For Liu Zhenqian, 54, running from Zhejiang province in eastern China to the Tibet autonomous region in the country's southwest was not only a test of physical endurance, but also a chance to experience the ups and downs of life.
On the afternoon of May 6, Liu arrived in Lhasa, the regional capital, after a 4,500-kilometer journey that began in November. "Along the way, we went through the hardships caused by both nature and the novel coronavirus outbreak. The experience was just like life-full of twists and turns but with a bright ending," Liu said.
Born in Wuhu, Anhui province, Liu runs a costume design studio in Tongxiang, a city in Zhejiang.
A veteran ultramarathon runner, he got the idea of running to Tibet two years ago, but didn't have the opportunity until November when business was slow.
Liu said he is fanatical about running and hoped his adventure would encourage more people to adopt a healthy, active lifestyle.
His preparation for the journey included physical training and running several marathons.
He was also given financial support by the Wenzhou Chamber of Commerce, business associations and other runners.
Liu's wife and a friend accompanied him in a vehicle, cooking his meals and tending to his needs along the way.
The team set off from Wuzhen, Zhejiang, on Nov 17, and traveled on National Highway 319.
"I chose Wuzhen as the starting point because it is a charming ancient town in East China and has international recognition as the permanent site of the World Internet Conference," Liu said.
He planned to run a full marathon every day, about 42 kilometers, and arrive in Lhasa by March.
However, the novel coronavirus outbreak stalled his trip."We had to go back to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, due to the virus as we couldn't get enough food supplies when the shops closed," Liu said.
The team stayed in Chengdu from Feb 5 until the middle of March. Liu was worried his physical condition would decline because of the lengthy enforced rest period and did exercises inside the hotel to try to stay fit.
On March 15, he resumed his journey in Kangding, another city in Sichuan, where he had stopped his trip. The remaining distance to Lhasa was 1,800 km.
Liu said he was focused on the remainder of the journey but didn't feel well in the beginning as he was unable to do high-intensity training in the hotel. However, he quickly improved after two days of running.
"I began running 15 years ago, so I know how to adjust my body," he said, adding that because he had been prepared for running at high altitudes and in extreme weather conditions, it was not daunting in the mountainous terrain.
Liu said his determination also helped him complete the run. "Once a task is set, I definitely finish it despite the difficulties and challenges," he said.
Liu livestreamed his journey every day on the video-sharing app Douyin, which helped him make many friends.
"They gave me plenty of support during the tough process and I think it was the biggest reward for me," he said.
On his return home he intends to concentrate on his business and will continue running.
Qin Jirong in Hangzhou contributed to this story.