2017-02-28 11:13:09

Shortly after one of the participants in the Xiamen International Half-Marathon crossed the finish line last year, he fell to the ground and later died. His wife is now suing the organizers on the grounds that he should never have been allowed to enter the race in the first place.

The man, surnamed Wu, had not registered with the marathon’s organizers but instead had procured his race number secondhand, which is not allowed. Moreover, he had received the number — F12530, with “F” standing for “female” — from a woman, making the organizers’ oversight even more glaring.

Wu was one of two runners who died in the marathon, held on Dec. 10, 2016, in the coastal city of Xiamen, in eastern China’s Fujian province.

In January, Wu’s wife, surnamed Liang, filed a lawsuit against both the marathon organization and the woman from whom Wu got his starting number, requesting 1.24 million yuan ($180,000) in compensation. The case was accepted by Xiamen’s Haicang District People’s Court on Wednesday.

Liang’s lawyer, Li Yonglü, told Sixth Tone that everyone involved in the transfer of the race number — including the organizers, officials at the starting line, and the woman whose number it was originally — should bear legal responsibility. “It’s easy to identify the participant’s gender by their registration number,” he said. “However, before Wu finished the race, nobody stopped him.”

Li said he has more than 17 years of experience running marathons himself, and that this case has exposed problems caused by the increasing popularity of such races. In 2014, 51 marathons were organized around China, with some 900,000 total participants. In 2016, those numbers leaped to 328 races and nearly 2.8 million runners. “This case has a warning effect. The development of marathons needs to be regulated,” Li said.

The running craze has given rise to a lively online market for race registration numbers. Zhang Wen runs a shoe store in Shanghai and is an avid amateur runner. She told Sixth Tone that many people buy marathon starting numbers even though they’re not interested in running. “They sign up for the race and sell their registration at a higher price later,” she said.

On Xianyu, a secondhand transaction platform owned by internet giant Alibaba, several pages of search results can be found for people looking to buy or sell a place on the starting line.

One woman who had signed up for a marathon in Chengdu, a city in southwestern China, said she could no longer attend due to a scheduling conflict. She put her registration up for sale for the original price of 200 yuan. “But you cannot change the name,” the woman said when Sixth Tone approached her posing as a potential buyer. “Even if you win a prize, it’s mine.”

(Header image: Runners begin the Xiamen International Half-Marathon, Xiamen, Fujian province, Dec. 10, 2016. Chen Lijie/VCG)