Man Disqualified After Chain Smoking During Marathon For The 4th Time

Uncle Chen has faced yet another disqualification thanks to his hilarious habit of chain-smoking during races.

Man Disqualified After Chain Smoking During Marathon For The 4th Time

Image: DMARGE/Yale

After a week where pre-season F1 gossip and the Australian Open dominated headlines, it’s nice to see running get its time in the limelight… even if it’s thanks to a story as strange as this one: a 52-year-old Chinese long-distance runner, widely known online as ‘Uncle Chen‘, faced yet another disqualification thanks to his hilarious habit of chain-smoking during races.

The most recent disqualification came as a result of Uncle Chen completing the 26-mile race in an impressive 3 hours and 33 minutes… while flagrantly disobeying one of the race’s main rules which, given his chequered his tory in the sport, you’d expect him to be well aware of by now.

WATCH: Sydney Locals Begin ‘Marathon Murph’ World Record Challenge That David Goggins Would Love

In a statement posted on Weibo, marathon organisers confirmed his disqualification, citing a breach of rules and regulations that explicitly prohibit “open defecation, smoking, or trampling on flower beds or green spaces.”

Chen first gained viral fame two years ago when the above photo emerged of him running a race with a cigarette dangling from between his lips. Despite disqualification and the surrounding controversy, Chen has remained steadfast in his unconventional approach.

Previously, he has secured the 574th position out of over 1,500 runners in the 2022 Xin’anjiang Marathon which he completed in an impressive 3 hours and 28 minutes, a full five minutes faster than his recent attempt in the Xiamen Marathon.

Uncle Chen in full flow. Image: Business Insider

However, he’s been chuffing darts for a long time: Reports indicate that he was spotted puffing away during the 2018 Guangzhou Marathon and the 2019 Xiamen Marathon, demonstrating an admirably shameless disinterest in the rules and dedication to his own strange running style that apparently defies both logic and science as well as the sporting authorities.

Sohu, a Chinese news site, has previously quoted Uncle Chen justifying his smoking habit as a wholly unexpected means of combatting fatigue, claiming that holding a cigarette in his mouth allowed him to easily inhale while running, providing the stamina needed to keep going. Whether you believe it or not, you’ve got to love his commitment to the bit.

Is Smoking Good For Long Distance Runners?

We figure this goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: smoking is obviously terrible for your health. Here’s the CDC’s top-level explanation:

“Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.”


However, we did manage to find one study that makes the case for combining smoking and long-distance running; its argument can be summarised as follows:

  • 1. Serum hemoglobin is related to endurance running performance. Smoking is known to enhance serum hemoglobin levels and (added bonus), alcohol may further enhance this beneficial adaptation.
  • 2. Lung volume also correlates with running performance, and training increases lung volume. Guess what else increases lung volume? Smoking.
  • 3. Running is a weight-bearing sport, and therefore lighter distance runners are typically faster runners. Smoking is associated with reduced body weight, especially in individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (these folks require so much energy just to breathe that they often lose weight).

You might be wondering how such an argument made its way into a highly respected Medical Journal before filtering down into the blogosphere and, you’ll be relieved to hear, that the study was an exercise in showing “how you can fashion a review article to support almost any crazy theory if you’re willing to cherry-pick the right data”, rather than actually encouraging athletes to smoke.

Do you think Uncle Chen is a sporting anarchist paving his own way or a delinquent who needs to take the rules more seriously? The jury is out, and he shows no signs of slowing down…