The man, identified by his surname Chen, completed the C&D Xiamen Marathon 2024, held on 7 January in three hours and 33 minutes, and smoked throughout.
Now, the Xiamen Marathon’s organising committee has issued a two-year ban on him from their races and reported him to the Chinese Athletics Association for further penalties.
The organising committee’s statement also said it verified Mr Chen’s smoking based on “race supervision, referee reports, timing chip data, race videos, pictures and other materials”. The committee voided his timing and ranking for the event.
He is popularly known as Uncle Chen and has earned the title of “Smoking Brother” in China, according to Canadian Running magazine, which first reported the incident.
Mr Chen reportedly smoked during a marathon in 2022 as well. He was seen smoking during the Xin’anjiang marathon at Jiande in Zhejiang province in November 2022. He was placed 574th out of more than 1,500 runners.
Photographs of Mr Chen smoking while running the marathon were circulating on social media and he received lots of media coverage.
The Xiamen Marathon lists smoking as one of the “(punishable) uncivil behaviours” on its website. The list also includes “open defecation, littering, trampling on the flowers and grass and other behaviours that might affect other runners”.
Other Chinese cities have started addressing smoking during marathons, with rules against “uncivilised behaviour”. The Ironman Group from Singapore, which organises the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, told the Strait Times: “Our runners are generally civic-minded and do their part in ensuring the race is a pleasant experience for fellow participants.
“Singapore as a city already has clear regulations and our runners tend to follow these guidelines.”
Last year, the Chinese Athletics Association introduced a proposal aimed at encouraging healthier participation and reducing smoking during road-running events. The proposal outlined that participants who did not adhere to the new rules would be subject to disqualification from the races.
Images of Mr Chen smoking while running initially emerged during the 2018 Guangzhou Marathon and the 2019 Xiamen Marathon. He is also an ultramarathoner, having successfully participated in events spanning distances from 50 km to 12 hours.