Chinese runners flood London for marathon

Updated: 2016-04-24 17:15

By Wang Mingjie(

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Chinese runners flood London for marathon

General view of the start of the women's race during 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon in London, April 24, 2016.  [Photo/VCG]

Marathons are gaining significant traction in China, and now there is a growing trend of more and more runners flying out of the country to attend overseas marathons, with the London Marathon being one of the most popular choices.

This year, London Marathon accepted over 53,000 applicants, of which one hundred and fifty were Chinese nationals, compared with twenty-nine Chinese entrants in 2015 and eleven in 2014.

"It's been well documented that mass participation in running races in China is increasing," said Hugh Brasher, event director of Virgin Money London Marathon, adding it is no coincidence that more Chinese have the desire to run the marathon in London.

The demand for places in the Virgin Money London Marathon was immense from all over the world with more than 247,000 people applying for the 2016 ballot in the UK alone, according to London Marathon.

About 30 Chinese runners came together in a group led by Tian Tongsheng, China's first over-60 runner who has finished the marathon grand slam, including Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York.

Tian, 63, who just completed the Boston Marathon on April 18, said the runners in the group participating in the London Marathon, are highly educated and high earners.

"We have corporate executives, entrepreneurs, businessmen, employees from global Fortune 500, who are considered as China's emerging middle class and usually hold a new perception of health. Running a marathon to them has become a 'new normal' and a new lifestyle," he said.

Including this year's London Marathon, Tian has successfully accomplished 74 marathons, and sixteen were completed last year alone of which half were international races.

In a bid to encourage more and more Chinese to attend overseas marathons, Tian, along with some other marathon enthusiasts, founded the company Runnar in October 2015, primarily functioning as a platform to organize overseas running trips and provide convenience for avid Chinese runners.

Tian said marathon development in China is still at the embryonic stage with racing and competition at its core.

"Take the Boston Marathon for example, the last runner finished the race in 24 hours, but still there would be staff at the finishing line waiting for the participant whereas in China, before the final bunch of contenders reached to the end, the organisers would be long gone. This is the difference," added Tian.

According to Tian's observation, the international marathons are more mature and developed at all levels, from the organizers to the audience, from charitable affairs to public welfare, marathons abroad are more about the experience and are promoted as an event to advance the sport, and raise the awareness of fitness.

He hopes more and more Chinese runners could engage in international races so that they will understand the merits of overseas races and in turn bring the message back home. In that way, the overall landscape of Chinese running will evolve and eventually become more mature.

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