When extreme marathoner Dion Leonard signed up to run the Gobi Desert March race in China’s Gobi Desert last June, he was probably prepared to compete with other extreme marathon runners from around the world. What he might have not been prepared for was racing with a tenacious, fur ball of a dog that couldn’t weigh more than 10 pounds.
Leonard was joined by the stray, initially named Tinto but renamed Gobi, on Day 2 of the 155-mile Gobi Desert race and ran with him for 77 miles, only stopping when the heat got too extreme for her, according to the Crowdfunder page that Leonard set up to bring her home with him to the United Kingdom.
“Everyone from the competitors, volunteers and race crew fell in love with this little dog that captured all our hearts,” Leonard wrote on Crowdfunder. “Gobi took a shine to me and over the week we developed an unbreakable bond as I shared my sleeping space, food/water and ultimately our companionship.”
Leonard made adjustments to his race plan in an effort to accommodate the dog, for her safety and to ensure she completed the stages that they ran together. He carried her across rivers so she wouldn’t float away, and over sluice gates that she would never have been able to cross on her own. During the last stages of the race, he knew that his bond with Gobi was growing.
In all, Gobi joined 101 extreme marathon runners, racing over the Tian Shan Mountains of China down to the Black Gobi Desert, completing four stages of the six-stage, 7-day race, running side-by-side with Leonard.
“Gobi rested on Day 4 and Day 5 due to the heat of the desert but waited for me at the finish line and I knew then this was no ordinary dog and experience,” Leonard wrote on Crowdfunder. “After completing the race I began looking into how to get Gobi from China to me in Edinburgh, Scotland.”
Leonard’s Crowdfunder has well exceeded the £5,000 British pounds ($6,533.50 USD) he initially wished to raise to bring Gobi home. He is in the process of meeting the requirements to transport the four-legged extreme marathoner from China to the United Kingdom. Updates on Gobi’s new journey can be seen on her Facebook page.