Marathon tourism on the rise in Chi­nese main­land

Global Times - Weekend - - TRAVEL -

Teng Yun, a 37-year-old book ed­i­tor liv­ing in Beijing, trav­eled to Changchun, cap­i­tal of North­east China’s Jilin Province, over the week­end to run the Changchun In­ter­na­tional Marathon.

Teng beat her per­sonal best in the race while en­joy­ing her short stay in the city.

“Peo­ple here in Changchun are warm. I was greeted with cheers all the way to the fin­ish line,” said Teng. “I also learned a lot about the his­tory, ar­chi­tec­ture and cul­ture of the city.”

Over the past few years, Teng has fin­ished 10 marathons, five of which were out­side Beijing. Her race cal­en­dar has taken her to Guang­dong, He­nan, Shaanxi, Jilin and Zhe­jiang prov­inces.

She left Beijing on Fri­day af­ter work, and re­turned be­fore Mon­day. Aside from run­ning, she tried the lo­cal cui­sine and dropped by some tourist at­trac­tions in the city.

Teng is part of a grow­ing trend that has seen more marathon run­ners travel across the coun­try to race since 2015.

Ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion (CAA), nearly 5 mil­lion peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in 1,102 marathon races in the coun­try in 2017.

The Changchun In­ter­na­tional Marathon 2018, held on June 3, at­tracted 30,000 run­ners at home and abroad.

In the 2017 Beijing Marathon, China’s most renowned run­ning event, 70 per­cent of all 98,687 reg­is­tered run­ners were from out­side Beijing. In the 2017 Wuxi Marathon, out-oftown­ers ac­counted for a stag­ger­ing 90 per­cent.

“Marathons are a great cat­a­lyst for tourism, with tens of thou­sands of peo­ple trav­el­ing to, stay­ing, din­ing and shop­ping in a sin­gle city over sev­eral days,” said Shui Tao, vice sec­re­tary gen­eral of the CAA.

For each marathon trip, Teng spends an av­er­age of 4,000 yuan ($623). She said many run­ners spend much more.

Travel agen­cies also hope to ride the mo­men­tum. Ctrip, China’s lead­ing on­line travel agency, of­fers dozens of marathon tour pack­ages cov­er­ing sign-up fees, ac­com­mo­da­tion, and tick­ets to lo­cal at­trac­tions.

Pack­ages for do­mes­tic des­ti­na­tions usu­ally cost a few hun­dred yuan, while pack­ages for world fa­mous events in cities like London and Tokyo can cost tens of thou­sands of yuan.

Yan Bei, a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive at a Beijing-based se­cu­ri­ties firm, is the leader of Teng’s run­ning club. She is one of many Chi­nese to ven­ture abroad to race.

In 2016, she went to Ger­many to run the fa­mous Ber­lin Marathon, which at­tracted nearly 900 Chi­nese run­ners. Yan fin­ished the race in four hours and 12 min­utes, trav­eled to Cologne and Frank­furt, and rev­eled in Ger­man food.

In 2017, she fin­ished the Chicago Marathon, which saw nearly 2,000 Chi­nese run­ners take to the streets of the Windy City.

Both trips cost her nearly 50,000 yuan, but Yan thinks the money was worth it.

“The events were like car­ni­vals and ev­ery­one was hav­ing a good time,” said Yan. “The at­mos­phere and sport­ing cul­ture are what marathons in China can re­ally learn from.”

China, on the other hand, is also step­ping up ef­forts to make its cities and events more at­trac­tive to run­ners.

In Jan­uary, the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sport of China, to­gether with 10 min­istries, is­sued an ac­tion plan on de­vel­op­ing China’s marathon in­dus­try, call­ing for in­te­gra­tion of marathons and tourism, as well as di­ver­si­fied run­ning events based on the char­ac­ter­is­tics of cities.

Teng Yun’s next tar­gets are the Wuhan Marathon and the Wuxi Marathon.

“The food in Wuhan is great and Wuxi is a great city, too,” she said.

Photo: VCG

Two com­peti­tors pose for pic­tures dur­ing the Jin­shan­ling Great Wall Marathon held in April in He­bei Province.

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