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April 20, 2023

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Home » District » Putuo

Half marathon explores Suzhou Creek’s culture and history

THE inaugural Shanghai Suzhou Creek Half Marathon will fire its starting pistol on Saturday in Putuo to highlight the district’s ambition to create a world-class “golden waterfront.”

An expected 4,000 runners would begin their 21-kilometer journey along the creek from the landmark structure Tian’an 1,000 Trees shopping mall, dubbed Shanghai’s “Hanging Gardens of Babylon.” They would run past the Shanghai Mint Museum, the Global Harbor shopping mall and Changfeng Park before reaching the finish line at the new Suzhou Creek Half Marathon Park.

The 125-kilometer creek, which flows from Shanghai’s suburban Qingpu District to downtown Waibaidu Bridge in Huangpu District, is the Huangpu River’s biggest tributary. The longest part of the creek is in Putuo, accounting for half of its downtown section.

The Suzhou Creek Half Marathon has been mapped out on the 21-km-long riverside section in Putuo, which aims to become a “sitting room” for the Yangtze River Delta region.

“The new half marathon event along the creek will highlight the comfortable living environment, health, vitality and inviting characters of the Putuo waterfront,” said Jiang Dongdong, Party secretary of Putuo.

The starting pistol for the event, with the theme of “Stunning Shanghai Style, Shining Suhe Vigor,” would be fired at 7am on Saturday. Runners are invited to experience the culture and history of the “mother river” of Shanghai, while enjoying the ideal natural environment along the creek.

Shen Haoze, a Sydney Marathon pacer and popular sports blogger known as Squid Shen, said a large number of fans on his Weibo microblog had asked him how to take part in the new half marathon in Putuo.

“The event is even more popular than the Shanghai Half Marathon,” Shen told a press briefing about the sports and cultural events planned along the creek later this year. The briefing was jointly hosted by the Putuo Culture and Tourism Bureau and Putuo Sports Bureau on April 15.

The Shanghai Half Marathon tops the list of the city’s most influential sporting events organized in 2021, according to a report issued by the Shanghai Sports Bureau and the Shanghai University of Sport.

“I think the creek is the major attraction for the new half marathon, and is the daily running course for many local runners,” Shen said. “The participants can fully enjoy the process of running rather than just race for medals.”

The entry fee for the half marathon is 150 yuan (US$21.82) per person, and the competitors would be decided through a draw.

According to the organizers, water stations would be arranged every 5 kilometers along the route. There would be four food supply stations, as well as water spray facilities to help runners cool down in case the temperature climbs high on race day.

The medal for the inaugural Suzhou Creek Half Marathon is in a rough shape of Putuo, as the whole route is run within the district. The R-shape route represents both “river” and “run,” according to the organizers.

The male and female champions of the event would win 15,000 yuan each.

Apart from prize money for the top six men and women’s finishers, the top 100 male runners and top 50 female runners would be awarded starting places in the 2023 Shanghai Marathon, which would be held in the latter half of the year.

Runners are recommended to self-check their health before registering. Any who had recovered from COVID-19 less than 30 days prior to the race were advised not to take part in the event.

Putuo has been constantly working to improve the water quality of the creek since the 1980s, and intends to develop the area into an ecological zone and ideal place for living, working and innovation.

The district now aims to develop its waterfront into a “golden waterway” for sports competitions to attract the world’s top sports events and draw global attention, according to the district’s culture and tourism bureau as well as the sports bureau.

Golden waterway for sports

Apart from the eye-catching half-marathon, a variety of sports competitions and cultural activities would be held on or along the creek through the end of 2023 to boost the city’s “riverside economy.”

More than 1,000 sports, cultural and tourism events have been announced for along the riverside section in Putuo.

The 2023 Shanghai Elite 10K Race, which has become one of the world’s top elite races, would be held on October 15. The route covers some of the signature landmarks in Putuo, including Changfeng Park and the half marathon park.

On the water, an urban elite regatta would be held in Putuo on April 29 to gather amateur teams from local enterprises, clubs and universities. It would become another key regatta on the creek in addition to the Head of the Shanghai River Regatta at the mouth of the creek.

Dozens of dragon boat teams would also race each other on the creek during Shanghai’s annual dragon boat competition between June 17 and 18, ahead of this year’s Dragon Boat Festival which falls on June 22.

The contestants would compete along a downtown section of the creek in Putuo, known as the “Crown of the Suzhou Creek.”

The Suzhou Creek dragon boat race was initiated in 2004 to highlight the results of a clean-up campaign on the waterway. It had become an important fixture in Putuo, as it showcased the city’s commitment to the environment and rapid urban development, according to the Putuo District government.

Other public sports competitions, including paddle boarding, frisbee, rugby and drone flying would invite citizens to compete along the creek through December.

The 2023 Half Marathon Suzhou Creek Culture and Art Festival will also be held from September to October 13, featuring more than 1,000 activities at cultural venues, shopping complexes, sightseeing spots and communities along the creek in Putuo.

As part of Shanghai International Arts Festival, the Putuo festival has become a popular attraction in the city and the Yangtze River Delta region.

The festival has been held for more than a dozen consecutive years and become a characteristic brand of the district’s public culture, attracting over 500,000 participants a year on average.

Since Shanghai opened its port in 1843, the creek has been the backdrop for dramatic landmarks in the city’s history. It was the scene of wartime suffering and the birthplace of China’s earliest national industries.

As Suzhou Creek passes through Putuo, it flows through the history of Shanghai’s growth into an industrial city. Waterfront redevelopment preserves that heritage.

Beginning in the first decade of the 20th century, Chinese entrepreneurs built national industries, including textiles, flour, beer, minting, printing and clothing manufacturing, along the most zigzag section of the creek, known as the “18 bays.”

Factories were established in what is now northwestern Putuo to take advantage of the creek’s convenient water transport.

A river of history and culture

Many of the former factory clusters were preserved by converting them into modern uses, including the now popular M50 art hub that opened in 2000 and the 2-year-old X Tower specialty park.

Walls and fences in parks and residential neighborhoods have been removed to allow convenient public access to the entire 125 kilometers of the waterfront, providing a continuous walkway from Qingpu to the confluence with the Huangpu River downtown.

“The ‘Half Marathon Suzhou Creek’ in Putuo is expected to become the west gateway to connect the Hongqiao international transport hub with Shanghai’s downtown area,” said Wang Zhen, vice president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

“The Hongqiao International Airport is like a low-lying lake which requires a waterway to introduce the resources to Shanghai’s downtown and Pudong as well as the upstream Taihu Lake,” Wang added.

Projects for cleaning up pollution in the creek and redeveloping its banks have been underway since 1998 after its industrial heritage left the creek’s water murky by the end of the 1970s.

Putuo district government launched the redevelopment of the waterfront in October 2018. Weedy, deserted backyards and illegal structures were the first targets of the project. The structures were demolished and the empty spaces have been filled with creative facilities like pocket parks and hubs for cultural industries.

The waterfront section known as Baocheng Bay was home to a fifth of China’s earliest textile factories, dating back to the 1920s. After 1949, the Shanghai No. 1, 6 and 7 cotton factories were located on the waterfront, along with a military warehouse for quilts and uniforms. The site, dubbed the “cradle of China’s textile industry,” became the popular X-Tower innovation park.

Several other industrial structures were also preserved, including a warehouse and pump house at 652 Changshou Road, which was built in 1922 by the Japanese Home & Foreign Cotton Trading Co and later taken over by Shanghai Textile Holding Co.

On Moganshan Road, M50 was one of the first and most notable cases of industrial heritage given a new lease on life as a cultural attraction. M50 straddles 24,000 square meters along the creek, with 50 buildings that were once home to enterprises such as the New China Textile Co. It is one of the best-preserved downtown industrial sites.

Putuo also plans to eventually have 25 service centers along its 21km section along the creek.

“Visitors to the waterfront will be able to find a public toilet every 500 meters,” said Xu Yijie, an official with the Putuo Construction Management Commission.

More amenities would be built beneath waterway bridges to revitalize still neglected areas, Xu said.


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