Beijing marathoners prep for historic race while keeping COVID at bay

By Josh Arslan

BEIJING (Reuters) – In just his running gear, cap and wind-resistant glasses, Beijinger Oscar Wu braced the morning chill to meet up with other members of his running club for training ahead of a landmark marathon in the Chinese capital.

Over 26,000 runners have registered to run the 42.195-km (26.2-mile) route on Nov. 6, in what would be the first Beijing marathon in two years after being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19.

“This event is pretty good, we’ll run the route ourselves whether it is held normally or cancelled,” said Wu, 40, who created the Oscar Running Club, or ORC for short, in February targeting fitness buffs.

“You run for yourself,” said Wu, who is also a Lululemon China Running Ambassador.

The Beijing Marathon is celebrating its 40th year this month since its inception in 1981, a year late because of last year’s cancellation. The 2022 event is expected to be the strictest ever with COVID-19 cases on the rise, according to local media. On Nov. 2, China reported 3,200 new local cases, the highest since Aug. 17.

Fitness training was not the only preparation club members undertook.

With the stricter COVID rules, all of the marathon participants were required to take three consecutive days of PCR tests leading up to the race day and not to leave Beijing for seven days.

Participants were also asked fill out daily health questionnaires regarding their body temperature and authorities had to be informed of any outbound travel.

“First of all we definitely have to follow our national (COVID) policy and I think it’s protection for the general public,” said Chen Qian, co-club manager of ORC.

“Secondly, even if this race is cancelled, we can’t just stop our running because we are still doing it for ourselves. It’s not like we’re running for the sake of a racing event.”

(Reporting by Josh Arslan; Editing by Ryan Woo and Christian Schmollinger)

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