Up and running: Fitness, stress control and camaraderie
Running is not only a good way to reduce stress and improve physical and mental health, but it’s a also an excellent way to make friends and meet interesting people.
At the Minhang Sports Park, used by runners as a training base, people who jog often form small communities of runners. They often started running for different reasons, but in the end, they simply enjoy the exercise, the camaraderie and the encouragement they receive to test their limits.
So why all the passion for lacing up those sports shoes? We let several runners tell their own stories.
Wang Ping, 40
In 2014, a running event at the Minhang Sports Park called for volunteers to help out, so I did. It was a rainy day, but all the competitors were beaming from ear to ear, full of energy. Seeing them lit a flame under me. Several other volunteers and I were so inspired by their spirit that we decided to start running together. We have become friends ever since. Running is a gift that has made my life richer. It's amazing how such a simple thing can bring people together.
Because of running, I find I can contain anger and stress better. I feel at ease with daily life. I’m running toward a better me. I wanted to share this experience so I became a volunteer with a charity called “Be Your Eyes.” We help people with visual disabilities participate in marathons. I have been in the organization for two years, and I really am pleased to see what a difference we can make.
Yu Wenlan, 38
Like many women, I started running to lose weight. The university I attended required students to meet for assembly at 6 a.m. So I got up at 4:30 every morning and went out for a run. I lost 10 kilograms in just four months. I looked like a new person, and I felt more inner strength.
Women are tough in their own ways. Running might not be the most important part of my life, but it is an inseparable one. But between work and social obligations, I often found it hard to squeeze in time for running. So I bought a gym membership and forced myself to go there every night straight after work. And have kept up this habit for 18 years now.
People tell me that I look younger than my age and that I am even more beautiful than I was 20 years ago. As a mother of an 11-year-old, I have encouraged my son to join me on runs. He tends to be more artistic than athletic. He has been playing the piano and trombone since he was quite young. But I think boys need outdoor exercise. I figure if he has the willpower to endure a somewhat monotonous activity like running, then he can do anything. I accompanied him on a mini-marathon this year in Shanghai. He surprised himself by finishing 4.2 kilometers in 28 minutes. That triumph has encouraged him to carry on jogging.
That's the beauty of running. When you challenge yourself, you find yourself rising to the occasion. I’ll keep running because I want to be a role model for him.
Chen Ke, 37
In 2008, a friend entered my name for the Hangzhou marathon. I had no professional training and did little preparation. The first half of the race was enjoyable as I ran amid the cheers of the crowds on the sidelines. But, gradually, I couldn't move my legs anymore. I crashed halfway through the run and have to be transported out of the event.
As I rested at the finish line, waiting for my friend, I felt a new desire sweep through me. I wouldn’t let failure win out. I would conquer marathon running.
That’s how my jogging career began. I ran five kilometers a week, raising that to 10 eventually, and made sure that I ran three times per week
A year later, I was once again standing at the starting line of the Hangzhou marathon. It was November. This time, I was determined to cross the finish line – and did!
I confess there have been times in the past nine years when I thought about giving up running. Then, too, I also get crazy ideas, like running all the way from Jiashan to Shanghai. I’ve had moments of introspection, like when a young runner collapsed and died a mere 20 meters in front of me in the Hong Kong marathon. But I have continued to pursue the sport, though I now focus on enjoyment not speed. For me, running has become an integral part of my body and soul.
Qin Junrong, 37
After giving birth in my mid-30s, I felt my physical condition had deteriorated. I was always catching colds and feeling tired. So I began running. It really made a difference. I feel healthier and less downhearted. I am more astute mentally. Exercise is an excellent remedy for poor health.
Friendship is another benefit from running. I have become friends with people who jog at the same place. Running alongside friends in the morning, chatting as we go, gives my pace a relaxed feel. It’s the perfect reason to dispel those little devils on my shoulder that sometimes tell me to skip a run.
Our group of runners often goes out for meals together and even plans trips. I have travelled to Athens, Tokyo and Moscow to participate in races overseas. My wish is to explore more places with my feet.
Zhang Hui, 35
I am a policeman and perseverance is an important mindset for my work. Running has helped me improve my powers of concentration and determination.
In 2015, I started running after I found myself putting on weight. The first time I took part in a charity run, I was inspired by the spirit of the other participants. They were undaunted in achieving their goals – a trait essential for my work.
I set a goal of logging up 130 kilometers of running in May. At one time, that would have been impossible, but with daily exercise and encouragement from my friends, I accomplished what I set out to do. That’s the power of perseverance.