Saturday, December 2, 2023

365 days later: the phenomenon of Uncle Chen and his chain-smoking marathon


It’s been a yr since Canadian Operating broke the tale of Uncle Chen, who ran a three:28 marathon whilst chain-smoking cigarettes. To rejoice the anniversary, right here’s some behind-the-scenes data on how the tale happened, the aftermath, and the place Uncle Chen is now.

Uncle Chen
Photograph: Weibo

The way it happened

Generally, come November to January within the working season, occasions and races in North The us have bogged down, and as a author, I’m all the time searching for the following giant tale to entertain our readers. I noticed that China had a couple of marathons in early November, so I made up our minds to seek for the phrase “marathon” in simplified Chinese language on the preferred social media app Weibo.

Inside seconds, I noticed a put up of a person lights a cigarette in the course of the Xin’anjiang Marathon, accumulating masses of feedback and stocks. On the time I assumed it was once humorous, however I had no concept what would come of it. I had the similar response as you (most likely) while you first learn the tale. The idea that of a runner smoking cigarettes throughout a marathon and working neatly is hilarious and implausible. I needed to examine.

I found out it wasn’t the primary time Uncle Chen have been lights it up mid-marathon. I spent the day translating paperwork and effects from simplified Chinese language to English and located his identify, earlier pictures and bodily result of him smoking throughout races previous to the 2022 marathon. That’s once I knew we had one thing particular on our fingers.

The aftermath

When the tale was once printed on Nov. 14, 2022, it all started to make its rounds on Fb and Twitter and inside an afternoon or two it was once on each information web site you have to call to mind: Trade Insider, Golfing Digest, Barstool Sports activities, New York Submit, International Information and extra. I had a number of information companies contacting me to talk to Uncle Chen, who gave the impression to be afflicted through the recognition his stunt were given in North The us.

I reached out to Chen and his niece. Chen didn’t reply, and his niece despatched us a message by the use of translation that it was once frowned upon to have this reputation in overseas media–that it was once seen in China as atmosphere a nasty instance.

Inside two weeks of the tale being launched, the Chinese language Athletic Affiliation (C.A.A) issued a suggestion recommending that every one Chinese language marathons ban smoking. The proposal was once installed position to advertise wholesome participation and to forestall other folks from smoking at road-running occasions. The C.A.A. wrote that those that fail to agree to the contest laws will have to be disqualified.

The place is Uncle Chen now?

Uncle Chen has been flying beneath the radar since breaking the Web ultimate yr, however to our wisdom, he’s nonetheless very eager about his native working scene. Chen serves because the co-founder of the Zhejiang Xianju Street Operating Affiliation and the Zhejiang Provincial Marathon in his homeland of Taizhou Town. Consistent with Chinese language media Nandu, Chen nonetheless likes to smoke and run, however it’s his private selection to take action.

Native media reportedly attempted to touch Uncle Chen a number of instances, however he has declined to speak about smoking or his marathons, hopes his reputation will fade over the years and didn’t wish to lengthen issues through talking about his accomplishment.


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