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 The Great Run of China into the future
ISPO-BEIJING | 26.02.2016

Running trend at ISPO BEIJING

The Great Run of China into the future

The Great Run of China into the future. Chinese woman running in the city. (Quelle: lzf/iStock/Thinkstock)
Chinese woman running in the city.
Bild: lzf/iStock/Thinkstock
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The number of marathons has more than doubled from 22 to 53. 785,000 runners at the starting line – and that’s just the tough core of marathon runners in the Chinese running community. After-work athletes and ambitious amateur runners are taking to the streets and parks in China: The Middle Kingdom has discovered running. Between 2011 and 2014 there has been an immense increase in runnung, but this only the beginning in the world's most populous country.

The fact that it’s not just foreign sporting goods industries like Odlo or ISPO BEIJING débutante Dynafit who want to take advantage of this trend is demonstrated by looking at the large representation of Chinese exhibitors, such as 361, Skywards and Topsky.

This is not the end of the running boom

The trade fair is doing the boom justice with a specially constructed Running Village, a unique set-up in Asia thanks to its B2B and B2C approach. The village includes things like workshops on how to warm up properly, fascia training and presentations on starting a running club.

Ben Zhou, Marketing Manager of Italy’s Tecnica Group in China, believes that the running boom is nowhere near the end yet. “We sold 5,000 pairs of running shoes in China in 2008. Last year we sold 30,000. Running, whether it’s road running or trail running, continues to be a major growth market,” says Zhou.

Tecnica, which along with Lowa, Nordica and Blizzard is part of the Tecnica Group, is benefiting from its engagement in the trail running sector in China. The company sponsors the “Tor des Geants,” the longest and most difficult trail running race in the world, and outfitted the 2014 winner, Franco Colle. The race is extremely popular in China.

Sports outdoors despite bad air

In addition, Tecnica is directing a documentary film on the 205-mile (330-kilometer) race held in the Aosta Valley at an elevation of more than 82,000 feet (25,000 meters), which will then be shown on Chinese television and online.

Despite the somewhat problematic air quality, preparation for such an extreme adventure – as well as unspectacular everyday adventures – takes place outdoors in China.

“Trail runners only train outdoors. They only go to the gym for a bit of additional muscle training. Road runners prefer the outdoors as well,” explains Zhou about his compatriots’ training habits. Yet competitive drive is further down on the list of priorities. “For Chinese athletes, the most important thing right now is to be involved. It’s about the love of sports,” says Zhou.

A Chinese woman runs at sunset.
The running trend is on display at ISPO BEIJING.

The running industry’s main clientèle today is still found in the major well-off cities like Beijing or Shanghai. Better jobs for those living in China’s mega-metropolises means more money to spend and more free time for sports.

Where sports has yet to take root

Yet Zhou is clear about the fact that there is still a great deal of potential in China: “The trend is clearly heading west. Companies aim is it to bring running to the more rural areas of China.”

A strategy Tobias Gröber, Director of the ISPO Group, considers absolutely essential. “At the moment, the market in China only exists in the eastern part of the country in the major cities on the coast. Producers and retailers have to reach out to the western part of the country, in the second- and third-tier cities,” says Gröber. (Read’s interview with Tobias Gröber on the situation in China here).

Zhou and Tecnica are making sure to take advantage of the attraction of the “Tor des Geants” as well. Runners will be recruited for the race in ten cities throughout the country and will then appear in the documentary. “We see it as a cultural encouragement to show even more people the joy of trail running.”

Florian Pertsch (Quelle: ISPO)
Article by Florian Pertsch, author
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