HARBIN, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- As a shot was fired beside a vast cornfield on Sunday in Yilan County in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, some 3,300 runners crowded onto a track. Included in that number were more than 500 farmers, together with athletes and other amateurs.
Runners of all ages from all walks of life went across the field as fast as they could, holding a shared belief that it counts to take part and hold on but not to win. The event's tagline was the "harvest-celebration marathon."
Sun Fuquan, 70, a farmer from Baotian Village, told Xinhua he kept fit by jogging and walking briskly. He finished a 6-km race in 40-plus minutes. Although lacking entertainment in the past, his village has recently seen an increase in art performances, square dancing shows as well as various sporting events.
Sun said he appreciated the performances, but he still felt upset about being in the audience, since he failed to take part in the activities.
"I'm not running for fame or a bonus, I'm just trying to gain vigor with my age," he smiled, adding that his village has also become livelier as the local farmers integrate with urban life.
Sun was encouraged by a fellow villager Niu Jingyang, a marathon fan. Niu said with the improving living standards, many rural youth have better conditions to build a strong body - a task as important as farming for them.
"The Yilan government plans to augment the application rate of culture and entertainment facilities to 80 percent in three years and to organize culture and sports activities at least three times per year," said Li Quan, head of the Cultural Promotion office in the county.
September 23 this year marks China's inaugural Farmers' Harvest Festival set to celebrate the harvest season and the hard-workers in the field.