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SHANGHAI: Around 9,000 runners -- some wearing face masks -- took part in the Shanghai International Marathon Sunday, Chinese media said, a rare mass event in a year when coronavirus laid waste to most such sport. Prior to the race officials touted it as an opportunity to show how China -- where the virus emerged late last year before unleashing a pandemic -- is moving ahead despite the continuing global health crisis.

The prestigious New York, Berlin, Boston and Chicago marathons all fell victim to coronavirus this year, while London and Tokyo were open only to elite runners. Bucking that trend, the Shanghai marathon went ahead under sunny skies following several days of rain, and with virus prevention measures in place to thwart infections.

Shanghai is on edge following a scattering of recent local cases, but China has largely got to grips with the epidemic thanks to strict lockdowns and aggressive mass testing. Runners had to pass a coronavirus test in order to take part and were ordered to wear a mask immediately before and after the race. Some kept them on the whole time. About 9,000 runners had been expected to take part, down from 38,000 in previous Shanghai marathons. No overseas athletes flew in for the race and spectators were told to stay away.

Distance running is booming in China, with state media saying there is "marathon fever". In February, when the country was shut down by the pandemic, one fanatical runner jogged the equivalent of an ultra-marathon inside his small apartment.