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In Fast-Paced China, Marathon Craze Is Off And Running (Despite A Clumsy Start)

Runners start a third annual Qingyuan marathon, hold on Mar 19. Runners competed in half- and full-marathon races.

Rob Schmitz/NPR


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Runners start a third annual Qingyuan marathon, hold on Mar 19. Runners competed in half- and full-marathon races.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

The festivities during this month’s third annual Qingyuan marathon, in southern China’s Guangdong province, start during 7 a.m.

On one side of a starting line, there’s a normal Chinese strain unit in robes and long, issuing beards; on a other, there’s a theatre full of dancing girls wearing petty marathon attire, gyrating their hips in unanimity to a swat song.

Stuck in a core are some-more than 23,000 runners, prickly to start. The strain stops, a gun is fired, and for a subsequent half-hour, runners shove with one another to cranky a starting line

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Like many here, curtain Xu Ting can’t wait to start his initial full marathon.

“I’ve lerned a prolonged time for this. All my muscles are loose and ready,” says Xu, looking quietly forward to a sea of runners dressed in neon shirts and shorts. “I haven’t even smoked a singular cigarette in 5 days!”

The spare 35-year-old wears his hair in a ponytail. His tractable grin reveals nicotine-stained teeth. Last year, when Xu ran his initial half-marathon, he says he had a tough time respirating since he smoked right adult to a morning of a race. He total a five-day mangle from his two-pack-a-day robe will assistance him today.

“I consider I’ll run most faster,” Xu says confidently. “But I’ll unequivocally need a cigarette after a race. Just like running, smoking has benefits, too.”

Runner Xu Ting, usually before starting his initial full marathon, in Qingyuan, China, says he’s prepared a prolonged time for this competition — even suspending his two-pack-a-day smoking robe for 5 days in a wish of using faster.

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Runner Xu Ting, usually before starting his initial full marathon, in Qingyuan, China, says he’s prepared a prolonged time for this competition — even suspending his two-pack-a-day smoking robe for 5 days in a wish of using faster.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

Xu is new to marathons, and so is China. Six years ago, a nation hosted 22 marathons. This year, it’s scheduled to horde some-more than 400.

“This is partial of a executive government’s national campaign,” says Xu Guangyou, executive of a Qingyuan city sports bureau. “They wish some-more marathons and some-more people exercising.”

Xu wants that, too.

“Marathons boost tourism,” he says. “You come here, run a marathon and see how pleasing a city is. Every hotel room in city is occupied.”

A tutor guides marathoners in a array of stretches before a start of a race.

Rob Schmitz/NPR


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A tutor guides marathoners in a array of stretches before a start of a race.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

That’s a large perk in a duration of slower mercantile growth, and that’s since cities all over China have unexpected seemed on a country’s marathon map.

But China’s supervision has urged caution. A report published final year by a state-run Chinese Athletic Association criticized Chinese runners for lacking recognition of their possess health and safety, and it took organizers to charge for their unawareness in handling marathons.

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“Some marathon organizers are unqualified of organizing correct marathon events,” a news said, and “the selling turn of using these events is utterly low.”

Last year, Qingyuan was during a core of this debate when state media reported that 12,000 of 20,000 runners had sought medical caring during a marathon. Xu, from a sports bureau, is discerning to set a record straight.

Runners arrange during a starting line of a third annual Qingyuan marathon.

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Runners arrange during a starting line of a third annual Qingyuan marathon.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

“Our medical use tents assisted people 12,000 times, providing water, glucose and things like that,” Xu says. “The media misreported this as 12,000 injuries.”

But that’s not all that went wrong.

After a race, organizers handed out present bags that enclosed bars of purple soap in packages with English content and cinema of grapes. Some runners, incompetent to know a English packaging, mistook a soap for appetite bars, ate them and fell sick.

Xu shakes his conduct when recalling final year’s marathon.

“Nobody can infer who ate a soap,” he says. “We suspicion we were assisting runners by giving them some soap for their showers afterwards! We’ve schooled a lesson. We’re now giving out a soap before a marathon, not after.”

Fruity soap was handed out to runners this year and final during a Qingyuan marathon. At final year’s marathon, runners, incompetent to review a English on a packaging, mistook a soap for grape-flavored energy bars and ate it; some fell ill.

Rob Schmitz/NPR


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Fruity soap was handed out to runners this year and final during a Qingyuan marathon. At final year’s marathon, runners, incompetent to review a English on a packaging, mistook a soap for grape-flavored energy bars and ate it; some fell ill.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

It is, in fact, a same grape-scented soap in English-language packaging. But this year, organizers warned runners not to eat it.

Two hours into a Qingyuan marathon, smiling runners cranky a finish line in a pouring rain. Forty-year-old Wang Jingjun usually finished his initial half-marathon in an hour and 40 minutes.

“I’m thrilled,” says Wang. “It was unequivocally sparkling to run with thousands of people like that. I’ll unequivocally run another one.”

Wang works on an public line in a bureau a few hours away. Like many people here, he says he runs to assistance understanding with a highlight of his pursuit and life in a fast-paced society.

Twenty-nine-year-old curtain Qin Min has a opposite take.

“To be honest, we don’t like running,” Qin says, smiling. “It’s too overpowering and tedious. we usually run marathons since we like to compete.”

Though Qin disliked a using partial of today’s marathon, he suspicion a finale was flattering good.

Of a 23,000 competing in Qingyuan’s third annual marathon, with a time of dual hours and 25 minutes, he finished first.

Yuhan Xu contributed investigate to this story.