Expat marathon runners: It feels exciting to run at home

Writer: Yang Mei  |  Editor: Liu Minxia  |  From: Shenzhen Daily   |  Updated: 2023-02-19

Video by Liu Xudong

Thomas Royet bought a pair of running shoes three years ago, hoping to run a race; however, he didn’t expect that today would be the first time to wear them for the HONOR • Shenzhen Marathon 2022, and he ran so intensely that he didn’t realize the shoes had worn out until he crossed the half marathon finish line. “My shoes are almost dead after running 21 kilometers. I bought them three years ago at the price of 2,100 yuan (US$306), so 100 yuan per km,” Royet joked after finishing the race with a time of one hour, 29 minutes and four seconds. Royet’s friend Richard Howard from the U.K. clocked in at three hours and 36 minutes for his full marathon race.

The HONOR•Shenzhen Marathon 2022 kicked off at 7:30 a.m. at the Civic Center in Futian District today. He Jie from China and Adula Askale Alemayehu from Ethiopia won the crown for male and female runners, respectively.

Thomas Royet shows his medal after completing the race today. Xu Shuntian

Thomas Royet's running shoes are worn out after finishing his half marathon race this morning. Courtesy of the interviewee

Richard Howard finishes his full marathon race in 3hrs and 36mins. Zhang Yu

For the two marathon racers who call Shenzhen their home away from home, it was exciting to run the Shenzhen Marathon again after three years of suspension due to the pandemic, especially when running in their home city. “There’s nothing like competing in your home race. It was nice to take part. We’ve had a long wait, but finally the Shenzhen Marathon is back, everyone is excited because suddenly we have this chance to run in our home city, and feel the love of the crowd, your friends and colleagues that gives you that extra support of a home race,” said Howard, who ran the Shenzhen Marathon in 2018 and 2019.

Richard Howard got himself a cool haircut featuring Chinese characters "深马" (meaning Shenzhen Marathon). Lin Jianping

Royet is an executive at a French company in Shenzhen and has been living in the city for 17 years. He didn’t miss a year to run the Shenzhen Marathon since he started running in 2015. Royet achieved his half marathon personal best with a time of one hour and 18 minutes in 2019. As an old friend with the Shenzhen Marathon, Royet enjoys running each time and gives a thumbs-up to the race event. “For me Shenzhen is my home. I’ve been here for 17 years, so it’s like running at home,” he said, “The event is very well organized and smooth. We start from the Civic Center and finish at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. It’s all places I often go to.”

Thomas Royet is in a process of a workout at F45, a gym in Shekou on Feb. 3. Liu Xudong

In order to better prepare for this year’s marathon and achieve their goals, the two runners did their best in daily running and strength training. Royet told Shenzhen Daily that he did running and physical training five or six times a week, which featured a 12-week-long training program and workouts with circuit, cardio and resistance trainings.

Thomas Royet (R) and Richard Howard at Shenzhen Bay Park on Feb. 1. Liu Xudong

The two runners see Shenzhen as a perfect city for running and sports in general thanks to its weather, landscape and first-class sports facilities. “Shenzhen is like a runner’s paradise. For example, the beautiful Shenzhen Bay is long enough to train for long distance. You’ve got world-class facilities for workouts in stadiums as well. If you want to challenge yourself, you can go to Nanshan Mountain or Tanglang Mountain,” said Howard.

Thomas Royet runs at Shenzhen Bay Park on Feb. 1. Liu Xudong

“It’s good for running because of the bay; not every city is like this. What I like the most about Shenzhen is the weather. It’s warm almost all year round, so there is nothing to stop you from exercising,” Royet said.

Thomas Royet (L) and Richard Howard pose for a photo at the Civic Center yesterday when they picked up the runner's packs. Lin Jianping

Running marathons brings runners a healthy life and takes them to different cities around the world. Over the past years, Royet has run 32 half marathons and 22 full marathon in different countries, and two-times a 100 km challenge in the desert. “I went to Paris, Morocco, Cambodia and Thailand. I like traveling and enjoying local food in different running locations,” he said. Over the past few years, Howard also participated in a dozen of marathons in China and abroad, including the 2021 Xi’an Marathon, Macao International Marathon 2022, London Marathon 2019, and Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2018.

Enthusiastic cheerleaders pose for a photo. Wang Haolan

Character performers are seen cheering for runners. Lin Songtao

As the international border has opened, the two runners have ambitious marathon plans for this year. “Now that the borders are open, it’s such great news. We can travel again. Now I’m just watching which race to join and I just want to register for all of them,” Royet said excitedly. Howard revealed that after the Shenzhen Marathon, he plans to go to Seoul in March and to Paris in April. Then he will travel to Chicago in October to complete his third major marathon and then finish his season in New York in November.