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Running towards light - story of a cancer-riddled marathon runner

Pub Date:2020-07-13 09:10 Source:Xinhua

But every time she refused.

"I was so afraid that I might see with my own eyes him falling on the ground and never standing up again," she confessed, lips quivering. "I wouldn't be able to take it."

She never told He about it. She just asked her husband to take care of himself a thousand times, calling him once in a while to confirm he was safe and anxiously waited for him to come back.

"Every time he returned home, he would tell me about his run. He was so excited, I could easily see on his face how happy he was."

The sparkle in He's eyes and his constantly improving physical and mental condition finally won his wife's approval. After repeated persuasion, Zhang finally made up her mind to travel with He for once, and only once, in September 2019, to the city of Dalian, to see why her husband was so "addicted" to the sport.

But, as it were, the race was cancelled due to a typhoon.

Worry, and economic constraints, stopped Zhang from joining on another trip, but He continued to seize every possible opportunity to run, inching closer and closer to his goal.

"In the first year after he picked up running, he ran 30 marathons, and in the second year, another 30. Nobody ever came close to his record. In our association, the most active member after him ran about 20 a year, which was already quite remarkable. He ran three times the distance run by a good amateur runner," president Liu said.

"I couldn't beat the disease, it couldn't beat me either. We compete with each other," He once told his son.

"Marathon was the spiritual prop that supported him," the opposers, his wife, son and doctor, all agreed.


It's easy to identify He Ming among the runners - the man holding his self-made flag, reading "I am a patient with lung cancer, and I run marathons to fight it. I will not cease my steps, until I eventually die of it."

The flag had been his symbol, and the story began to spread.

At first, he was unwilling to let others know that he had cancer, for fear that it might cause unnecessary concern to them. But when he read the comments of the story of his first ever interview at the Guiyang Marathon in July 2019, he began to realize how he could encourage people to keep up the spirit in the face of adversity, just as he had.

Seeing the waving flag at the finish line, the crowd burst out with applause and cheers as He completed his 61st marathon on January 5, 2020, his 57th birthday.

The medal added to his wall of honors, hanging next the other testimonies to his perseverance, above a trophy-laden table.

There were two medals that He was especially proud of. One is the medal for the team championship at the Tour of Chao Lake in Hefei, capital city of Anhui.

The other is the medal for the Xiamen 6 Day Race in November 2019, where runners were ranked by the distance they covered in six days, both during the day and at night. He finished 18th running 421.82km, an equivalent of nearly 10 marathons.

The city of Xiamen had witnessed his longest run, and his last.

He's cancer deteriorated at a terrible rate after the COVID-19 outbreak forced him to stay home, and later in hospital. The cancer had spread to his brain.

But to everyone's surprise, he continued to walk, although extremely slowly, before he lost the ability to get up from the bed.

"I think it's natural for people to fall apart in that kind of situation, but my father kept exercising - that's his way of fighting the cancer, and I was overwhelmed by his perseverance," his son He Shuai wept.

"How I wish I could run another marathon, even a half marathon will be great," that was He Ming's last post on his social media.

On June 5, He forever left his beloved family, friends, and marathon courses behind. Leaving behind his unbending will, unfinished dream, and his cornea.

Against the traditional Chinese belief that a person should keep his body "intact" even after death, He, who donated his blood regularly before his diagnosis, who rushed into a burning fire to save a costly fridge of his neighbor and donated all the money rewarded to him for his bravery, had his last donation that enabled two strangers to see this world.

"He kept telling me where he put the files for donation, what's the phone number of the contact person, even after he nearly lost the ability to speak or make a sound," said He Shuai, who was "forced" to sign the paperwork for donation when his father was still conscious.

June is not an ideal time for running in Huainan. Under the scorching sun, He Shuai finished the first 10km of his life, following his father's steps.

He will take the baton from now on.

Starting from scratch, the 30-year-old has decided to finish the remaining 39 marathons for his father.

Although he will not run with his father's flag, which was burnt to keep his father accompany in afterlife according to local traditions, he will run with the same spirit: "I could not change the length of my life, but I can get hold of the width of it."


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