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Marathon mania gains momentum

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-04 08:22

One runner has a real spring in his step as throngs of participants pass the Palace Museum during this year's Beijing Marathon on Sept 17. Underlining running's rising popularity in China, the race was massively oversubscribed with an online lottery required to determine the 30,000 starters. SHENG JIAPENG/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

But soaring participation rates in China have come at a cost

China's ever-growing fascination with fitness has triggered a marathon craze among the country's health-conscious middle class, but lax management has often meant race organizers have struggled to keep pace with the demand for their events.

Whether it's throngs of participants jogging past Tian'anmen Square during the Beijing Marathon or sweat-soaked amateurs plodding the trails of the Olympic Forest Park, disciples of distance running are now a daily part of life in the Chinese capital.

The roaring demand for the Beijing Marathon, the country's oldest race founded in 1981, is symptomatic of the boom.

The 37th edition of the race last month attracted 98,687 applicants for 30,000 places, up 48 percent on the previous year, with organizers the China Olympic Road Running Co. using an online lottery to determine the starting list.

However, sometimes a runner needs more than just luck to secure a spot in a race.

Before the 2016 Nanjing International Marathon in November, local media reported that a second-hand place in the event's half-marathon sold for 1,999 yuan ($302) on shopping portal Taobao. The official registration fee was 80 yuan.

Bragging about your marathon participation is a sure-fire way to boost your social-media status, too, as evidenced by the one-billion-plus views of photos and posts bearing the hashtag #Beijing Marathon# on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, on the day of this year's race.

"The Beijing Marathon has become a phenomenon larger than just the race itself thanks to the growing awareness of mass fitness and the promotional effect on social-media platforms," said Wang Jian, general manager of China Olympic Road Running Co.

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