Chinese Marathoner Uncle Chen Disqualified From Marathon For Chain-Smoking During Race

Known as the "Smoking Brother," Uncle Chen can still run a decent marathon despite his mid-race chain-smoking


After a two-year hiatus from the headlines of the running world, Chinese marathoner Uncle Chen made a noteworthy comeback at the 2024 Xiamen Marathon on January 6. 

However, Chen’s return did not unfold as planned, as he faced disqualification for chain-smoking throughout the race, marking a dramatic end to his triumphant return.

Affectionately known as the “Smoking Brother” in China, Uncle Chen crossed the finish line in three hours and 33 minutes, a time slightly slower than his 3:28 finish at the 2022 Xinanjiang Marathon two years ago, suggesting his smoking habits may be beginning to affect his performance.

Photos circulating on the Chinese social media app Weibo depicted Uncle Chen with a cigarette in his mouth during the Xiamen Marathon. The images garnered attention, with comments referencing an official ban on smoking in marathons in China issued two years ago. 

Chinese Marathoner Uncle Chen Disqualified From Marathon For Chain-Smoking During Race 1
Photo Credit: Weibo

Despite the ban, Uncle Chen maintained an above-average marathon pace, seemingly indifferent to other runners who did not appear concerned either.

The Xiamen Marathon organizing committee later issued a statement announcing Chen’s disqualification based on a violation of the rules and regulations of the Xiamen Marathon, specifically Article 2.12. 

“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.”

The decision aligns with the Chinese Athletics Association’s (C.A.A.) efforts to promote healthy participation and eliminate smoking during road-running events, especially considering the blossoming running culture in the region over the last few years. 

Last year, the C.A.A. implemented a proposal specifying that non-compliance with these rules would result in disqualification.

Chinese Marathoner Uncle Chen Disqualified From Marathon For Chain-Smoking During Race 2
Photo Credit: Weibo

Uncle Chen has gained popularity over the last few years for his unconventional practice of combining chain-smoking with running, a habit he has somehow maintained for several years. 

His smoking antics while running first came to light at the 2018 Guangzhou Marathon and the Xiamen Marathon in 2019, where he finished in 3:36 and 3:32, respectively, after photos of his chain-smoking while running surfaced on social media. 

Alongside completing marathons, Uncle Chen is also an ultramarathoner, and has even successfully completed events ranging from 50 km to 12 hours.

Uncle Chen’s comeback takes an unexpected turn with a disqualification, changing policies to China’s marathon regulations in addressing unconventional practices.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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