Chinese marathon couple share their love of running

Every morning at 4 o'clock, 84-year-old Hu Yingfu and 75-year-old Wang Zhangmin from Hefei, east China's Anhui Province will gear up, head out and run for 10 kilometers as their wake-up exercise. They have been doing this for decades and nothing has ever stopped them – not aging or the cold in winter.

Having been married for 54 years, Hu and Wang have finished more than 100 marathons all over China.

In their earlier years, both were haunted by various health problems. Hu suffered from gastroptosis and tracheitis; Wang vomited often and had persistent diarrhea because of her stomach trouble. One day, Wang followed her friend's suggestion and began to jog as exercise.

It did not take Wang too long to realize that running helped her shake off health problems she had suffered for decades. After Hu retired in 1997, he followed his wife's example to make strides on the track as well, which in turn fixed his gastroptosis.

In 2004, 58-year-old Wang attended a national 1,500-meter race for senior citizens and was the fourth to cross the finish line. Since then, the couple started signing up for every running competition they could find. Soon they wanted to try something even more challenging, and what could be a better choice than a marathon?

In 2011, Wang and Hu ran their first full marathon in the Shanghai Inter National Marathon. Seventy-four-year-old Hu had bloody toes by the time he was midway through, but still managed to finish the 42.195 kilometers race in four hours and 18 minutes.

"There is a process doing everything. I began to feel the fun after finishing several marathons. That sense of accomplishment is remarkable," said Hu to Xinhua News Agency. "I was always top 3 of my group at 70s. Many who are younger than me lost to be."

Having left their footprints in most of the marathon tracks in China, the couple cannot remember how many medals they have won. However, both Hu and Wang are convinced that it's their pursuit of fun, health and confidence that keeps them running. 

Running has also added more vibrancy into their lives. Hu and Wang made a lot of new friends through participating in marathon events. For example, Wang Hongcai, vice-president of the Hefei Marathon Sport Association (HMSA), said he only began to run marathon due to the encouragement of Hu and Wang.

"I used to be 95 kilograms, now I'm 65. Running healed my hypertension which I fought for three years with medicine," said 52-year-old Wang Hongcai. He also revealed that the total number of registered members of HMSA went from fewer than 100 to more than 4,000 thanks to role models Hu and Wang. 

In 2017, Hu and Wang attended the Beijing International Marathon to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, which in China is also known as "Golden Marriage." That day was also Hu's 80-year-old birthday. Though Wang had sprained her leg one month earlier, she still managed to finish the competition.

The organizing committee prepared a special gift for the couple. Their numbers were 13520 and 14520. In Chinese, "520" sounds similar to "I love your" while "13" and "14" combined together sounds like "my whole life."

One of Wang's favorite sayings is "Life is a marathon." The sport has been there as he and his wife support each other and move forward with their lives. "Every marathon finished is another 42.195 kilometers extended for our love," said Hu, whose goal is to become the world's oldest marathon runner. "As long as our hearts beat on, we will keep running."

posted Tuesday February 16th