Thu, Jan 02, 2014 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Running gains traction nationwide

By Lee Hsin-Yin  /  CNA, with staff writer

Wang Chen-kuo is very rarely absent from his weekly running club gathering on Tuesdays, when he and about 80 other runners circle downtown Taipei, kilometer after kilometer.

He has been a jogger for more than 30 years and does not like breaks in his running routine.

“I’m anxious when it rains on a Tuesday,” the 62-year-old said. “It feels like forever when it rains for hours and I can’t go running.”

Dressed as usual in a light yellow vest, Wang chooses to run in the opposite direction to the other members of the club so he can set and maintain his own pace.

Each year, he takes part in about 30 races, trying out different techniques, distances and types of terrain to improve his running skills.

In July, he logged 420km in 25 days in the sports brand Nike’s “Summer Night” campaign, which required participants to track their performance on four designated routes.

In recent years, more and more enthusiastic joggers like Wang are being seen in Taiwan, thanks to an increasing number of running events and better marketing strategies, according to people in the field of sports.

Chinese Taipei Road Running Association secretary-general Chen Hua-heng (陳華恆) said the number of running events in Taiwan skyrocketed to about 500 last year, compared with a few dozen annual events 20 years ago.

The association currently has 457,000 members, which suggests that one in every 50 people in Taiwan has participated in at least one of its running events.

“The events have become so popular that registering online [and filling up an event] can come down to a matter of seconds,” Chen said.

This is no exaggeration, as evidenced by the challenges encountered by people trying to register for the Color Run, a 5km non-competitive race and global event series that debuted in Taipei in September last year.

With about 90,000 applicants jostling for 13,700 spots available, the online registration system crashed and the organizers had to hold a lottery to select the participants.

Those who did not get into the fun race joined a parody event, organized by a local group, in which the runners were showered with potato flour instead of colored powder at stations along the course.

Competitive running events in Taiwan, such as the Taroko Gorge International Marathon and the Taipei International Marathon, have also been attracting strong participation in recent years.

Organizers are becoming more proficient at working with local governments and sponsors to create attractive promotional campaigns for various year-round running events, according to Chen.

However, the key to successful sports events is “branding,” said Essie Hu, general manager of Elite PR Group, the local promoter of the Color Run.

“Promoters have begun to realize that jogging needs to be perceived as a lifestyle rather than just a type of sport,” Hu said.

There are other advantages to be gained from promoting jogging, especially because health awareness is increasing across the nation, Chen said.

The percentage of Taiwanese who exercise regularly jumped from 18.8 percent in 2006 to 30.4 percent last year, according to a national survey by the Sports Administration.

In the survey, people who exercise regularly were defined as those who engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise three or more times a week, at a level that produces a heart rate of 130 beats per minute.

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