Dream chaser has the world at his feet

Updated: 2015-05-07 16:09 By Yan Weijue

Dream chaser has the world at his feet

It is always enjoyable to witness something great happening in the sports world, where athletes – whether they're megastars or underdogs - push themselves to the limit again and again and eventually break the boundary.

Chen Penbin, an ultra-marathoner, is poised to become a new inspiration in China as he is undertaking an arduous task – to run 100 marathons in a row in 100 days.

Dream chaser has the world at his feet

The so-called Challenge100 campaign kicked off in Guangzhou on April 2, and plans to go all the way through Fujian, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Shandong, Hebei, Tianjin to Beijing on July 10.

Chen sat down with China Daily's website in Fuzhou, the 24th stop of the journey, on April 25, and shared his thoughts on the "mission runnable".

"My team suggested me start with 60 marathons in 60 days to beat the previous world record of 50. But I thought I can do more, so I said 'how about 100'."

Robust and extroverted, the 37-year-old marathoner exudes an air of self-confidence, which resonates with the campaign's motif – be unswerving.

"You must be persistent in order to be successful. I've been running for 15 years and as you see my life has changed a lot," he said.

Chen was born in a small town in southern Zhejiang province. He had a nine-year career as a fisherman which helped him build a strong body along with an unusual stamina.

Taking advantage of his physical prowess, Chen started participating in a slew of endurance competitions in 2001 and won numerous titles.

He rose to a global fame on Nov 21, 2014, after winning a 100km run at the South Pole, which makes him the first person to compete in ultra-marathons in all seven continents.

"I take a lot of pride in seeing the Chinese national flags overseas. So I made up the mind in 2009 that I would run ultra-marathon across the world to show them what Chinese people are capable of. And I put the words into practice after four and a half years."

Chen's current challenge of 100 consecutive marathons may be no match for the world tour in terms of the global impact, but it boasts much bigger visions – to boost the morale of Beijing in its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and to promote national fitness.

"I hope more and more people will join me in running. It doesn't matter whether you only run 100 or 200 meters every day. Just start running. It will keep you healthy and fit. "

Hundreds of volunteers have fervently responded to Chen's call by running with him along the route. The campaign's organizer has also invited many guest stars to pitch in.

Retired Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming, who was among the first guest stars in Guangzhou, said: "pushing the envelope is what sports is about. I believe Chen has a strong heart to help him run with a concentrated mind."

Dream chaser has the world at his feet

Q: There are so many extreme sports items out there. Why did you choose ultra marathon?

I've tried other items such as push-ups, triathlon, and mountain adventure before turning to ultra marathon. I think it suits me best. And the results speak for themselves. It is like job seeking, you often have to hop from one to another before you find the right one.

Q: Is there any stop on the route that you are looking forward to?

I've been away from my hometown (in Yuhuan county, Zhejiang province) for a long time. I hope more people will show up when I reach it. They can enjoy the beautiful countryside and taste the seafood.

I also look forward to the final stop in Beijing on July 10. It means a dream come true. I don't know what will happen on that day. Only time will tell.

Q: It is the 25th day of the Challenge100. How are you holding up? Have you run into any obstacles on the route?

I feel OK generally speaking. I did have some problems in Guangzhou, yep, the starting point. It was unbearably hot and I almost had a stroke after 7 or 8 kilometers. I had to keep re-hydrating all the way. It was really exhausting.

My knee got hurt on the 4th stop from Dongguan to Shanwei. It was an old injury. I nursed it at night and managed to recover in time.

Q: You are now in Fujian province. How do you like Fujian? Any great memories here?

Fujian has some wonderful landscapes. I like what they do with the greening work, especially those towering trees.

I saw white dolphins for the first time in my life when I was running in Xiamen. I was a fisherman for nine years and I've never seen that before, so it was very impressive.

I also remember flowers in Fuzhou and loquat trees all over the mountain in Yunxiao.

Q: There are some who say that the Challenge100 is just for show. How do you respond to that?

They are right. We are staging a show to raise public attention. I am happier to know more people are discussing this event. That's what we are after – to influence more people.

The critics never really affect me. Just be yourself.

Q: Do you have any idols in any field?

Not really. I think every one is equal and there is no need to following other's footprint. You have to make your own way. That is the only right choice. I am driven by my dream and guided by a good character.

Q: Some rookie runners quit early because of laziness and lack of basic skills. Do you have any tips for them?

They probably will have a sore leg and be stressed out at the beginning. I suggest they take it slow by starting with a 30-minute brisk walk every day. After three months you will clearly find that your conditioning has improved. Then you can start running.

Dream chaser has the world at his feet

It seems that all of a sudden everyone is running. Brisk runners are commonly seen on streets in the early morning and at twilight. And if you are active on social media, you must have seen more than a few friends post their running records, showing off their new running gear or announcing their first ever marathon. So why has running spiraled into a mania in recent years? Lin Kunyi, former executive editor-in-chief of Front Runner magazine, weighs in on the issue.

"First, the economy in China has improved. When people become more affluent, they have a higher demand for health and fitness. And running is more economic than other exercises like cycling and swimming, since it doesn't need any special equipment or facilities."

"Second, the sports industry has thrived because more people are willing to spend money on fitness. Both foreign and domestic sports brands have put major efforts into promoting running. "

"There are more marathons in China. Sometimes the registration is more competitive than the race itself. Under these circumstances, it's becoming fashionable to join the army of marathoners."

Dream chaser has the world at his feet

"Social media also plays a vital role in popularizing running. At first there were probably one or two of your friends posting their running records on Weibo or WeChat. Then gradually all of them are doing so. It is like a viral effect."

"Last but not least, running can nurse a variety of needs. Some run for fitness, some to make friends, or reduce stress, some for entertainment and some for just show. No matter what goal you have, you can obtain it through running."

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