark D. Tamminga of Canada, completed the course in 29 hours, 6 minutes, 55 seconds. The top American finisher was William A. Laughlin, who logged a final time of 31 hours, 16 minutes, 34 seconds.
The race is part of a four-event series called 4 Deserts; the other events include the http://www.racingtheplanet.com/atacamacrossing/">Atacama Crossing in Chile, the http://www.racingtheplanet.com/sahararace/">Sahara Race in Egypt and http://www.racingtheplanet.com/thelastdesert/">The Last Desert in Antarctica. Racers must complete the China, Chile and Egypt events to be eligible for the Antarctica race.
On his trek through the Gobi, Johnston climbed mountains up to 13,000 feet, waded through rivers and contended with temperatures reaching 115 degrees. He battled through blisters and a badly swollen ankle to complete the course. He was one of 185 competitors, who hailed from 23 countries, according to race officials.
Read more about Johnston's experience http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ac95bc775efc34c685256ab50049d458/b58fc5633922bc84852573100006fb7f?OpenDocument&Highlight=2,gobi">here.