Sweat, Sales Pitches and Scandal at the Beijing Running Festival

Updated 2013-12-17 11:14:39

1.	A determined runner grasps his stopwatch for inspiration at the Beijing’s International Running Festival. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William Wang]

1. A determined runner grasps his stopwatch for inspiration at the Beijing’s International Running Festival. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William Wang]

By William Wang

Sunday morning, 20,000 people squeezed their way into Tiananmen Square for the Beijing International Long Distance Running Festival, and were anxiously fidgeting, stretching, and hopping up and down in the moments before the run began.

Race officials were frantically attempting to organize the masses into gender-segregated areas for the 10 and 5 kilometers and mini family running events. Faster runners wiggled their way towards the starting line, which was completely occupied by a small army of young men proudly waving the key sponsor's flags in the air. The tai chi performers were quickly gliding out of the square before the oncoming torrent of bodies bowled them over.

2.	The sponsor gets full bang for its buck at the International Running Festival. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William Wang]

2. The sponsor gets full bang for its buck at the International Running Festival. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William Wang]

The start signal sent the crowd energy into a spike and the mass of runners squeezed through a rollicking Tiananmen Square maze before pushing south toward the Temple of Heaven.

The reasonably fresh air and sunny temperatures were better than many had hoped for, and it was obvious that people were happy to be out, even if organizers had (unnecessarily) asked people to arrive an hour early at the ungodly hour of seven.

Marketing was non-stop throughout the run. It was by far the biggest barrage of marketing that most runners had ever witnessed. After flag-toting runners had trickled out of sight, teams of cheerers appeared on the curbs, waving branded foam hands to be high-fived.

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