The human body is a marvelous machine and is occasionally capable of breathtaking feats. Every year there are new stories of people enduring incredible pain, like moms lifting entire cars to save their babies or someone getting into a terrible accident only to walk away entirely unscathed. While these may sound unbelievable, they only prove what each of us is capable when our minds focus. Case in point—a 50-year-old man recently finished a marathon while chain-smoking cigarettes throughout the race.
The New York Post reports that the elder runner, known as Uncle Chen, completed the Xin’anjiang Marathon in Jiande, China, last month. What’s more remarkable isn’t that he finished the race, but how well he did in it. Chen completed the 26-mile marathon in just three hours and 28 minutes. That’s a pace of one mile every eight minutes.
Need more to be impressed? Healthline claims that the average mile pace for a 50-year-old male is over 11 minutes. It means Chen trimmed more than 25 percent off the average pace. Plus, this chain-smoking runner finished in the top third of the race’s 1,500 participants.
And in case anyone was wondering, Chen was the only one lighting up during the marathon.
Of course, that’s not to say Nicotine should now be a health boon. The Cleveland Clinic confirms that smoking tobacco negatively impacts several aspects of the body, affecting physical performance and endurance. When someone inhales the smoke, less oxygen gets to their heart, lungs, and muscles resulting in reduced physical fitness and ability. It can cause inflammation in bones and joints that may contribute to other conditions like osteoporosis. And obviously, several cancers are also tied to the habit.
Now, smoking doesn’t appear to slow down Uncle Chen— even if it shortens his life. In fact, for whatever reason, he’s running faster while lighting up.
In 2018, he ran the Guangzhou Marathon and finished with a time of three hours and 36 minutes. Then in 2019, he competed in the Xiamen Marathon in three hours and 32 minutes. So, he recorded his best time with a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth.
Is smoking likely to be a new training tool for runners everywhere? Highly unlikely. But puffing away certainly hasn’t hurt Uncle Chen to date.