The starting pistol fired on January 2 for the Xiamen International Marathon, the first major marathon of 2014. It joins the Beijing Marathon, Shanghai Marathon, Shenzhen Marathon, Wuhan Marathon, and a number of other Chinese marathon events. The number has increased dramatically in recent years, and each race attracts thousands of running enthusiasts. A marathon mania is growing in China.
Running, a new metropolitan favorite
Li Tie, a former player in China’s national football team, now serves Guangzhou Evergrande as an assistant coach. He had never thought about running a marathon until he set off on the Xiamen half marathon race and won it, setting a record time of 1 hour, 40 minutes and 41 seconds. So now he has a new title – Marathon runner.
After the race Li Tie said: "It's tough, it is hard, but it is awesome. My next goal is to run a full Marathon." He is already used to running about 10 kilometers during a football game, but the Marathon is different, "I can stop or walk sometimes during a football match, but if I want to win a Marathon, my goal has to be to run without a single halt."
Kang Kang, a young lady from Shanghai, has a petite figure; like many other young girls, she did not even know the length of a marathon, and used to enjoy an easy lifestyle. "It had never occurred to me that I might run a marathon until I was invited to run by a friend," she says. At that moment, she fell in love with the marathon. Now she runs 10 kilometers a day and completes a marathon every two months.
"The number of competitors in our marathon exceeded our expectations," says Yan Zhiwei, officer of the Xiamen Sports Bureau. "12,000 runners took part in the first Xiamen International Marathon in 2003; 11 years later, 77,000 people applied to run in the first five days of registration. That number exceeded the maximum we could handle due to the limited size of the field. Although the organizer increased the limit three times, the expanding number still did not satisfy public demand. Based on the number of members of running clubs and the number of registrations for events, Xiamen has at least 200,000 runners," Yan added.
Xiao Ding is a running journalist on a popular website, and also an enthusiast. "The click rate on running columns has been growing steadily in recent years, and more netizens are calling for more running events," he says. "Now we hold running events two times a week, but we have to limit the numbers, otherwise registrations will spiral out of control."