Like all sports, marathon and long distance running both have their risks. Every year and during most non-professional races there are injuries: cramp, blisters, sprains, fainting, even heart attacks in extreme cases. Which is why it’s so important to train before any big event.
I’ve entered two half-marathons in China, and for both of them, as well as the self-responsibility agreement* you need to submit either a 6-month half-marathon race finishing time, or a health check-up certificate from the last year, which shows you have nothing wrong with your heart or breathing that may cause a problem during the race. I did a lot of triathlons last season and was never asked for anything like this, but I think it’s actually really important, and something that has been overlooked in other sports.
There’s been a sudden boost of long distance running participation in China, particularly over the past two years, and the attention to safety at both races I’ve been in has really been great. I’ve realised that long distance running in China is more of a middle-aged person kind of sport, most of the young people are volunteering at the water stations (located at 5km, 7km and almost every km after 10km), and as new people are starting to run, getting a health check should be encouraged. Besides the obligatory health-check/recent qualifying time, the water stations are really great. They offer both water and a light flat energy drink (red bull is given in your goody bag at the end) as well as snacks like orange segments, broken bits of banana and cherry tomatoes and soaked sponges (not for consumption).
The organisation says there is a volunteer every 100-200m of the race, which is true. They all have a compressed water spray thing which other runners had sprayed on their calves, a first aid kit and some bottles of water. I’ve been in races before where I’ve gone for several km without seeing a sign or volunteer and not knowing if I was on the right track, or who would help me if I fell (although athletes are friendly to each other in training, sometimes in competitions people disregard that companionship and would run past a wounded soldier).
Before the race, when I picked up my race pack, besides my race number, it also contained a small business-card sized information leaflet. It had very simple instructions on what to do in situations that may happen during a race: what to do if somebody faints, is sick, is unconscious and breathing (or not). Something small like this could really help in an emergency as basic first aid isn’t something everybody learns, and sometimes when something like that happens, you forget what to do. I really admire this, and think it could easily be adopted for other races and competitions.
The sign up process still needs some adjustment, as I forgot my login details and couldn’t reset them, and the contents of the goody bag have been a little strange (pickled radish, small bottles of local 43% alcohol, a theme park-style rain mac, like one you’d get on a log flume, grape-flavoured soap) but otherwise I’ve been amazed at how well these races have been organised. No corners have been cut and I hope this is not just in Zhejiang province.
Keep up the good work China, it’s great to see these standards at even the smallest of events.
*a document that says you take responsibility for any accident that happens during the race and cannot sue the organising body (pretty standard with all races)