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World’s only city wall marathon in Xi’an expected to connect people, cities globally

By Jiang Jie (People's Daily Online)    09:32, April 21, 2018

(Photo courtesy of

Some 5,000 marathon runners, including over 300 from overseas, set off on Saturday on the world’s one and only marathon on the century-old city wall of Xi’an, provincial capital of northwestern China’s Shaanxi province.

This year’s city wall marathon marks the 24th since its launch in 1993. This year also marks the largest number of participants in a bid to involve more people in sports activities.

The special marathon includes a 5 kilometer mark, a 13.7 kilometer mark, and a 21.09 kilometer mark, which include 400, 3,000, and 1,600 participants, respectively. Specifically, the 13.7-kilometer mark is a full circle around the important national cultural relic.

(Photo courtesy of

Tour back to history

Dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Xi’an city wall, measuring 12-14 meters in width and 12 meters in height, is the largest and best-preserved ancient city wall in China. It has four main gates — east, south, west, and north, standing as they were hundreds of years ago.

Due to the special structure and identity of the city wall, the marathon could not become a member of China Marathon Majors. However, this one and only running activity still catches worldwide attention, especially for its rich cultural and historical meanings in a city that once served as the capital city in 13 dynasties of Chinese history.

Starting in 2016, the city wall marathon began to theme itself on each dynasty, starting from the Western Zhou Dynasty (1047BC – 772 BC), with a starting line and markers that feature the typical architecture at that time.

This year’s marathon features the Western Han Dynasty (202BC -24 AD), an era of prosperity and openness in Chinese history, as it witnessed the start of the ancient Silk Road that connected China and the world.

Apart from traditional Western Han-styled buildings along the routes, this year’s runners are the first group to finish running along the Belt and Road route, as a map of the full route of the China-proposed development plan marks the finish line.

Sport-based city ties

As a Beijing and London Olympics athlete and a popular first-group runner at international marathons, Abderrahime Bouramdane, a famous Moroccan marathon athlete from Fez, said he was excited to participate in the special running activity during his first trip to the Chinese city.

In an exclusive interview with People’s Daily Online on Friday, Bouramdane recalled many Chinese marathons were much less known 10 years ago. “But now, you go to Morocco and you ask people on the street about Beijing marathon. They say ‘yeah athletes from my country won [the marathons],’” he said, praising marathons as a good way to promote cities and the sport at the same time.

“It’s a good thing to run in old town because it is very difficult for tourists to discover the city. It’s very nice to use the street or the city wall to run. That’s also good for people who live here,” Sébastien Remy, a runner from Brussels, Belgium, told People’s Daily Online, explaining that people would get inspired and therefore try marathon, which is a unique sport that allows ordinary people to run along with professionals at the same starting point and at the same race.

(Sébastien Remy(r) and Emmanuel Foulon pose for photos before the Xi'an City Wall Marathon on April 21. Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Foulon)

Brussels and Fez are two friendship cities with Xi’an who all sent delegates to the city wall marathon in a bid to further strengthen the ties between its peoples. Friendship cities in Germany, Serbia, and South Korea also had runners on the track to promote ties and their city images.

For Emmanuel Foulon, another runner from Brussels, running for their cities has given the runners a new responsibility, one which he described as diplomatic.

“It is a really good sign for my city to create this kind of link and to use the sport to make the link between citizens from different cities from different countries, because sport could really make this kind of link possible. That is likely to create friendship between two cities,” Foulon told People’s Daily Online.

“We hope when we host the Brussels Marathon, there will be a delegation from Xi’an to come,” Foulon noted.

Zhang Yi contributed to this story 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Hu Ximeng, Bianji)

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