Chain-Smoking Marathon Runner Banned from Competitions for Promoting Unhealthy Habit

A Chinese marathon runner famous for chain-smoking during official running competitions has been banned by the athletic federation for two years for his “uncivilized” behavior.

Chen Mouxian, aka ‘Uncle Chen’, first made international headlines in 2022, when photos of him running in the Xin’anjiang Marathon went viral on social media. What drew people’s attention to the then-50-year-old experienced runner was that he always had a lit cigarette in his mouth, and kept lighting up as soon as he finished a cigarette. Dubbed “Smoking Brother”, Chen sparked controversy on Chinese social media, with some users praising his athletic abilities, and others criticizing him for promoting an unhealthy habit and also exposing other runners to harmful tobacco smoke. This month, Uncle Chen was banned from participating in marathons for two years after once again smoking his way through the 2024 Xiamen Marathon in Fujian on January 7th.

After a 2-year hiatus, Chen, who is reportedly the co-founder of the Zhejiang Xianju Road Running Association and the Zhejiang Provincial Marathon in his hometown of Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, was spotted during this year’s Xiamen Marathon with his trademark cigarette in his mouth, smoking all through the 26.2-mile (42.1-kilometer) race. He finished with a respectable time of three hours and 33 minutes, but the organizers were not impressed.

Following the controversy over Uncle Chen’s smoking habit two years ago, China’s Athletic Association (CAA) proposed a rule to ban athletes who engaged in smoking during official competitions. The CAA already had a rule for disqualifying offenders, which stated that “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,” but now his ‘dirty habit’ got him banned from any official marathons for the next two years.

Uncle Chen’s ban received positive feedback on Sina Weibo, China’s version of X (Twitter), with most users commenting that his smoking habit shouldn’t be associated with what is considered healthy activity and that this way other runners don’t have to breathe in his tobacco smoke during races.

“If a runner who can’t smell the smoke happens to take a deep breath when passing by someone who is smoking, it can be quite dangerous,” one person commented.

Smoking is unhealthy, that is not debatable, but can we acknowledge that this man has lungs of steel? Most people can’t finish a 26-mile marathon to save their lives, and this guy does it while breathing in carbon monoxide and whatever other poisons are in cigarette smoke. What a beast!