China catches running bug in quest for better health

Updated: 2014-05-07 08:00

By Zhang Lei (China Daily)

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China catches running bug in quest for better health

Ma Xuejing/For China Daily

Races and participants are on the rise, with marathons big business, Zhang Lei reports.

Spring is the best time of year for runners in Beijing. As soon as April arrives, the 10-km track at Olympic Forest Park in the north of the city comes alive with athletes and amateur joggers.

They cast off their winter lethargy, embracing the refreshing, still slightly chilly, morning air and gamely ignoring the capital's pollution in their quest for fitness.

The season has seen all sorts of running gear, professional and otherwise, extracted from cupboards and wardrobes in which it has spent a long hibernation.

Youngsters race with springy steps, while older enthusiasts maintain a steady, stoical pace.

Marathons are now big business in China, which has embraced the long-distance endurance test so firmly that the number of races and contestants has soared to a record high.

In 2013, the country hosted 39 official marathons and related events, with the number of participants soaring to more than 750,000, far outstripping the 500,000 of the previous year, according to the Chinese Athletic Association.

The response was so positive that the association announced plans to add a further seven events to this year's schedule, while a recently published list indicates that more than 50 events have already been given official approval.

Taking part in the 42-km runs has now become fashionable among people from all walks of life, and while some run for glory, most compete simply to stay fit, as attested by the popular micro-blog hash tag "10 km can prove it".

Chun Tian, a regular night runner in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, described his love of the activity on his micro blog. "From the moment I fell in love with running, the moment I decided to buy equipment that cost a month's living expenses, the minute I felt the soles of my calloused feet start to burn, I've been transformed from someone who could barely catch his breath after a circuit of the house to covering distances measured in many kilometers.

Even silver-haired grandpas have proven that WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS, regardless of age," wrote the recent convert who caught the bug a few months ago when friends invited him to join them on a run.

"Running is also a great way of making friends. Before that, I rarely ran, even on a monthly basis, because I thought it would make me feel lonely. I preferred team sports. But after I joined the night-running club, I became involved in all kinds of activities, such as karaoke, picnics, drinks and chatting in bars and cafes. We run in a group, and after a while, when we feel we've shed some of our work pressures, the conversation becomes joyful," Chun wrote.

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