When professional runner Dion Leonard ran the epic Gobi March in China, he didn’t just complete one of the world’s most grueling races — he also found a new best friend.

It was on the second day of the six-day marathon that the tenacious little pup started running alongside Leonard.

The pup, who Leonard had seen at his campsite the night before, was nipping at his gaiters (the garments runners wear around their ankles).

“Once we had begun the stage [the dog] seemed to like the bright yellow colour of my gaiters and proceeded to run with me,” Leonard told the 4 Deserts marathon website.

The pup ran all the way back to Leonard’s tent, a distance of 35 kilometres, where it laid down next to him.

“And that was that,” Leonard said. “A bond had been developed.”

Gobi

Image: 4deserts.com / Onni Cao

Incredibly, the homeless dog — which Leonard named Gobi, in honour of the race — wasn’t done yet. When Leonard got up again to race the next day, so did Gobi.

“She came into the camp with me at the end of day two and that was it… from then she didn’t leave my side,” Leonard told BBC Radio 5.

“She did 125 kilometres of the race, she did half the race.”

Unfortunately, there were two segments of the race that were too hot for Gobi, but alternative arrangements were made.

“She couldn’t do two of the stages because we had crossed the mountain range into the Gobi desert which was 52 degrees, so that would have been too hot for her. What the race organisers did was take her to the finish line, and she’d sit down and she’d wait for me.”

Gobi

Image: 4deserts.com / Onni Cao

The pair’s bond was so strong that Leonard began to think about adopting Gobi.

“As soon as I got back to the hotel after the race, I rang my wife and said to her, ‘Do you think our cat will mind if I bring Gobi home?’” Leonard said.

Leonard actually started a crowdfunding project, ‘Bring Gobi Home’, to help pay the costs necessary to bring Gobi back to his base in the UK.

That crowdfunding page has far exceeded its target, raising over £16,000, and Leonard has now started the lengthy process of adopting Gobi — although he insists it’s the other way around.

“I didn’t adopt Gobi, Gobi seemed to adopt me,” he said.

How did you find your pet? Let us know in the comments below!