China is vowing to step up organizational standards of its marathon races through a bold bid to qualify a Chengdu event for the elite global series.
Inspired by growing participation in domestic road running events, organizers of the Chengdu Marathon, which was only established in 2017, on Tuesday kicked off a multiyear bidding process to join the Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York races as the seventh leg in the Abbott World Marathon Majors series.
Together with partner Wanda Group and the Chinese Athletic Association, the Abbott WMM announced in Beijing that the Chengdu race will be evaluated according to the series' stringent criteria, starting with this year's edition on Oct 27 in the capital city of Sichuan province.
Another race in the Asia-Pacific region, the Singapore Marathon, is also under consideration to join the series.
It's a bold ambition for such a young race to join the six majors, which have developed a worldwide following for decades, but the impetus to match the highest international standards will no doubt provide long-term benefits for the sector in China, said Shui Tao, vice-secretary general of the CAA.
"It's a wise decision to make for all the parties involved," Shui told China Daily.
"To qualify for the major series the Chengdu organizers will have to raise the level of every aspect of the event's organization and services in accordance with WMM standards. Doing that will provide an important reference for other races in China."
Road running has become the fastest-growing sport in China, with about 1,600 CAA-registered races held across the country in 2018.Those events involved 5.83 million participants, according to the CAA.
That enthusiasm saw 6,155 runners from China participate in the six major global races last year, according to Abbott WMM.
"I am very impressed with the passion the Chinese people have for running. Within our events, we've never seen more Chinese participants," said Tim Hadzima, executive director of the series.
"It's really great to see China's growing presence in the foreign races, but there is nothing like racing in the home country. That's what we are truly excited about."
Chengdu's bid is the result of a 10-year partnership signed between Abbott WMM and Wanda Group in 2017, which will see three extra events in the Asia-Pacific region selected to join the major series through 2027.
The two parties have jointly developed an evaluation process, which consists of dozens of criteria ranging from event size to volunteer recruitment and inclusion of elite athletes.
The standards must be met by candidate cities within three years of submitting a bid, according to Wanda.
Shui said the upgrade to WMM standards will help introduce more elite runners to China, allowing local athletes to test themselves against the world's best.
The Chengdu Marathon, operated and promoted by Wanda's sports affiliate, will expand its scale to accommodate 30,000 participants, including 12,000 full-distance runners.
The race course is being revamped to reduce some turn-backs in the second half, which should help improve times.