Enthusiasts design innovative running routes to celebrate year of Ox
A running route designed based on the Chinese character "ox" has circulated widely among running enthusiasts in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The route's length changes depending on different urban road routes and enthusiasts' own physical fitness.
"Running along this route of 'ox' gives me an incredible sense of achievement and it is more fun than regular marathons. I have already done it four times with different people," said 49-year-old Guo Yayan after running around Yinchuan People's Square along with around 20 others. The 23.67-kilometer run took her 2 hours and 17 minutes.
According to Du Bin, leader of the influential "Run, Ningxia" contest, this activity, known as "Run and Draw Ox", is organized by local running enthusiasts. They designed the route based on the Chinese character for ox and marked the names of streets along the route. Since February this year, around 17,000 people have taken part.
"Contests are the initial motivation for people to join the running. Now, enthusiasts voluntarily organize a lot of regular activities, which contributes a lot to improving public fitness," said Du.
Guo has changed a lot since getting into the habit of running in 2016. "I have become more cheerful and haven't caught a cold for a couple of years," said Guo. She takes advantage of her writing skills to promote the running team in order to draw more people to join running.
Meanwhile, 33-year-old Li Shiheng leads his team members to run along a 27-kilometer-long ox-shaped route in Xixia District, Yinchuan. He has also designed two versions of 2021-shaped routes for running enthusiasts. On top of that, other enthusiasts have designed a more complicated lantern-shaped route.
"The designed route should not be too long or involve any deadend. Safety also needs to be taken into account," said Li.
A former soldier, Li now works at a state-owned corporation and map researching is his hobby. After designing the 2021-shaped route, Li invited other enthusiasts to run along it only after he had tried it twice.
Running has been Li's routine since he joined the military. In 2010, he founded Dawn Steps, the very first running group in Ningxia. With only a few members initially, the group has now expanded to more than 1,000 members scattered across the region.
"There are more running groups in Ningxia and running enthusiasts can be seen everywhere," said Li.
In terms of sports gear, running is not demanding at all, as it only requires sportswear and a pair of running shoes. "However, only a small number of people can stick to it," said Li.
To help more people build up the habit of running, Li organizes an activity called "Run on Contract" on his group's official WeChat account. The activity requires enthusiasts to pay a deposit that they can only redeem once they have run as planned on a daily basis.
Fun running is not only a new way for enthusiasts to relax and socialize, but a way to encourage more people to join in.
According to Guo Yayan, every National Day, many enthusiasts run together along a route designed based on the map of China in Jingcheng Park, Yinchuan, as a way to express their patriotism.
"My target last year was to run as long as 2020 kilometers. I eventually ran more than that and I think it will still be the case this year," said Guo.