translated and edited by Brett Larner
On Nov. 29 the Chinese media outlet Tencent published a column examining why China is not the equal of Japan in the marathon. At the Nov. 20 Ageo City Half Marathon in Saitama, Japan, 196 men, all Japanese and most university students, ran faster than 1 hour 6 minutes. No Chinese men have cleared that time this year. Even going back two years, only a total of two have done it.
According the the Tencent column, Japan far surpasses China in distance running because "Japan's running boom has been happening for 40 years, and what keeps its fire lit is its women. A large number of housewives run to relieve stress, and it is said that a sport that tests patience and mental power like the marathon is ideal for the Japanese woman. On the other hand, few Chinese women run to relieve stress, with many instead involved in community plaza dances, large groups of middle-aged women who dance together in parks.
The article also pointed to inadequate physical education programs as part of school curricula, the relatively small number of races and the lack of interest and participation in them. Sounding a positive note about current trends, however, it said, "As health awareness increases within China, its running boom is also expanding. The marathon is becoming a popular sport for Chinese people but the difference with Japan is still considerable."
Translator's note: As JRN documented earlier this year, China has grown into the world's third-largest marathon market behind Japan and the United States. While it is still far behind the two leaders in terms of quality and quantity it will be no surprise to see it overtake both in the foreseeable future. The Abbott World Marathon Majors have already discussed adding a Chinese race, either the Beijing Marathon or Shanghai Marathon, to the series to reflect the growth in an economically important and rapidly developing market.