86-year-old marathon runner goes viral as Chinese embrace fitness – Xinhua English.news.cn


Runners compete during the 2022 Beijing Marathon in Beijing on Nov. 6, 2022. (Xinhua/Song Yanhua)

BEIJING, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) — A day before China’s solar term of the onset of winter, downtown Beijing was warmed by a lively sporting event, with thousands of runners and hordes of citizens cheering them on. from the sides of the streets.

The 2022 Beijing Marathon, which reopened on November 6 after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak, attracted nearly 20,000 runners. Running from Tiananmen Square to the Olympic Park destination, many participants called the 42.195 km trail a pilgrimage.

Among them, an 80-year-old “running man” called Zhang Shun was in the public spotlight, as a video clip showing the 86-year-old jogging in small steps but in great shape and flashing a big smile at the line arrival was widely applauded on Chinese social media and vlogging platforms.

The oldest runner, who achieved a result over six hours in last place, received many likes on the internet and was commented by netizens as “the best example of maintaining the marathon spirit”.

Years ago, amateur marathon runners were unusual, let alone older runners like Zhang. Inaugurated in 1981, the Beijing Marathon initially had only 86 participants, most of whom were athletes.

“The growth of the Beijing Marathon reflects the public fitness fever in China and is a mirror of the development of a leading country in sports,” said Sun Yingjie, winner of the Beijing Marathon women’s race for three consecutive years.

The past four decades, especially the last few years since 2012, have seen a growth spurt in marathon sports in China, with more and more people taking up running and exercising, which according to the observers, was motivated by a growing desire for a healthy lifestyle and social progress. in the construction of fitness rooms and equipment.

China has incorporated the promotion of physical fitness among the public into its national strategy. In 2021, a work plan for the period 2021-2025 was published to better meet the growing demands of the population for fitness and health.

Data shows that in 2021, there were nearly 4 million sports grounds across the country, and the total length of public fitness trails in Chinese cities reached 263,400 km in total. “Wherever you live, there will always be suitable places to run, right on your doorstep,” said Yang Ziyu, a running veteran in Beijing.

The city marathon, a professional competition once deemed inaccessible to ordinary mortals, has thus gradually been transformed into a festive event for runners. Data from the Chinese Athletics Association shows that between 2014 and 2019, the number of marathons and related races held in China soared by more than 300 percent to 1,828.

“Marathons serve as a city’s calling card and are conducive to improving social infrastructure and people’s daily lives,” said Zhao Fuming, director of the Beijing Marathon Association.

The recently concluded report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China says China will launch broad public fitness initiatives, improve physical education for young people, promote the comprehensive development of recreational and competitive sports, and accelerate the construction from China. in a country strong in sports.

It’s trendy these days for young people to use exercise-themed mobile apps to record their running routes at iconic locations and post them on social media; some meticulously design their routes in the shape of a Chinese rose as they run in the Olympic Forest Park, and others draw an elephant in the Temple of Heaven with footsteps.

China’s progress in promoting fitness to the public has also created huge business opportunities for its sports market. At the just-concluded 5th China International Import Expo, a sports equipment and event exhibition area attracted more than 10 well-known sports giants from around the world, such as the American manufacturer shoemaker Skechers and French sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

China’s sports market has unprecedented potential as Chinese people’s living standards rise and their awareness of staying fit grows stronger, said Daisy Wang, Vice President of Decathlon China.

“It is the essential requirement of Chinese modernization to achieve high-quality development and enrich people’s cultural life, while physical fitness and sports can play a unique role in advancing the modernization drive.” , said Luo Wenhua, deputy director of the Shanghai municipal office. Sport.

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