Marathon races have experienced a huge surge in popularity recently, bucking the historical trend in China.
The number of marathons and road races registered with the Chinese Athletics Association last year reached 328, nearly a 150% increase compared to 2015. Indeed, as recently as 2011, there was only a total of 22 marathons held in China, now, across the whole country, there are usually multiple events every weekend.
Numbers of participants vary from 1000 to as many as 40,000 and that is not including the countless volunteers and policemen involved in the event as well.
It begs the question, why are Marathons suddenly gaining this kind of popularity in China?
Here are the 4 things that are at the heart of this trend:
Take Lanzhou for example. Located in the north-west of China, Lanzhou was an important stop along the ancient Silk Road, which served as a major cultural interaction for Asian countries from east to west. Lanzhou International Marathon has just opened its pre-registration for 2017. With only 40,000 places available, the race received 73,118 applications, including me. Nearly one-third of applicants are from other parts of China and will stay in Lanzhou for at least one night. The participants will have the opportunity to pass by many of the city’s landmarks, during (and after) the race including the national museums and suspension bridges.
Marathons can serve as a window into a city and provide a perfect excuse for a holiday. In a big country like China, a marathon journey expands a traveller’s vision.
Boosting the Regional Economy
Marathon runners need to stay in the city that holds the marathon for at least one night before the race. Not to mention the expenditures on the food and sports gear. One of China’s biggest races is the Xiamen International Marathon, which just celebrated its 15th birthday, has long been considered the four marathon majors in China. In the past ten years, marathons have brought over 1 billion CNY ($142 million) in direct revenue to Xiamen.
A Sponsors Wonderland
Many banks, financial institutions and sports brands want to sponsor marathons. For sports brands, the attraction is clear, for financial brands the benefits come from this type of sport being very helpful for when trying to establish a desirable, healthy image.
Runners also frequently gain sponsorship and wear branded T-shirts or running vests. They are usually elite runners and receive additional benefits such as starting at the very front and participation bonuses. The winner’s sponsor usually receives the greatest exposure and can also lead to significant sales benefits, Adidas’ title sponsorship of the Shanghai International Half Marathon is a good example of this.
For many, marathons provide and escape from daily life and stress. During the race, you can be truly yourself and try as hard as you can without need to worry about your performance at work or your boss. The effort or progress that you made gives an immense sense of achievement.
Some people running for a reason, while others running for an answer.