Mil­lion

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS -

Xie Guop­ing had al­ways kept in shape. The for­mer real es­tate com­pany owner from Shang­hai hiked, climbed moun­tains and played bad­minton, and her friends did, too.

But the 50-year-old said that in 2013 her friends took up a new pur­suit: run­ning.

Soon she was com­plet­ing marathons, and be­fore too long she was fly­ing around the globe to take part in the some of the world’s best­known sporting events.

Xie and her friends are not alone. A grow­ing in­ter­est in fitness has pro­pelled run­ning into a ma­jor sport in China. At the same time, ex­pand­ing pros­per­ity has meant Chi­nese run­ners have gone from be­ing rare at in­ter­na­tional marathons to hav­ing a no­tice­able pres­ence.

One hun­dred and fifty Chi­nese — 106 men and 44 women — reg­is­tered for the Lon­don Marathon on April 24, a race that at­tracts 38,000 run­ners an­nu­ally and is one of the six top marathons in the world.

Last year there were just 29 Chi­nese en­trants in the event, or­ga­niz­ers said. And in 2014 there were only 11 — seven men and four women.

“This trend caught my at­ten­tion about three years ago,” said Du Min­grui, 34, gen­eral man­ager of ZX-Tour Co, who is also a keen run­ner. “The num­ber of Chi­nese go­ing abroad to run is grow­ing tremen­dously.”

His com­pany, which spe­cial­izes in or­ga­niz­ing run­ning train­ing camps and tours, is among a num­ber of busi­nesses serv­ing the grow­ing le­gion of Chi­nese run­ners.

Last year, just three Chi­nese peo­ple took part in the Jerusalem Marathon, in­clud­ing two who were lo­cal res­i­dents, ac­cord­ing to Du. The num­ber rose to 156 at this year’s event, held on March 18.

More than 700 Chi­nese also en­tered the Ber­lin Marathon, one of the top in­ter­na­tional events, in Septem­ber, he said.

I am not rep­re­sent­ing my­self but China and even Asia when run­ning marathons. When I fin­ish one, I stand there, and I feel so proud that I am Chi­nese.” marathon run­ner and founder of Save U Sports Devel­op­ment Co

The Chi­nese pres­ence at in­ter­na­tional marathons is also a point of pride as an emerg­ing China makes its mark in many global spheres.

“I am not rep­re­sent­ing my­self but China and even Asia when run­ning marathons,” Xie said.

“When I fin­ish one, I stand there, and I feel so proud that I am Chi­nese.”

That pres­ence also means peo­ple from other coun­tries have greater ex­po­sure to, and ca­ma­raderie with, so­phis­ti­cated and health-con­scious Chi­nese peo­ple.

Xie said she had one such pos­i­tive experience af­ter cross­ing the fin­ish line at the Bos­ton Marathon on a run­ners took part in marathons in China last year

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