ITHACA, N.Y., July 15, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Searing heat, sand storms, and fierce winds don't begin to describe the adventure of a lifetime for Jerry Wang. This past spring, he and his colleague, Christina Sun, participated in Red Bull's Gobi Desert Challenge near Mongolia. It's a well-known competition in China, but new to Americans, where 3,000 executive MBA students and alumni from over 40 business schools, predominantly from China, run or walk 75 miles of barren terrain over a four day period. Some schools send as many as 10 teams and train for as long as six months to a year. Adventurers Wang and Sun hadn't trained at all and were just glad to finish. Fortunately, Wang had realistic expectations.
"Having lived and worked in China, I was aware of the environmental and cultural challenges that are vastly different than those of developed countries," said Wang.
Wang, an American fluent in Mandarin, and Christina Sun, a Chinese citizen based in Beijing, formed the Johnson Cornell Big Red team representing the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Wang and Sun were the first team from a United States business school to participate in the event and made a point to carry the bright red Cornell flag throughout the entire journey.
"It was grueling and it often felt like my shoes had run out of cushioning; however there was a real sense of camaraderie among the teams," said Wang. "As we passed by with our red Cornell Johnson banner a lot of the teams were surprised to see a US team in attendance."
While Wang and Sun both suffered from exhaustion, dehydration, lack of sleep, and stomach bugs, they kept their spirits up by bantering with each other and bonding with other teams, one of which was the 170-member contingent from Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB).
"We traveled with the CKGSB team by plane from Beijing and it was good to hear them tell us about the ins and outs of the race and encourage us along the course. We needed lots of coaching and encouragement," said Wang.
Each team was given walkie talkies and a GPS. The GPS contained information about each designated check point. CKGSB was the winning team in 2014, however on the first day of the 2015 race they took the wrong route and gave up their winning title to Xiamen University School of Management on the final day of the race.
The route for the Gobi Desert Challenge is the same path, along the Silk Road, a famous Tang dynasty (~600 AD) Buddhist monk named Xuanzang walked during his 17-year overland journey from China to India. This explained why the theme for the Gobi Desert Challenge 2015 was "Xuanzang's Path to Enlightenment."
For Wang, while he traveled over miles and miles of the desert, he often wondered how Xuanzang was able to complete the spiritual journey without easy access to food, water, or shelter and this inspired him to push on with Sun and ultimately the two made it to the finish line. They celebrated the accomplishment with a watermelon eating contest and then sleeping for more than 12 hours the next day. The road to recovery began when they returned to Beijing with a McDonald's burger in one hand and fried chicken in the other from KFC, trophies for the modern day Silk Road Adventurers.
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SOURCE Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management