Chinese athlete Li Zicheng finishes with best result among Asians
The once-glitchy Beijing Marathon went off without a hitch by popular verdict of many interviewed runners who participated in its 37th edition on Sunday.
The 42.195-kilometer race is considered the most coveted marathon in China, attracting about 30,000 runners from China and abroad.
Previous marathons were marred by scandals like having runners breathe in polluted air and a dearth of portable toilets that forced runners to urinate along the course.
Beijing on Sunday morning had an official air quality index reading of 19, healthy enough for outdoor activities.
"The conditions and weather were perfect," said Chung Yun-hee, a professional South Korean marathon runner. "There was a breeze along the way to cool me until the sunlight got strong later in the morning."
Chung enjoyed the audience.
"The spectators were also very enthusiastic," he said. "I never had the same feeling competing abroad. They were cheering 'jia you!' [Come on!] for us."
Chung's compatriot Kim Seong-eun said the cheering made her feel like she was "competing at home."
Chung was among several Asian athletes invited by the organizers to promote an Asian marathon series. The Beijing Marathon is now the opening leg of a newly established continental multi-race marathon series: Asian Premier Marathon (APM).
China's Li Zicheng finished the race with a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 36 seconds, the best result from an Asian athlete. He Yinli was the best female Chinese athlete with a 2:42:53 -finish.
Li, who became the top Asian finisher at the 2017 Beijing Marathon in only his second time participating, said the event was more important than before.
"After joining APM, there will be more high-level Asian competitors and I am looking forward to meeting them on the course," he said.
Li's top-place finish earned him a 0,000 bonus from APM. "I hope I can do better in the series," he said.
After Sunday's race, the APM will continue its maiden season in Lebanon at the Beirut Marathon on November 12, followed by the Seoul Marathon in March next year before returning to the Chinese capital in 2018.
Chung, who competed for South Korea at the 2012 London Olympic Games, also pointed out a difference between Chinese and Korean runners.
"I think Chinese runners ran pretty fast across the first 10 kilometers, but after the 30-kilometer mark, most of them slowed down," said Chung, who finished her first Beijing Marathon in 2:47:01, the third-place Asian female finisher. "But I can see they are well-trained runners."
Chung, 34, said she feels the Beijing Marathon is a world-class race and expressed her hope of coming back to China again in the future.
"My next step is for sure the Seoul Marathon in March next year," Chung said. "But Beijing has left me a very nice impression. I hope I can compete more in China in the future."
For elite athletes from Africa, Salah Eddine Bounasr of Morocco stunned Ethiopian Girmay Birthanu Gebru to claim a title win, clocking the race in 2:11:18. Kenya's Stephen Kwelio Chemlany finished third.