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Xiamen Marathon Boasts Perpetual Pace, Scenic Course
    2009-01-03 16:08:16     Xinhua
By Sportswriter Yue Dongxing

Unlike the premier events of world marathons held in cities like New York and London, the smaller race in coastal Xiamen has never attracted such a big name like Paula Radcliffe. But the IAAF "Gold Label Road Race" still thrive with the passionate general participants in their perpetual pace.

At the 7th Xiamen International Marathon on Saturday, a record of over 30,000 runners from 37 countries and regions competed in the 5km and 10km races, half-marathon, and marathon under a clear and cool 12 degrees Celsius.

Among them, the fastest man is the Kenyan Mugo Samuel Muturi, who made a tenacious late run to win the race, setting his personal best to create a new course record. Even so, his winning time of 2 hours 8 minutes and 51 seconds is still eclipsed by the average level from the world's top athletes.

However, the organizers said the increasing number of participants meant more.

"Attracting more people to join in the race to challenge their limits is one of our goals," Chen Yongmao, vice secretary general of the organizing committee, told a press conference on Friday afternoon.

"To meet different people's needs, we have set two other events to be held together with the major marathon. So you can see professional runners, students, sport lovers and other classes of people competing together in the race, featuring the high competitiveness and mass attendance," added by Chen.

According to Chen, the oldest runner among all the competitors is 86 years old. The number of people choosing to finish the full course is 6,806, which is the largest ever in history.

In order to further the competitiveness, 23 foreign elite athletes were invited to Xiamen and 18 of them were all from the long distance race powerhouse Kenya.

"We aim to improve the competition level both by further increasing the mass attendance and attracting more top athletes in the world," said Chen.

The organizing committee also raised the event's bonus to boost contender's initiative for better results. Both men's and women's winners could claim a prize of 30,000 U.S. dollars. A plus 15,000 dollars course record premium was also on offer and one million dollars were prepared for a world record breaker.

With organizers' aspiring plan and participants' enthusiasm, Xiamen marathon has become one of the most influential races in China and gradually enjoyed a world-wide reputation after its inauguration in 2003. Xiamen Marathon has been given the honour of Gold Label Road Race by IAAF twice since 2008.

The seaside city is also proud of its well-known course, which runs largely through the scenic views. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful tracks in the world. The flat "Island Ring Road" and landscaped areas are considered especially ideal for a gruelling 42.195km race.

Along the Island Ring Road, a series of statues, named "Perpetual Pace" by IOC President Jacques Rogge, consist of 99 vivid figures of running athletes. They are the symbols of both marathon spirit and the energic city, organizers said.
 
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