Chinese Drug Treatment Patients Compete in 155-mile Ultramarathon

By Paul Gaita 07/30/15

Two recovering addicts battled through heatwaves and sandstorms in the Golbi Desert.

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Two students from a Hong Kong drug rehabilitation and education program surprised themselves and their trainer by completing a grueling 155-mile ultramarathon across the Gobi Desert in Northwestern China.

Twenty-three-year-old Edwin Chung Tak Li, a former juvenile offender, is a student at the Christian Zheng Sheng College, the only drug rehabilitation program in China that also allows its participants to continue their education as part of their treatment. He and 32-year-old Macy Wong Mei-sze, a former Zheng Sheng College student who currently serves as a student warden at the school, both competed in the week-long Gobi March.

Participants must cross 24 miles of the Gobi Desert by foot on five of the seven race days, and cover between 52 and 60 miles on the fifth and sixth days. Chung and Wong, accompanied by their trainer, ultramarathon veteran Agnes Chen, battled snowstorms, a heatwave, and a sandstorm to complete the march in less than 60 hours.

"For all three participants, the Gobi March was proof that they were capable of facing extreme adversity,” said Chen. “They’ve had the opportunity to test their body and their mental strength. It’s a tough challenge, but they now understand that if they put in the effort and dedicate their mind and heart, they can do anything.”

Chung echoed his trainer’s sentiments. “I definitely learned both good and things about myself during the week,” said Chung. “I think young people like myself can find a great sense of motivation through sports and build better characters.”

Chung and Wong both hope that the exposure afforded by their participation in the Gobi March will help to raise attention and funding to the Zheng Sheng College.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.