Twenty-three runners were hospitalized after problems suffered during a marathon event in Qingyuan in Guangdong province last Sunday, according to mainland media.
Of them, five were said to be in serious condition.
The problem arose as thousands of people took part in the race despite not being physically fit to join such events.
Of the nearly 20,000 runners, it was estimated that around 12,000 had problems such as spasms, sprains, bruises, faintness or stomach-aches, or even collapsed, during the race, local health bureau officials said, according to Tencent News.
As the news stunned many netizens, reports surfaced of some more bizarre happenings at the race.
Some people pointed out that many runners mistook soaps contained in gift boxes, given away by the event host, for cake and ate them, only to spit them out later.
Many soap bars with bite marks were found along the route of the 42.195 km race.
Meanwhile, the route was also littered with other kinds of garbage, including plastics cups and banana peels.
Netizens commented that all the race-related news shows that Chinese marathon runners have a lot to learn about health and fitness issues as well as civic-mindedness, Apple Daily noted.
The problem is worrisome as more marathon race events are expected to be held across China in the coming years.
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