Elite feet

Updated: 2013-12-29 08:08

By Wu Ni(China Daily)

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The wealthy are swapping golf courses for racetracks. Wu Ni reports in Hangzhou.

A new vogue among China's rich is trading the relatively relaxing sport of golf for grueling races in which they can flash cash for opportunities to post online photos of themselves crossing finish lines, dribbling sweat.

Zhejiang-based Kunlun Properties' president Ye Jian started running last year and has since remained an active member of an entrepreneurs' running group he organized.

"I think it's a natural result of China's rapid development," the 36-year-old says.

"Quality living in the past meant a feast. Now it means the psychological pursuit of overcoming limitations and experiencing different lifestyles."

Ye says he could only run 2 kilometers before. But after a month of routinely jogging, he set a personal record of 10 km.

"I felt like throwing up at the finish line. But I also felt the unspeakable joy of conquering my limits."

Ye's running partners are about 30 company executives and senior managers, many of whom have switched from golf to running. He points out running is more flexible and less time-consuming.

The executives cheer on one another, and chat about life and business before and after the runs, Ye says. He believes the activity enables them to interact more intimately.

It's not easy for businesspeople to schedule to meet two or three times a week.

"But there is always time to run if you squeeze it in as a must-do part of your job," Ye explains.

He once flew back to Zhejiang province's Hangzhou to join a run while on business in Hong Kong.

Group member Wang Li, an Industrial Bank manager in Henan province's capital Zhengzhou, also once flew to Hangzhou to participate in a jogging session and flew back immediately after the event.

"I perhaps couldn't run on my own," she says.

"But I enjoy it enough to do it with a group of friends."

Wang adds that she plans to invite the group to run with her in Zhengzhou.

The group changes routes and cities to keep the pastime fresh. They often jog through scenic spots with good air quality, like Hangzhou's West Lake or suburban Shanghai's Zhujiajiao Ancient Water Town.

The group is casting its eye much farther to include such locales as Paris and Boston.

Gu Jun, an executive of China Minsheng Bank's Shanghai branch, has joined various online running groups and brings running shoes with him wherever he travels.

"A few months ago, I went to Chicago for a business trip. I checked the online group and found some runners were also in the city, so we ran together," he recalls.

Gu has tried not only marathons but also more challenging feats, such as running on mountainsides. The 40-something appears younger and more energetic than his age.

"Nowadays, there's a lot of advocacy for spreading positive energy," he says.

"Running is a form of positive energy. That's why I always encourage friends and colleagues to run with me."

Contact the writer at wuni@chinadaily.com.cn.

 Elite feet

Participants from around the country gather at the starting line at the 2013 Hangzhou International Marathon on Nov 3. Shi Jianxue / for China Daily

(China Daily 12/29/2013 page3)