Village marathon events take rural areas by storm
Published: Nov 27, 2023 10:38 PM
Contestants run in the 2023 Gansu Linze Ecological Marathon on the Rainbow Trail in Zhangye, Northwest China's Gansu Province, on July 2, 2023. Nearly 5,000 runners from all over the world participated in the marathon. Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Following the success of village soccer and basketball leagues in Southwest China's Guizhou Province, village marathon events have injected fresh impetus into rural revitalization across China. 

Nearly 10,000 runners from home and abroad took part in the third Mount Fanjing Winter Marathon in Tongren city, Guizhou Province, on Sunday. The event showcases the country's first-ever track made specifically for a marathon, which meanders through an idyllic landscape made up of picturesque mountains, farmlands and rivers.

Another village race, the 2024 Yilong Lake Marathon, is scheduled to take place on January 1, 2024, in Shiping county, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, according to the local government. Over 5,000 people experienced the beautiful track around a lake at this year's event in Shiping, which is known as China's "county of tofu" and "county of waxberry."

Meanwhile, the first track for rural marathon in Yongzhou, Central China's Hunan Province, was put to use during the inaugural Yongzhou half marathon on Sunday, after which runners got packs of the local specialty, sweet pomelo, as a prize.

According to statistics from the Chinese Athletics Association, there are more than 30 million road running enthusiasts in China. In the first half of 2023, there were 303 road running events taking place in China.

In addition to well-known international events such as the Beijing and Shanghai marathons, the races held in rural areas, showcasing unique folk customs and surrounded by picturesque landscapes, have attracted a growing number of participants who are eager to experience running in a village setting.

He Yongqi from the Bojie Sports and Culture Development Company, one of the operators of the Mount Fanjing Winter Marathon, told the Global Times on Monday that five foreign runners participated in this year's event and that he believes the unique rural landscape will draw more runners in the future.

This event has played a significant role in promoting the integrated development of Tongren's sports tourism and mass fitness. It has also become a signature means for Tongren to display the city's allure to the world, He said. 

"City marathons might be boring sometimes, while rural marathons are more interesting. Running through the mountains, rivers and countryside, you can not only feel the local customs, but also feel like you are running through a painting," said one of the Mount Fanjing runners Li Linlin. 

"The race is a trip. After the marathon, I plan to climb Mount Fanjing to appreciate the beauty of the world's heritage."

Mount Fanjing was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018. The race featured unique folk performances and cheerleaders wearing ethnic clothing as they cheered for the contestants. After the fun run, people were invited to try ethnic dancing with locals set to drum beats.

Xu Guochen, a Beijing-based regular marathon runner, told the Global Times that the current village marathon is less about competition and more about the joy of experiencing rural life. 

The local government of Shiping, whose population is about 320,000, aims to build a paragon event to promote high quality development.

Business in culture, tourism and mass fitness will be highlighted during the Yilong Lake Marathon in January, 2024. It is part of efforts to promote the integration of sports with tourism and other related industries, and provide jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for the county, according to the local government.