Running from hot to cold

By Richard Whiddington in Wuxi, Zhejiang | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-01-13 15:17

 Running from hot to cold

More than 3,000 people took part in the 2017 Urumqi Silk Road Ice and Snow Marathon held on Jan 1 in the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.Liu Zhenlin / For China Daily

East African athletes are lured to far-flung areas by China's booming race scene

Migadde Calonnie had never seen snow before. Huddled in a heavy-duty winter jacket and sitting beside the Urumqi local who would act as her translator, guide, and driver for the next two days - she was certainly a long way away from her native Uganda.

"This is my first time here in China and it is a great opportunity. I pray I have the opportunity to come again," she said.

Calonnie refers to herself as a marathon runner and is one of a handful of international full-time runners who ventured to the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, to compete in the 2017 Urumqi Silk Road Ice and Snow Marathon, a grueling race through the Nanshan Mountains in subzero temperatures.

The Jan 1 race attracted runners from 19 different provinces and municipalities, some as distant as Guangdong and Beijing, as well as a scattering of foreigners from seven countries including Brazil, Kenya, and Mexico. The growing popularity of marathons in China is well-documented - the country held only 22 in 2011 compared with the several hundred that will take place this year. This sharp increase, paired with the often lucrative prize money available, has attracted more and more marathoners like Calonnie.

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