The 2020 Nanjing Marathon took place on Sunday in China, and the race doubled as the national championships and Olympic Trials. Peng Jianhua won the men’s race in a personal best (and course record) of 2:08:50, and Li Dan took the women’s win in 2:26:59, also a PB. In total, four men and four women ran under the Olympic standards of 2:11:30 and 2:29:30. The top four men, led by Jianhua, ran sub-2:10, a feat that only one other Chinese runner has accomplished since 2007.
As far as I can see not a single Chinese man did run a marathon sub2:10 during 2008-18. In today's Olympic Trials there were 3 + 3 sub2:13. https://t.co/BiGeJwNBEZ
— Lorenzo Nesi (@CoachLN) November 29, 2020
The women’s race
Dan finished in second place at the 2019 Chinese Marathon Championships, and this year she couldn’t be stopped as she ran toward the top step of the podium. She finished nine seconds ahead of Jin Mingming, who posted a time of 2:27:08, and more than two minutes ahead of third place Bai Li, who crossed the line in 2:29:10. Fourth place went to Pan Yinli, who also ran under Olympic standard in 2:29:19. All four women ran massive PBs, with Dan smashing her previous best by more than two minutes and Mingming and Li making massive six- and 10-minute improvements, respectively.
The men’s race
Like Dan, Jianhua finished on the podium at the 2019 championships, in which he placed third. He made massive strides this year, running the third-fastest time in Chinese history, just 35 seconds off the national record. Second place went to Yang Shaohui in 2:08:56, which is tied for fourth-best on the all-time Chinese list, and Duo Bujie ran to third in 2:09:03. Chen Tianyu finished in fourth in 2:09:55, also well under the Olympic standard. Each of the four men now occupy a spot on the top-10 list among Chinese runners, and they all ran PBs in Nanjing.
The 2020 Nanjing Marathon is set to get underway in #Nanjing, #Jiangsu province on Nov 29. Starting from Nanjing Olympic Sports Center, over 10,000 participants are expected to join the race, running past the city’s landmarks and through famous streets. Good luck! pic.twitter.com/Kk8SZ6LMhz
— Jiangsu, China (@GoJiangsu) November 25, 2020
A marathoning renaissance
Canada has seen a running and marathon renaissance in the past few years with the likes of Malindi Elmore, Cam Levins (both of whom have set national marathon records) and many other athletes. China appears to be experiencing a similar elite running boom, especially on the men’s side. In Beijing in 2007, Ren Longyun set the Chinese marathon record of 2:08:15. That same day, Gang Han ran what was, at the time, the second-fastest marathon in Chinese history at 2:08:56. After that, no Chinese man broke the 2:10 barrier for an entire decade.
Then, last year, Dong Guojian run sub-2:10 twice, including his PB of 2:08:28, just 13 seconds off the national record. Jianhua also broke 2:10 with a 2:09:57 run in December 2019. On Sunday, four men ran sub-2:10, and with the exception of fourth-place Tianyu (who just squeezed under the barrier by five seconds), they all crushed this mark. Running 2:08 marathons might not mean an athlete has a shot at an Olympic or world championship medal, but there’s no doubt that the Chinese team is getting faster, and it looks like the country’s national record could be at risk of being beaten, and soon.