The Beijing Marathon, which took place last Sunday, 17th September 2017 at Tian’anmen Square, Beijing faced a growing problem of unregistered runners which is commonly defined as race banditing in the running industry.
The problem arises mainly because the number of race slots available fell far short of demand. This year the Beijing race had some 30,000 slots available – but nearly 100,000 runners had applied to participate.
Some applicants who failed to get a slot has resorted to creating fake race bib to join in the event. The ruse was exposed when a photo of three runners wearing identical race bib with the same number was posted on social media. It was unsure how many unregistered runners participate in the race, which is one of China’s most popular annual marathons.
It’s a problem faced not just by the Beijing Marathon, but other long-distance races in China. Official statistics show that in 2011, about 400,000 people across mainland China took part in full, half- and mini marathons. That number went up sevenfold to nearly 2.8 million people last year.
While China only hosted 22 roads running races nationwide six years ago, that number skyrocketed to 328 last year, according to the Chinese Athletics Association (CAA).
Increased awareness of health and fitness had motivated many people in China to take up long-distance running as their regular exercise as well as a way to relieve the rowing pressure from city living.
The government had also played a good part in the marathon craze as in 2014, the State Council, China’s cabinet issued a directive to boost the sports industry and encourage sports-related spending.
City government were to hold these mass participation races because it was good publicity for them. However, not every participant makes it to the finish line. The CAA report noted that although more than 1.2 million people took part in full and half-marathons last year, 500,000 of them didn’t make it to the end of the race.
In Beijing, the marathon organiser said on Wednesday that they are investigating the incident by checking surveillance footage and images to track down those who ran in last weekend’s race with fake race bibs.
It said the runners would be banned for life from taking part in the marathon and it would ask the CAA to apply a broader punishment.
Apart from flouting the rules and disrupting the order of the race, the runners had taken up the limited resources of those who were registered, the organiser said, adding that they might also have broken the law and could be subject to legal action.
Featured Photo Credit: Beijing Marathon