For the joy of running: Chinese champion shares his experience
As more and more Chinese embrace marathon running as part of a healthy lifestyle, it will become more important to ensure the general public is educated about the standards that have to be maintained. Renowned Chinese marathon athlete Li Zicheng is committed to doing it. Zhang Xingjian reports.
Born in Zaozhuang, Shandong province, Li has lived in the mountainous area since he was a child. He recalls enjoying the feeling of running in his childhood. In 2006, he was selected as a trainee for the Shandong Provincial Sports Team. His life then was simple and repetitive, until he heard about the marathon.
"At that time, lots of people had no idea about marathons. The limited information on the sport I got were just videos of the competition, and I noticed some top participants would get a rousing welcome when they arrived at the finish line," Li said. Filled with admiration, he wanted to experience a moment like that.
After taking advice from an instructor, he had a plan to make his dream come true. In 2010, he finished his first certified marathon in Shanghai and took second place.
The victory encouraged Li to train harder and learn more about the sport. Marathon was still in its infancy in China, so Li could only find information by surfing the internet.
"From reading news on the internet, I knew the marathon is one of the most popular sports in foreign countries," he said. "It is more than a game to many enthusiasts, but a lifestyle of their own."
In 2013, Li retired from the team due to physical injuries. After taking a yearlong break, he made up his mind to return to the professional path.
Achieving the best result in each marathon is the Holy Grail for participants, and so it is for Li. Luckily, good things come to those who wait.
So far, the 29-year-old has competed in a dozen standard marathon races, receiving honors and awards.
For example, Li has participated in more than 40 races in the past three years. In 2015, he even set a record, winning 42 games out of 45 competitions. Last year, he won 12 championships from 17 full marathons, and recorded the best result for Chinese half-marathons throughout the year.
"Running a marathon takes determination, courage, perseverance. It is an arduous undertaking that requires months of dedicated training," Li said.
After "retirement", Li has trained himself with great diligence.
"I act as instructor, develop my own training schedule and implement those plans one by one," Li told China Daily. "At first, I was not accustomed to the high-intensity training for more than 4 hours each day. Little by little, everything seemed to be fine."
In addition to having strict self-discipline, Li has also helped many marathon lovers improve their long-distance results. He also established his own running club to share his invaluable experience with anyone interested in marathon.
The Chinese Athletic Association announced the latest bid data for domestic marathons on March 11. The figures shows a total of 1,581 marathons and related events were held in China last year, with an average of 4.3 games taking place every day.
Meanwhile, the cumulative number of participants in domestic marathons has reached 5.83 million. It is clear China's middle class are the mainstream for the marathon craze.
Nowadays, middle-class people pay more attention to the healthy lifestyle, and invest some of their spending for their health.
With regard to the issue, Li said running a marathon is just like making a rational, steady and long-term investment. "You may not see the effects immediately, but the longer you insist on continuing, the better result you will get."
"Quite a few people have misunderstandings about marathons, and I have to let them know the truth," Li said. "Also, some of my club members have incorrect training plans, which may do harm to their health. I have to correct those plans."
Li also added the feeling of helping others is as fantastic as winning races.
In the coming days, Li is ready for the 2019 Beverly Wuxi Marathon, hosted by Chinese Athletic Association, Sports Bureau of Jiangsu Province, and Wuxi Municipal People's Government.
As one of the top marathons in the country, the 2019 Beverly Wuxi Marathon is supported by Yiren Wealth, a well-received online wealth management platform with strong and deep marathon culture, which will bring a team of a hundred runners to Wuxi Marathon on a consecutive sixth year.
The annual Beverly Wuxi Marathon has a special connection for Li, as the athlete won his first international champion there in 2015.
In the interview with Li, the athlete also says he is grateful for entities like Yiren Wealth who consistently offer strong financial and motivational support to the marathon — a reflection of their own entrepreneurships and a way to pass on the sport's spirit and culture.
"Each time I am in the process of finishing the game, my brain is filled with memories of tough training and effort I have made so far, and it is such a complicated feeling," Li said. "But happiness takes control over sorrows, always."
Thomas A. Edison said genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. Likewise, from Li's perspective, "being a top marathon runner requires some gifts, but persistence is