Thousands of runners at a marathon in southern China were treated by medical staff after limping off with various injuries this week, with a series of other mishaps exposing several flaws in the country’s push to promote long-distance running.
Paramedics at the race in the city of Qingyuan on Sunday performed first aid more than 12,000 times, treating 10,000 cases of muscle spasms and 1,700 sprains, a local newspaper was cited as reporting by the Wall Street Journal.
There were 17 people were taken to the hospital, with five of them reportedly in critical condition. A spokeswoman for the city’s Health Department confirmed the statistics to the Journal, but added that the 12,000 instances may have involved multiple treatments of the same people and thus the number is likely lower.
Marathon running has become something of a fad in China, prompted by a government program aiming to increase the Chinese sporting economy 15 times by 2025. Last year saw a total of 134 races held across the country, up from 51 in 2014, with local governments and corporate sponsors looking to cash in on the surplus of funding and prestige cities get for hosting them.
However, the inexperience of organizers and runners alike is often painfully apparent, illustrated further at the Qingyuan marathon by the fact that runners bit into the grape-scented soaps given away to them by a sponsor — mistaking them for energy bars.