Chinese Marathon Boom Leads To Organizational Issues and Potential Cheating

There have been multiple stories over the past few weeks relating to issues at Chinese Races

Shanghai, China - December 06, 2015: Chinese flag flying against backdrop of skyscrapers

There’s a running boom in China. The number of runners competing in Marathons has increased at a rapid pace in China over the past decade.

NPR reported that in the 6 years prior to 2017, the number of Marathons in China grew from 22 to over 400.

The fast growth has led to some organizational issues. At The Qingyuan Marathon in 2016 participants were given bars of soap in their goody bag. The packaging was in English, and runners fell sick after mistaking the soap for energy bars.

In just the past few weeks, a a few issues have been reported regarding Chinese races.


Suzhou Marathon

Wei Jang was interrupted by volunteers attempting to hand her a flag. She was fighting for the lead at the time, when the first volunteer attempted to hand her the flag. The second volunteer did hand her a drenched flag. It appears that these attempts disrupted her rhythm and may have cost her the victory.

Shenzhen Half Marathon

By now everyone has seen the video and heard about the over 200 disqualifications at The Shenzen Half Marathon. I don’t see this as much of an organizational issue. I applaud the race for issuing the disqualifications and bans. That is more than most races in The United States do to course cutters. There were for both bib swapping and course cutting.

However at least one other participant found another way to finish the race:

As seen in the photo grouping, she started out running (or walking) the race, but eventually hopped on a bike. The bike she is riding is an ‘ofo’. Ofo is a bike sharing company. She rented the bike on the course.

According to the e-mailer, some companies in China ‘Strongly Encourage’ their employees to run in these races in an effort to boost their employers’ Corporate visibility.  Many of these runners are ill-prepared to run long distances.

This sort of forced or strongly encouraged participation could be a contributing factor to the cheating witnessed in Shenzhen.

Nanning International Marathon

Also in the news this past week were the actions of an official following Gelgelo Tona Outoya’s victory in The Half Marathon.

More marathon drama in China as Ethiopian runner forced to a stop at finish line


While I am uncertain whether the official caused him to fall. It is clear that he did attempt  to stop him immediately after he crossed the finish.


The rapid growth has undoubtedly resulted in some issue from an event organization standpoint. This growth is encouraged by The Chinese government. This likely has led to ill-prepared runners joining the movement. This is not unique to China. There are runners that enter marathons here that are also ill-prepared for the distance (yours truly included).  No matter where the race is held, when runners are faced with a choice of a DNF (Did Not Finish) or cheat, some will unfortunately choose to cheat.


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  1. This is some racist shit. 4 examples of issues at races that happen in the western world regularly (well maybe not the bike hack) and now China is a hot bed of cheating and gets their own post. China is far from innocent in many respects but this is just shitposting for clicks.

      • It is the standard cpmplaint these days and querying it just confirms the embedded racism of the questioner – “Kafka-esque” I think it is termed.

    • Where in the Western world has someone been forced to take a flag at the end of a marathon then heavily criticized for dropping despite exhaustion?

  2. I am not sure there is much of a story here. You have a nation that went through a rapid growth and development industrially and there were quality and organisational problems, most of which are being resolved.

    That same nation is now going through the same rapid growth and development in leisure activities. So it is no surprise there are quality and organisational problems. Ten years from now running a marathon in China will probably be on people’s bucket list and the Beijing Marathon will probably be a World Major.

  3. Gotta admit, I don’t quite see the specific point of this post. It’s great to see running growing in popularity. Yes, it’s going to result in growing pains – rapid growth always does. We should be celebrating the increased popularity of a sport I think we all love. More to the point, I fail to see how ‘increased popularity’ is leading to ‘more frequent cheating’. More *people* might be cheating in marathons, because there are now 400+ marathons vs 22 some years ago. But is cheating somehow more ‘common’? Is it any more or less common than in some major (or not-so-major) marathons in the US, UK, Mexico etc?

    I don’t think the post is racist, but I do think it’s a bit pointless.

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