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Mass marathon races staged for the first time at China's National Games

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-04-29 18:59

TIANJIN -- Running confidently on the home stretch with a smile on his face, the 30-year-old Yun Yanqiao, a grassroots ultra-marathon runner, clinched the first ever mass marathon gold medal in the 58-year-history of China's National Games here on Saturday.

A total of 4,128 amateur runners competed in the marathon events at the 13th Chinese National Games, a quadrennial multi-sport competition which only featured professional athletes in the past.

The race was staged under sunny conditions with the temperature soaring up to 32 degrees. Yun from Shandong Province, who used to be a power engineer before throwing himself into ultra running, clocked 2:32:45 to finish on top of the amateur group, winning with a margin of 39 seconds ahead of runner-up Mou Zhenhua.

You Peiquan from Fujian Province finished third in 2:33:45

"This gold medal really means a lot to me," said an excited Yun, a two-time winner at the Vibram Hong Kong 100km Ultra Trail Race.

"When I first know amateur runner can compete in the National Games, I was just so excited as my running peers did. Today nearly all the best grassroots runners in China are competing here, which will definitely be an encouragement for the other runners to keep running and improve their personal bests," he added.

Tang Hui, a primary school physical education teacher, registered a comfortable victory in the women's mass race, edging out second-placed Fang Guangxia by nearly seven minutes with a clocking of 2:55:51.

Shi Yanxiu, also an ultra runner, clocked 3:06:43 to take the bronze medal.

The mass participation in marathon is a part of the innovation and reforms introduced to the 13th edition of the National Games by the organizers, in a bid to demonstrate comprehensive values at the country's highest-level sporting event.

"Grassroots athletes" are allowed to compete alongside professional athletes at the Games in 19 sports such as swimming, badminton and table tennis.

"Inviting mass runners to compete at the National Games is just the first step," said Du Zhaocai, vice president and secretary-general of the Chinese Athletics Association (CAA). "Next we will go on to provide them with opportunities to vie for a berth at the national team to compete at the World Championships and Olympic Games."

The CAA has already launched a program that aims to select two grassroots runners, one man and one woman, to represent China to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Wang Jiali, winner of 2010 Beijing Marathon with a PB of 2:22:41, clocked 2:33:36 to win the women's race for professional runners, while Dong Guojian, a two-time Olympian, won the men's race in 2:18:45. But both were upstaged by the history-making feats from Yun and Tang.

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