In recent years, tides of Chinese cities have been competitively hosting marathons, which have not only contributed economically to local tourism and hotel industries, but have also given birth to a whole new industry chain.
On September 24 alone, several cities including Shenyang in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, Rizhao in East China's Shandong Province, Datong in North China's Shanxi Province and Xiongan New Area held marathons.
Shi Jianxiao, a 30-something man from East China's Jiangsu Province, told the Global Times on September 28 that he has felt the growth in numbers as well as quality of Chinese marathons in the past several years.
Shi has taken part in more than 60 marathons since 2014. And he not only attends marathons in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou in South China's Guangdong Province and Xiamen in East China's Fujian Province, but also attends similar competitions abroad, for example, the Berlin, Cologne and Tokyo marathons.
Shi said that taking part in marathons has cost him a considerable sum of money, with the total figure amounting to around 100,000 yuan (,030). If I attend marathons outside Nanjing, [the capital of Jiangsu], traveling expenses vary from 200 yuan to 2,000 yuan. Besides travel, application fees for marathons are between 100 and 200 yuan, while for cross-country runs, the application fees go up to between 300 yuan and more than 1,000 yuan," he said, noting that it costs even more when attending competitions abroad.
On October 14, Shi will compete in the fourth Changzhou West Taihu Lake Half Marathon held in Jiangsu, which will be his fourth time attending this particular competition.
"I have felt that more and more domestic cities have been holding marathons in recent years, and the number of runners has also posted dramatic growth," he said, noting that the Changzhou half-marathon continues to mature each year.
Attracting 2.8 million competitors in total, 133 cities in 30 provinces across China held 328 marathons and related competitions in 2016, nearly 1.5 times the amount of marathons held across the country in 2015, Meng Wei, spokesperson at the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a press conference in September.
"For the first Changzhou marathon in 2014, it took more than a month to recruit around 8,000 runners, but this year, it has taken less than two days to recruit 20,987 competitors," said Tao Tingting, president of Changao Sports Ltd, the operator of Changzhou West Taihu Lake Half Marathon.
It is reported that the market valuation of marathons in China holds great potential compared to the 1,200 marathons in the US, expecting to reach 30 billion yuan in the future.
The marathon not only drives the development of the sports industry's upper and lower streams, but is also a tourist-attracting spectacle.
Zhu Xiaobing, director of the Changzhou Sports Bureau, told the Global Times at a press conference in Beijing on September 28 that the city will provide one-day and two-day travel itineraries for competitors of the upcoming marathon in Changzhou, noting that nearly 40 percent of runners come from provinces outside Jiangsu.
In 2016, the marathon in Xiamen created revenue of nearly 230 million yuan, while the cycling competition around Qinghai Lake, located in Northwest China's Qinghai Province, sparkled accommodation, catering, travel and other consumption amounting to 182 million yuan, Meng said.
Marathons also boost development of clothes manufacturing and related industries, considering the growing numbers of runners, Zhu said.
The running gear market has been growing rapidly due to rising market demand, according to Shi. "Running shoes are easily worn out. And so I frequently need to buy running shoes and running gear. Moreover, the price of a cross-country running backpack varies from 300 yuan to 1,000 yuan," he said.
Meanwhile, Tao said that her company is expanding its business to develop marathon-related souvenirs and to carry out strategic cooperation with T-shirt manufacturers. Changao also cooperates with online running service providers thejoyrun.com and codoon.com to organize online marathons, according to Tao.
Along with the rising popularity of marathons, many companies are starting to gear up investment in the industry. For example, Dalian Wanda Group announced a strategic partnership with the Abbott World Marathon Majors in April in an aim to carry out the largest and most renowned marathon in China in two or three years, the Xinhua News Agency reported.