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Tapping a trend for running abroad

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-04 08:25

Organizers of a new Asiawide marathon series are hoping to tap in to China's running boom by tempting runners to races at exotic locations across the continent.

Kicking off its inaugural season with a bang in Beijing last month, the Asian Premier Marathon (APM) series, which is sanctioned by the Asian Athletic Association, is expected to attract more-seasoned Chinese runners to events abroad while also bringing organizers together to exchange ideas on management and promotion.

"The success of the Beijing Marathon has highlighted the huge interest in long-distance running in China, and we are excited to channel that passion to other events in Asia," said Wu Hongtao, head of APM and a senior executive at Infront China, a shareholder and operator of the series.

The series consists of three founding events, the Beijing Marathon, the Beirut Marathon and the Seoul Marathon. After the Beijing race on Sept 17, the series' 2017-18 season will move to Beirut in Lebanon in November, followed by Seoul in March before finishing with the 2018 Beijing race.

The series has established a ranking and awards system for Asia-born runners, with the top three-ranked men and women set to share a total prize purse of $500,000 at the end of the season.

"The platform of the series will help organizers of different races to share operational know-how, marketing resources and media exposures," explained Wu.

"It will help raise the competition standard and each race's international appeal to participants from overseas."

Participating in high-profile international marathons such as Boston, Tokyo and Berlin is a growing among experienced runners.

Around 1,300 Chinese were among the 40,000-strong field for last year's Berlin Marathon-almost twice the number that took part in the 2015 event, according to the race's organizing committee.

And the APM hopes its unique courses in exotic, touristy locations can draw China's adventurous running legion to neighboring Asian countries.

"We are the biggest event in the Middle East, yet we believe that we can learn a lot from the Beijing and Seoul marathons," said Ramzi Geagea, partnership administrative manager for the Beirut Marathon Association.

"We have so many cultural elements, so many tourist areas. We are working closely with the marathon organizers here to introduce the race to Chinese runners and put Lebanon on the Asian sports map."

Geagea revealed the Beirut Marathon has joined hands with Chinese promoting agency zuicool to provide package tours which include race registration, flight tickets and accommodation, while the Lebanese embassy in Beijing will help facilitate applicants' visa application process.

Meanwhile, Lee Sunghwan, a representative from the Seoul Marathon organizing committee, said about 3,000 Chinese participated in this year's race in the South Korean capital, with more expected next year.

"Hopefully, the new partnership will bring more elite runners, sponsors and broadcasters.," he said.

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