Forth Bridge runners will meet Gobi - the little Chinese dog who touched the nation's heart

Tomorrow's first ever SSPCA 5k Challenge run across the Forth Road Bridge will be supported by two very unusual ultra-marathon stars.

Race dog - Dion met little Gobi while running the four-desert race in China ... during which they became friends for life.
Race dog - Dion met little Gobi while running the four-desert race in China ... during which they became friends for life.

Cheering on the estimated 200 participants will be Dion Leonard - veteran of the famous 4 Desert Race ... and with him will be the little Chinese dog whose story became a Sunday Times bestselling book.

Dion was running the Chinese leg of the race - in the Gobi desert - when he was amused and surprised to be “adopted” by a stray dog.

But soon he realised to his amazement that his new-found friend wasn’t going to quit, and she followed him all the way to the finish line of the 155-mile slog across the desert.

Dion Leonard with Gobi - who will be supporting tomorrow's SSPCA fundraiser across the Forth Road Bridge.

Dion told the BBC after the race: “I started to speed off and I’m thinking this dog won’t last the whole day but she was still with me at the end. From then on she didn’t leave my side.”

Dion decided to do everything possible to bring her home to Scotland, but his plan nearly foundered when she went missing,

After an anxious hunt - told in detail in his book Finding Gobi - the pair were finally reunited. A Chinese man who had read about the search from an online campaign had spotted Gobi in a local park.

After the statutory spell in UK quarantine she is now settling in well in her strange new Scottish home.

Dion’s book account of the pair’s adventures made the Sunday Times bestseller list ina matter of days, and the tale was also a major international online sensation.

SSPCA chief executive Kirsteen Campbell said: “We’re incredibly excited to host this event, and have been overwhelmed by the support from animal lovers wanting to take part.

“We don’t receive any government or lottery funding, so events like these really make a difference by helping fund our vital work throughout Scotland.

“I’m delighted that Dion and Gobi are coming along to our event.

“His story about meeting Gobi, and their adventures and friendship touched my heart.

“It’s a privilege to have them both come along and cheer on our own animal-loving runners too!”

She added: “Dion and Gobi’s support, along with local businesses such as Tesco South Queensferry, is hugely appreciated and will help us make this event a fabulous day out for participants and spectators alike.”

Dion Leonard said: “I am delighted to help support the Scottish SPCA and cheer on the runners taking part on the day.

“My own running journey brought Gobi into my life and I cannot describe the impact her love and companionship has had.

“I can’t wait to meet the Scottish SPCA supporters on the day and look forward to cheering them on in their challenge.”

For more information on SSPCA fundraising events email [email protected] or call 03000 999 999 (option 4).