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One-legged marathon runner inspires many

By Tan Yingzi and Deng Rui in Chongqing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-24 08:14

Man with physical difficulty touches people with positive attitude and mighty endurance

It's a serious challenge for a fully able-bodied person to finish a marathon. Doing it on one leg goes beyond the remarkable and enters the realm of amazing.

With his right leg bent, Xiong Jun, 28, has hopped through 20 domestic marathons in the past five years, including a full marathon - 42.195 kilometers - at the 2013 Beijing International Marathon Tournament.

His exploits have inspired a lot of people, especially those with physical challenges, to participate in the sport.

"I love running," he said. "In the beginning, I just ran for myself. But now I find I can help others with my activities." What he calls running, others may call jumping or hopping.

One-legged marathon runner inspires many

Xiong was born into a farmer's family in Chongqing's Wanzhou district. The onset of cerebral palsy after birth left his brain and body seriously damaged. He couldn't speak until the age of 8. At age 14, after years of effort, he learned to stand on his left leg.

But he wanted to move, and faster. He began to practice jumping using only that left leg, but it was difficult at first to control his body. He fell countless times, breaking arms and teeth.

Three years later, Xiong was able to hop his way to school and participated in a rope-skipping contest.

In 2006, after graduating from a secondary technical school, he failed to find a job and started his own small businesses, including repairing shoes. But Xiong never give up jumping.

After meeting a coach from a local physical education school, Xiong got professional training for several months. But he had to quit to join his parents, who are migrant workers in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province.

In 2010, Xiong participated in his first running event in Wenzhou. There were only two categories: 5 km and 10 km.

"I begged the organizers for three days, and they finally gave me a berth in the 5 km competition," he recalled.

Xiong stole the show. He was one of the first 100 runners to complete the 10km match.

In the same year, he entered marathons in Hangzhou and Shanghai. Later, he traveled around the country for various contests, from Beijing to Lijiang, Yunnan province. He usually runs in the 5 km or 10 km categories.

With support from some running mates, Xiong signed up for a full marathon at the 2013 Beijing International Marathon Tournament and finished it in under six hours.

"It was very crowded and I couldn't jump well," he said. "After the Beijing race, my left leg hurt a lot for two months."

For Xiong, the biggest challenge in a marathon is the condition of the road. This year in Guiyang, Guizhou province, he fell during a race on a bumpy surface that was slippery because of rain.

"I also need more space for jumping," he said.

Xiong spends a lot of money on running shoes: "For me, a pair of good running shoes only last half a year. The heel will wear out very quickly."

Zhou Daoxiong, 45, is one of Xiong's running mates.

"He jumps much faster than I run with two legs. He is a great guy with a very positive attitude and mighty endurance," Zhou said.

Touched by Xiong's experience and spirit, a woman was attracted to him this year. He and his girlfriend now manage a breakfast stand in Wanzhou.

As a celebrity among runners, Xiong devotes himself to many charity activities on behalf of disadvantaged people. This year, he participated in a fundraising running event in Chongqing to support poor college students. In the coming year, he plans to lead a team of 20 to 30 disabled people driving electric wheelchairs from Chongqing to the Tibet autonomous region.

"I want to call on society to pay more attention to the disabled community and make their lives better," he said.

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(China Daily 11/24/2015 page7)

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