6,000 runners in Shanghai welcome 2021 with half marathon
Bu Yihan
Runners in action during Run The Track in Shanghai, China, January 1, 2021. /Run The Track

Runners in action during Run The Track in Shanghai, China, January 1, 2021. /Run The Track

The Shanghai International Circuit, known as the home to Formula One's Chinese Grand Prix, has a tradition of opening the new year with half marathon Run The Track. The 2021 edition that happened on the first day of 2021 was notable due to strict COVID-19 protocols.

The seventh staging of Run The Track featured 6,000 racers, who all underwent coronavirus nucleic acid tests beforehand.

The participants also included a 32-person group designated as "protectors." They are medical workers who made extensive contributions to China's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, such as event first-time participant Cui Zhiyong, who was on the front lines in the city of Wuhan.

"The year of 2020 was special for all of us, but thanks to the efforts of our people, the pandemic is under control in China, and life is mostly back to normal," said Cui, who looks forward to begin 2021 with a new start. "This is my first time participating in Run The Track, and I hope to open the new year with a fresh beginning, and a new start."

In the elite group, Wang Hongwei crossed the line first in 1:07:45, breaking the race record and claiming his third straight men's title, while defending champion Zhang Hongyan earned top honors on the women's side with a time of 1:13:21.

Three-time champion Wang cherished the chance to compete during the pandemic.

"In 2020, we did not have many chances to race, so I felt a little bit depressed while training, but Run The Track has now given me a chance to compete. I prepared for for a month, and my goal was to break the event record, which I have now achieved."

Besides the pandemic, the organizers also faced the challenge of a sudden cold snap, as the temperature in Shanghai fell to minus two degrees Celsius, prompting the quick rollout of measures to keep the runners comfortable.

"This is the first time in many years that a sudden temperature drop has happened in Shanghai. We have prepared hot drinks and some cold protection gear for the competitors, after also simplifying the check-in procedures, in case participants are waiting too long to run," said Liu Hui, the event's co-organizer. "I think that with the whole country now under regular epidemic prevention and control, we need to use digital measures to increase efficiency, and improve services."

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