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UPDATED: February 13, 2014 NO. 7 FEBRUARY 13, 2014
Running for Fun
A growing number of people are turning to the sport to keep fit and socialize
By Yuan Yuan

IN ALL CONDITIONS: Exercise enthusiasts run in Beijing's Olympic Forest Park (CFP)

The first thing Chen Xiaohui does every morning is check the weather to make sure it is suitable to go out running.

Chen, General Manager of the Cheers Publishing Co. Ltd., works at the Shangdi Software Park in Beijing's Haidian District. He runs through the park every afternoon, sometimes alone but sometimes with coworkers or friends.

Chen remembers the date of his first run—November 29, 2012. On that day, he invited a running trainer, Tian Tongsheng, to deliver a lecture at his company on how much running can change a person.

"At that time, we were publishing a series of books on running, which we think will catch on in China," Chen said. During the lecture, Tian displayed two pictures of Yu Liang, CEO of China Vanke Co. Ltd., a leading property developer in the country. The pictures showed Yu before and after one year of running. "Yu looked totally different and a lot younger after running," said Chen, who was impressed enough to follow in Yu's footsteps.

When he started running, Chen weighed 86 kg and had some respiratory problems. "The doctors suggested I either got surgery or lose weight," said Chen, who thought losing weight sounded like an impossible mission at that time. The changes he saw Yu make in just one year gave Chen the confidence to try.

"The Shangdi Software Park is an ideal place for running as it is quiet and spacious," said Chen, adding that he now sees runners from other companies on his afternoon jogs. Most of the runners have started within the last year, according to Chen.

After one year of running, Chen lost 14 kg and felt much more energetic than before. In September 2013, he ran his first marathon in Yantai, east China's Shandong Province. He also participated in the Beijing Marathon last October and plans to go to Tokyo for its annual marathon that is due to take place on February 23.

In 2014, Chen plans to lose another 4 kg. "I am confident I can do it," Chen said. "The spirit of a marathon is to persist. As long as you don't give up, you will hit the finish line in the end."

A healthy lifestyle

Yu, the CEO of Vanke, began his running routine in 2012 with making preparations to climb Qomolangma, also known as Mount Everest. Yu's attempt was inspired by Vanke's Board Chairman Wang Shi, who had already reached the summit of Qomolangma twice—in 2003 and 2010.

Within one year, Yu lost 11 kg and in May 2013 he successfully made it to the top of Qomolangma.

"It was a great surprise for me and I shared my experience with running everywhere I went," Yu said.

In Vanke, fitness has been listed as one of the criteria for managers' promotion, prompting more workers to choose running as their means of exercising.

In 2011, Pan Shiyi, Board Chairman of SOHO China, another property developer in China, started to post his running progress on his microblog that attracted many followers.

"Running in the morning brings a good mood and good health," Pan said. "Now I have a better appetite and I sleep better. I feel pretty much relieved from the pressures of work."

Pan runs 10 km every day. He said that the first month is the most difficult for someone starting out. "As long as you don't give up in the first month, you will benefit from the exercise," he said. "It's best to invite friends to join and to encourage each other to persist."

In June 2013, Pan took part in a half marathon in Lanzhou, capital of his home province of Gansu in China's northwest.

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