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Chain-smoking runner disqualified in marathon return

The marathoner's smoking 3:33 comeback burns out

Uncle Chen Xiamen Marathon Photo by: Weibo

After a two-year hiatus from the running world, Chinese marathoner Uncle Chen made his triumphant return at the 2024 Xiamen Marathon on Jan. 7. However, Chen’s comeback did not go as planned. Despite finishing the race in three hours and 33 minutes, he ended up being disqualified for chain-smoking throughout the marathon.

Known as the “Smoking Brother” in China, Uncle Chen’s time was five minutes slower than his 3:28 finish two years ago at the 2022 Xin’anjiang Marathon. It appears that the smoking habit may be taking a toll on the 52-year-old marathoner.

Uncle Chen smoking marathon
Uncle Chen at the 2024 Xiamen Marathon. Photo: Weibo

Photos of Chen posted on the Chinese social media app Weibo after the race brought more attention to his smoking during the event. The images circulated alongside comments citing an “initiative” issued by authorities two years ago that explicitly banned smoking in marathons in China. In the photos, Uncle Chen is seen with a cigarette in his mouth, while maintaining an above-average marathon pace, seemingly oblivious to other runners (who also do not appear concerned).

How fast could Uncle Chen run a marathon without smoking?

The Xiamen Marathon organizing committee later issued a statement announcing Chen’s disqualification for smoking during the race. The decision was based on a violation of Article 2.12 in the Xiamen Marathon rules and regulations, which states, “Uncivilized behaviour from runners such as open defecation, smoking, or trampling on flower beds or green spaces that affect the race and the safety of other runners will result in disqualification.”

In an effort to promote healthy participation and curb smoking during road-running events, the Chinese Athletics Association (C.A.A.) implemented a proposal last year, specifying that those failing to comply with the new rules at races would face disqualification.

Uncle Chen Xiamen Marathon
Photo: Weibo

Uncle Chen, known for combining his smoking habit with running, has been engaging in this unconventional practice for years. Photos of him smoking while running first surfaced at the 2018 Guangzhou Marathon and the Xiamen Marathon in 2019, where he finished in 3:36 and 3:32, respectively. Notably, Uncle Chen is also an ultramarathoner, having completed events ranging from 50 km to 12 hours.

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