Yang Xiuyun (L) is running along the Ganjiang River. (Photo courtesy of Yang Xiuyun)
A 72-year-old Chinese marathon runner is relishing her life as a race against time.
NANCHANG, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) — Yang Xiuyun, 72, is addicted to running. A 10k run in the morning is like her first meal of the day.
Before her retirement, Yang was a breeder at Chaoyang Reclamation Farm in Nanchang, east China’s Jiangxi Province. At that time, she did not know what a marathon was, but now, she has run nearly 40 marathons, not only participating in China but also in Helsinki, Finland.
“Life is like a marathon. I’m just racing against the clock,” said Yang, who has been running consistently for 22 years. The old lady has short hair and speaks as fast as she runs.
When she retired, Yang suffered from kidney stones. The doctor said that if she did not have surgery, she could only recover by taking medicine and exercising. At that time, Yang often saw people running along the Ganjiang River, no matter whether it was windy or rainy.
One morning, Yang went out for a walk and met this group of runners again, who ran together and cheered each other on. Seeing Yang’s envious look in her eyes, the runners warmly invited her to join.
“At first, I was afraid that I would become a drag on this group of young people, but they accepted me with great enthusiasm.” From 5km running to 10km, 20km, and finally the full marathon, the distance that Yang measured with her feet became longer and longer. At the same time, she also met a group of friendly runners.
“There are some older runners, but most of them are much younger than me, they call me ‘Sister Yang’, which is a young name,” Yang said with a smile. Now she feels empty if a day passes without seeing her runner friends.
Yang Xiuyun (M) and fellow Chinese participants pose for a photo ahead of the Helsinki Marathon in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Yang Xiuyun)
Running day after day has also brought changes to Yang’s body and mind. To the doctor’s surprise, her kidney stones, which were initially the size of broad beans, disappeared after several years of running.
Yang used to work in a noisy and messy environment for a long time, and she became tired after work, but running changed her. In 2006, Yang joined the Nanchang Distance Running Association and became one of its first members.
In 2011, Yang signed up for the Shanghai Marathon, but she was not satisfied after finishing in five hours. Since then, she found professional running teaching videos to adjust her running movements. During morning exercises, she also asked other runners to help her correct her posture and find out what she did not do well.
In 2012, Yang suffered from varicose veins in her right leg and suspended running after the surgery. Many runners thought Yang would stop, but after three months, she appeared at the edge of the Ganjiang River in the morning.
Yang qualified to run the Hangzhou Marathon in 2016. After five years of professional training, she ran for four hours and 20 minutes, aged 66.
“To be able to participate is a victory. After running for many years, I understand that running a marathon is not about competing with others, but about competing with myself,” Yang said.
In 2019, Yang signed up for the Helsinki Marathon with her running friends. “When I finished the whole course and saw many foreigners giving me a thumbs-up sign, I thought I was great. We Chinese old ladies are not only good at square dancing!” quipped Yang.
By the side of the Ganjiang River, they continue to break their limits. In addition to Yang, 67-year-old Xu Zhiyuan, whose monthly mileage is more than 300 kilometers, said that he always forgot his age in running. Yu Haohua, 72, runs four times a week for nearly 10 years, and his occasionally high blood sugar has returned to normal.
This past summer, driven by Yang, her two sons and two grandsons ran along the river every day, and three generations running in the crowd formed a different landscape.
“Now it takes me nearly an hour and a half to run 10 kilometers, my steps are slower, but I will never stop,” Yang said. ■