Chinese courier runs into Paris Olympics, a first in history
Beyond delivery
Published: Jul 03, 2024 09:24 PM
Runners participate in the Paris Marathon on April 7, 2024 in Paris, France. Photo: VCG

Runners participate in the Paris Marathon on April 7, 2024 in Paris, France. Photo: VCG

While Chinese couriers rush to deliver the packages after the June 18 mid-year shopping festival, one from Beijing has also set his sights on the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Luan Yushuai is one of the Chinese runners who have qualified for the Mass Participation Marathon, a first in Olympic history, which allows the public to run in two races on the same course as the Olympic marathon.  

"For an ordinary person to participate in the Olympics, it is something unimaginable. I feel that this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, so I will definitely prepare well and strive to achieve my best in Paris," Luan told the Global Times during a recent interview. 

A total of 40,048 runners from around the world will participate in the two historic races. 

The first covers the marathon distance of 42.195 kilometers while the other is a 10-kilometer run. 

Each will feature 20,024 participants. Both will be gender-equal races, with the same number of berths allocated to women as to men. 

The lucky draw 

With over 800,000 people worldwide reportedly eyeing a spot for the race, winning a berth is no easy task. 

According to the scoring system released by the organizing committee, eligible applicants needed to accumulate 100,000 points by the end of 2023 to be able to participate in a draw that would award berths to the lucky few. Entrants are required to take part in running, walking, or cycling to earn the points.

Although the 39-year-old felt the odds were slim, he still wanted to give it his all. After registering, he trained hard while amassing the requisite points. 

The Mass Participation event, which will take place on August 10, will depart from the Hôtel de Ville in central Paris, taking runners through the city's iconic landmarks and monuments to Versailles, before returning to the capital and crossing the finish line on the Esplanade des Invalides. The route alternates between urban landscapes, parks, and woodland.

Recalling the moment when he was selected, Luan said that it was on New Year's Eve 2023 when he had brought his parents from their hometown to Beijing for a family reunion dinner. 

"Suddenly, I received an English message on my phone. I quickly translated it online and found my name on it, saying 'Congratulations, you have won the lucky draw.' I was so excited that I shouted out loud," he said. 

Luan Yushuai  Photo: VCG

Luan Yushuai Photo: VCG

A fast runner

Being a versatile young man, marathon amateur Luan had tried several different professions like a waitering and a construction worker before finally landing on his current career as a deliveryman. This profession became a deciding factor in Luan's marathon career. 

He told the Global Times that at the very beginning of his career in 2015, he was given tasks to deliver parcels for people who live in old residential areas. In Beijing, old communities are often not equipped with ­elevators, so, climbing stairs has become Luan's daily routine. 

"I run fast and I am hardworking. I was one of the swiftest kids when I was at school, and now I am one of the swiftest deliverymen," Luan remarked. He also said that he can deliver 10 more parcels than other staffers daily, and once he delivered a record 600 parcels per day.  

The young man's diligence and talent were soon discovered by his company, which later selected him as a representative to participate in the 2017 Beijing Marathon. 

Although he finished the whole competition repertoire with an average record of over 4 hours, his running ­experience was like a seed ­being planted in his heart. He said that despite the failure, the marathon itself has given him the confidence. 

"I have never run a marathon before, so my first experience was extremely exhausting and ­uncomfortable. But I gritted my teeth and ­persevered to the finish line," Luan noted. 

A shared inspiration 

Luan's 2017 experience ignited his aspiration for marathon running. He said that to date, he has participated in many marathons. His personal best was accomplished at the 2020 ­Nanjing Marathon, where he finished the race in 2 hours, 25 minutes, and 55 seconds. It has never been an easy journey for Luan to improve his best time from 4 hours to 2 hours. 

His self-­training schedule has been strict. In the daytime, he discharges his duties as a deliveryman and he can only pursue his marathon passion after work. He usually runs about 400 kilometers per month and normally takes one day off every week. Maintaining such a training course was "difficult," he said. 

Some of his colleagues even said he was "foolish," yet those words never dampened Luan's passion for the sport. In order to boost the strength of his muscles, Luan tied sandbags to both of his legs for two years. 

His marathon story is now a source of inspiration to the public. He said that the marathon has made him feel powerful, especially after his stories were shared with school children. 

"I was quite shocked, because I never imagined my stories could bring such positive energy to others. The fact that many people were motivated by me has touched me too. I will keep running to inspire more people," Luan said.

"In fact, it's not so much about how fast I can run, but rather that I stand on the Olympic marathon track as a Chinese courier," he said.