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