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Chain-smoking marathon runner disqualified

A man who completed the race while smoking cigarettes displayed “uncivilized behavior,” race organizers have said

A 52-year-old athlete, identified in media reports as ‘Uncle Chen’, who chain-smoked his way through an entire marathon in China has been retroactively disqualified after race organizers determined his actions breached rules governing “uncivilized behavior.”

The cigarette enthusiast completed the Xiamen marathon on January 7 in a very respectable timeframe – three hours and 33 minutes.

His feat was made all the more remarkable after video footage from the race showed Chen puffing on cigarettes as he navigated the 26.2 mile course en route to place 574th out of more than 1,500 competitors.


However, the images – which quickly went viral online – appear to have led to Chen’s downfall and subsequent disqualification last week. It was determined by race organizers that his actions during the event violated rules governing “uncivilized behavior,” which prohibits runners from an array of activities – from defecating on the track to trampling flower beds.

“Uncivilized behavior 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,” article 2.12 of the Xiamen Marathon rules says.

The rule was implemented last year by the Chinese Athletics Association (CAA) as part of an effort to help promote healthy competition in Chinese society and to discourage smoking during athletic activities.

Chen, who has earned the nickname ‘Smoking Brother’, has previously garnered attention due to his tobacco habit, with photos of him smoking during the Guangzhou Marathon also appearing online. He completed that race in a time of three hours and 35 minutes – three minutes slower than his time in Xiamen earlier this month.

A year later, the chain-smoking Chen completed the Xiamen race – this time in three hours and 32 minutes. Bizarrely, it was noted in local reports in China that Uncle Chen only smokes during marathons – and keeps away from tobacco out of competition.


READ MORE: New Zealand to backtrack on radical tobacco plans

Chen’s smoking habit does not appear to have curbed his athletic prowess. It was noted by the Canadian publication ‘Running Magazine’ that he has competed in several ultramarathons, ranging from 50km (31 miles) in distance to 12 hours in duration.

Smoking is widely accepted in China, a country of around 300 million smokers – nearly one-third of the world’s total. More than half of Chinese men are tobacco smokers, according to the World Health Organization.

January 19, 2024 at 11:23PM


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