Marathons set for race to the top

Updated: 2015-08-25 07:54

By Sun Xiaochen(China Daily)

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Marathons set for race to the top

Runners pass Tian'anmen Square in the men's marathon at the 15th IAAF World Championships, held in Beijing on Saturday. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

Two months before the 10-kilometer mini-marathon began at the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing on Saturday, the competition had already started for amateur runner Li Zhiqiang from Qingdao, Shandong province.

Demand for the 220 amateur places was so high that Li had to compete against almost 2,000 other runners from Shandong who had also filed applications to be among the 10,000 competitors in the race, which was introduced as a sub-event of the full 42.195-km event for the first time in the championship's history.

A pre-registration ballot saw Li overcome the odds to become one of the lucky amateurs who competed against world-famous professionals at the event, which is being held in China for the first time.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime honor to run the same course (a shorter distance) as top professional runners from around the world at this prestigious event. It's a dream come true for any amateur runner," said Li, a bank employee who has completed nine full marathons since 2013.

It's not just prestigious events, either. Distance running is a fast-growing activity in China, and domestic races are attracting an ever-rising number of competitors.

Last year, one of China's oldest marathon races, the Hangzhou International Marathon, first held in the capital of Zhejiang province in 1987, filled its 30,000-competitor list within seven hours of registration opening, according to the operator and promoter, Wisdom Sports Group, a Hong Kong-listed company.

Wisdom has announced that the field for another of its events, the Guangzhou Marathon in Guangdong province, scheduled for December, will be raised to 30,000 from 20,000, after heavy traffic caused the organizer's website to crash several times during registration last year.

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