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January 24, 2015

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Off to the races! Man outruns subway train

IT took Shen Qiaolin exactly 185 seconds to accomplish an unusual goal he had been planning for a year — to outrun a train on Shanghai’s Metro.

Earlier this month, a video clip recording how the 30-year-old runner competed with a Metro train received the most clicks on, China’s version of YouTube.

In the video, Shen got off the train at Shanghai Grand Stage, ran out of the station, sprinted up Lingling Road and then dashed into the Shanghai Stadium Station just in time to catch the same train he had exited at the previous stop.

“It was just for fun, and to outrun the Metro train was what I wanted to do one year ago,” Shen tells Shanghai Daily.

He was inspired by a video clip of several young runners in the London subway stations, “so I was wondering if I could make it in Shanghai,” he says.

Shen began checking out the city’s underground world, looking for the perfect running route. He finally selected the stretch from Shanghai Grand Stage to Shanghai Stadium stations of Metro Line 4.

The runner attributed his success to his team — Run Shanghai, an amateur running club of people that gathers to jog every Tuesday night at the World Expo Park in the Pudong New Area.

Everyone in the club had specific duties, working out a detailed plan to make the race challenge possible. There were people to do the stopwatch timing, maintain order along the route, urge passengers to avoid Shen at the station, take photos and do the filming. Shen was equipped with a GoPro camera to record the whole race.

It actually took Shen seven tries before he was successful. Among the six failures, there was one near-miss when he ran into the station only to see the train just close the doors and leave. In another trial, a passenger got in the way and Shen had to give up.

The route and timing were carefully calculated. The challenge was done after 9pm because of fewer passengers and longer train intervals, which of course improved the odds.

“Each step was meticulously planned in advance,” Shen says. “You cannot beat the Metro train anytime anywhere. Even a professional runner won’t make it if it’s in the rush hour.”

The video shows one dangerous moment when Shen competed with a bus for running space on Lingling Road. He ran onto the motorway to avoid a slippery sidewalk surface, he explains.

The 30-year-old, a retired soldier, has been running for about 10 years.

“Running was my daily routine when I was in the army, and now it has been an indispensable part of my life. I can’t live without it,” he says.

Three years ago he established the Run Shanghai with eight members; it has now expanded to more than 100 jogging fans, including teachers, policemen, lawyers, students and artists, among many others.

Every Tuesday night, they run together around the World Expo Park for about 10 kilometers.

Shen is now working in logistics for a fire department and running is something he does every day. He has taken part in many cross-country races.

“I’m not a professional athlete. I run just for fun,” he says.

To prepare for each race, he trains hard. Shen once ran for more than 400 kilometers in a month. Last November he ran an 80-kilometer cross-country race that took more than 16 hours.

This year at the same race he plans to finish 100 kilometers within 16 hours to earn the “little golden man.”

“I prefer cross-country to marathon races because it is more complicated with natural environments — mountains, dirt roads, forests and stone paths,” the runner says. “It’s just more challenging.”

After the video was posted on the website, some people gave thumbs-up for the runner — “Wow, this is amazing and he is crazy!” “It’s so good to be young.”

But some also challenged Shen. “Dare to try in the rush hours?” “Why not run from Nanpu Bridge Station to Tangqiao Station?” (The two stations are separated by the Huangpu River.)

Some netizens even offered the advice of another running route for Shen. “The route between Wujiaochang and Jiangwan Stadium of Metro Line 10 will be a lot easier before 6:30am and after 9:30pm Monday to Thursday with less up-and-down stairs. It can be finished indoors and you don’t need to run on the street.”

Still, many people have expressed concern about this behavior in the Metro station.

“This is very dangerous. No matter if it’s in the rush hours, running so fast in a public place can be threatening to other people’s safety. What if he hit someone?” wrote one netizen who received a lot of support.

Shanghai Metro officials note that people moving fast within Metro stations do not violate the Shanghai Rail Transportation Management Regulations, “but we don’t courage this behavior,” says a Shanghai Metro staff worker surnamed Yin.

“A Metro station is not a gym or playground. People running fast in a public place like this might hurt other passengers,” Yin says.

“In the video, we didn’t see the runner knock down someone, but we don’t know if he really hit others because the video was edited. We hope people don’t imitate the runner or copy this behavior in the Metro stations.”

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