[Splendid Festivals] The Taipei Marathon:Running Fever

[Splendid Festivals] The Taipei Marathon:Running Fever

A contagion is consuming this land – and unquenchable thirst in ever more people to run its riversides, seaside, mountains, trails, valleys, plains, gorges, expressways, islands, and even skyscraper stairs.

All was calm until the 1980s. Then it hit. The spread was slow at first. Then came a quickening, and an explosion in the 2000s. The numbers tell the story: today there are over 200 running clubs in Taiwan, almost 50 full marathons are staged each year, and there are countless runs of shorter length. The government of the main city, Taipei, stages almost 40 major/ minor running events each year.

Here’s how it happened. It is generally agreed that the source of the contagion was Chi Cheng, a Taiwan national hero, setter of many track – and – field records and 1968 Mexico Olympics bronze – medal winner in the 80 – meter hurdles. Later, as a high – level government official, she transplanted the knowledge and techniques developed in running the prestigious Boston and New Year marathons to Taiwan, and the first Taipei Marathons was run in 1986.

The key organization in Taiwan running movement is the Chinese Taipei Road Running Association (CTRRA; www.sportsnet.org.tw), established in 1993, which today runs up to 25 major events each year in cooperation with various public/ private bodies. Its stated vision is to transform the marathon from “professional sport” to a “diversified civil – health road – running activity,” bringing “health and happiness to civilians.” In the late 1990s/ early 2000s government bodies at all levels latched onto this concept with enthusiasm, seeking to get citizens outdoors and engaged in more vigorous forms of exercise for the sake of national health.

This was the same time Taiwan’s renowned “bicycle fever” began to spread over the land, in keeping with the same concepts. Two other key themes in the run/ bike movements have been government showcasing of steadily promoting tourism, and charity education and support.

What is today officially called the Taipei Fubon Marathon is Taiwan’s biggest road race, attracting over 120,000 runners each year, from around Taiwan and over 50 other countries. Staged in December, the starting point is the grand plaza before Taipei City Hall; the course zigzags through the closed – off downtown area, winding by Taipei 101 and other city landmarks. There is a carnival atmosphere, with many fun side events, enthusiastic spectators lining the course, and live TV coverage.

Serious runners join the full marathon, half marathon, or 9km run, competing in age/ gender categories. Approximately 50,000 of the total of 120,000 or so participants are in these sections. There is also a 3km fun run, and a special 2km run for kids. The organizers (CTRRA and Taipei City Government) use rolling starts to handle the tremendous numbers of participants that come out to hit the pavement.

As mentioned, the first Taipei Marathon was run in 1986. The Fubon Group, one of Taiwan’s largest financial conglomerates, has been the main sponsor since 2009. To entice the best runners from around the globe to come, significant prize money is offered – included NT$1.2 million each for the men’s and women’s full – marathon winners, NT$2 million if they best the course record. These are Taiwan’s highest marathon payouts.

Among the key promotional ingredients in Taiwan running is a collective one, the distinctive range of character, the Taroko Gorge Marathon is among the world’s most “gorge - ous” – you run the bottom of magnificent Taroko Gorge, Taiwan’s greatest scenic attraction. In the Tainan Ancient Capital International Marathon you run around the grand treasury of historic structures in Tainan, Taiwan’s imperial capital and oldest city. In the Taipei 101 Run – Up you scale the tower, not long past the world’s tallest building, by tackling its stairs. And in the Taipei Expressway Marathon you are taken “above” the city, flying along a closed – off elevated expressway.

If you yourself have a case of running fever, or would like to come out and cheer on those who do, check out the impressive list of events at this website address: www.taipeimarathon.org.tw/contest.aspx (Chinese)

Related Attractions A Tour of Jinan Plain's Intensive Agriculture
Bus No. 169- Taichung→Wuqi→Qingshui

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