A British man set out to run a grueling seven-day, 250-kilometer marathon across the Tian Shan mountain range in northwestern China called the “Gobi Desert March.” Dion Leonard had his sights set on racing to the finish line as fast as he could, or at least that was the goal until he met a friend along the way…
A stray dog — aptly named “Gobi” after the race — immediately developed a fondness towards the runner. So much so that the loyal companion did not leave Dion’s side throughout the entire week-long event, matching every stride the runner took.
Leonard had nothing but kind words to describe his running partner:
“She’d actually been with us the day before running through one of the largest sand dunes in China, so she was well-versed in running with all the competitors there, but on day two she decided to stick with me,” he says. “She would run ahead of me and wait for me 20 or 30 meters down the road and then I’d have to catch up with her…she’s such a small dog but had a massive heart.”
Leonard even sacrificed precious time in the race in order to assist the dog when crossing over difficult terrain.
“There were times during the race when, you know I’m there to race and compete and I’m trying to do my best to win the race but we had to cross some really large rivers where I would have to carry her over them,” he says. “I didn’t actually have the time to do it but I realized then that I had to take her with me and the bond was made.”
After completing the race, Leonard couldn’t possibly fathom having to say goodbye to his newfound pal.
In the end, he did have to say goodbye, but it won’t be for good. Upon arriving back at home, Leonard quickly launched an appeal on Crowdfunder to raise the £5,000 needed to cover the medical and quarantine costs in order to “Bring Gobi Home.”
The story has pulled at the heartstrings of many and the target has already been reached with total donations now up to £11,590. Gobi remains in the care of a friend as Leonard awaits the processing of medical tests and quarantine to be completed in Beijing.
He hopes that Gobi will be able to join him in Scotland by Christmas time.
“That would be amazing”, he says. “That would be the best Christmas present ever. I’m hopeful that will happen and I’m really thankful for all the support funding-wise because that’s certainly made things a lot easier.”
By Robin Winship
[Images via Crowdfunder]