City marathons prosper in China

Updated: 2013-01-05 13:54


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XIAMEN - Three and a half kilometers into run and with a long way to go, Hangzhou Marathon participant Jimmy Jiang got down on one knee in front of the girl he has been dating for three and a half years, and proposed.

Yes! The lucky guy got a "yes"!

City marathons prosper in China
Participants take part in a marathon in Xiamen, East China's Fujian province on Jan 5, 2013. [Photo/CFP]

The 28-year-old Jiang and his girlfriend went on to finish the race and disappeared into a crowd hand in hand.

Back in 1981 when China's first international marathon was launched in Beijing, less than 200 people participated in the race. And few of them could imagine that running a marathon would be a chance to win a heart.

After three decades of development, city marathons and fun runs have been enjoying an outrageous growth in China with the year 2012 witnessing some 500,000 people run in 33 marathon and fun races.

Nowadays, marathon is seen not only as a sport event in China but also a culture gala to enjoy and celebrate. For some entrants running a marathon is a chance to dress up with cosplay costumes, to fulfil a life objective, or propose to your beloved one.

"City marathons experienced a rapid growth in the past three years," said Du Zhaocai, a deputy chief of the Chinese Athletics Association (CAA), during the 2012 Chinese Marathon Annual Conference held in China's Xiamen on Friday.

"In 2010 the CAA held 12 marathons, and in 2011 the number rose to 22. Last year we held 33 races including seven half marathons as well as three fun runs."

Apart from the growth in the number of the races, the size and standard have been raised. According to Du, 17 of the 33 marathons attracted more than 10,000 entrants and the Xiamen International Marathon last January even registered a record of 74,000 participants.

Moreover, the Yangzhou Jianzhen International Half Marathon was upgraded by IAAF as the Gold Label Road Race last year following the Beijing Marathon and Xiamen International Marathon which both have been enjoying the honor for five straight years.

"Eleven new city marathons were launched in 2012, and now another 10 cities have submitted their bids to the CAA to start marathon races in 2013. If everything goes well, we will have some 40 races this year, and our plan is to reach 50 in three years," said an optimistic Du.

Du's optimism was shared by CAA chief Duan Shijie as he believes the prosperity of marathon roots in its special functions in the national fitness program.

"Marathon can well reflect the concept of serving the public," said Duan. "The races are not limited to professional runners. People from all walks of life and of different ages can participate, enjoying the fun of running as well as the festive atmosphere. "

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