- Race Name: Beijing Hyundai Marathon
- Date: September 17, 2016
- Country: China (7th country)
- Start Time: 7:30am
- Cutoff Time: 6 hours
- Hotel: Pentahotel Beijing (4 stars)
- Size: 30,000
- Course: Urban point to point
- Scenery: Urban, Tiananmen Square start
- Hills: Flat course
- Water Stops: Well staffed; water, energy drink, food, sponges
- Bathrooms: Squat toilet port-a-potty (no tp)
- Crowd Support: Decent
- Registration: Not easy. Instructions in English and some Chinese.
Most international runners will fly into PEK then take the airport train to Dongzhimen to access the Beijing subway. I flew Hainan Airlines Business Class, via Boston, and arrived in Beijing around 9pm. The business class cabin was 1/3 full and being among the first to disembark helped me clear immigration quickly.
I stayed at the Pentahotel Beijing (4-star), near the Chongwenmen subway stop, and moved to Sanlitun after the race. The Pentahotel is walking distance to Bianyifang (duck) and there is a Dadong location in Sanlitun. Eat at one of them.
I could not find many English reviews of the Beijing Marathon and wasn’t sure what to expect as a runner (or as a tourist in China). Online registration was a bit difficult to navigate, but questions were promptly answered on twitter.
Packet pickup was in a convention center near the finish line (olympic village) and you must bring a special piece of paper. This paper is called the “Race Items Collections Certificate” and it’s available on the race website. Packet pickup for 30,000 people is an event in and of itself and lots of western and Chinese brands were selling merchandise.
The Beijing Marathon course weaves through the city and, in 2016, the marathon started at 7:30am with a six hour cutoff. The race started at Tiananmen Square and finished in the Olympic Village north of the city. I recommend using the Qianmen stop south of the square to get to the start line. It’s tempting to use the stops at Tian’anmen West or East but don’t. You are only allowed to enter the square from the south on race day. There are lots of people and security so it will take a while to walk around (or you can start jumping fences).
Security made me throw away liquids before entering the starting pen (I did not check any bags). This was a big surprise since I like to start with an emergency bottle of water. Luckily, refreshment stations were spaced every 3kms. They were all well stocked and equipped with porta potties.
The US Embassy listed the air quality as “unhealthy” on race day with a PM2.5 reading of 162. The PM2.5 scale measures particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less. The scale goes from 1-226 and (for reference) Los Angeles peaked at 78 on that same day. I wore a bane mask to protect my lungs but it ended up soaked in sweat so I tossed it around the halfway mark to end the sensation of being water boarded.
Beijing was 68 degrees (F) and mostly cloudy at the start of the race. This was warmer than I had hoped but Beijing was hit by a heatwave about a week before the race so it wasn’t unexpected.
The start area is full of modern Chinese history and there plenty of great photo opportunities. After about ten minutes the course becomes a mundane urban marathon. The 4km stretch between markers 12 and 16 runs along the Kun Yu River and was one of my favorite parts of the race. The last ten kilometers take runners through Olympic Forest Park and the Olympic Village. It was a peaceful place to run but weaving through the course made the race seem unending.
After I crossed the finish, a group of volunteers handed me my medal and asked me how I was feeling and where I was from. I did not see many foreigners running the race (or in the crowd) so I’m pretty sure this was “special treatment”. Regardless, it was a really nice touch and a great example of my many wonderful experiences in China. I enjoyed my time in China much more than I expected and hope to visit again soon.