Feature: Run, Dad! - Tale of love, strength from China's Team Hoyt (updated)-Xinhua

Feature: Run, Dad! - Tale of love, strength from China's Team Hoyt (updated)

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-05-19 15:04:15

Luo Shujian runs the 2023 Fenghua Marathon with Xiaobai in the stroller in Ningbo, east China's Zhejiang Province, March 19, 2023 (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)

Inspired by the story of Team Hoyt, Luo Shujian, a 47-year-old father, has finished 70 marathons with his son Xiaobai in a stroller across over 20 cities, so that his son with cerebral palsy could see "a wider and more splendid world".

By sportswriters He Leijing and Jiang Wenxi

NANJING, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Near the end of a marathon in east China's Jiangsu Province, the remaining runners were eclipsed by the roaring cheers and applause for a slight man pushing a blue tricycle toward the finish line, as if he were the champion.

"Hang in there, Xiaobai! Only 300 meters left! 200 meters! 100 meters! Go!" shouted Luo Shujian, encouraging his 15-year-old son Xiaobai, who, wearing a helmet, joyfully stretched out his arms from the tricycle.

This race marked one of the 70 marathons Luo has run with his son over the past decade.


Luo Shujian takes Xiaobai to a walk in Jinhua, east China's Zhejiang Province, February 24, 2023. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)

Luo, a 47-year-old deliveryman from Jinhua City, Zhejiang Province, is accustomed to racing against time at work, but it is nothing compared to the race he runs for his son's future.

Born in 2009, Xiaobai suffered severe brain damage due to prolonged asphyxia at birth, which led to cerebral palsy. His situation was further complicated by Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of childhood-onset epilepsy, marked by frequent seizures and significant cognitive and behavioral challenges.

"Every day, he would fall 20 to 30 times. His head would get bloody cuts and need stitches," Luo said. "Sometimes, I could only come to a place where no one was around and silently shed tears."

Luo provided his son with a helmet, hoping to mitigate some pain from the frequent falls, and a total of five helmets have shattered before the current one.

Luo was greatly inspired by the story of Team Hoyt, the American legendary duo of Dick Hoyt and his son Rick, who also had cerebral palsy. The iconic Boston Marathon duo participated in over 1,000 athletic events, including marathons and triathlons.

Luo was so moved that he determined to bring his son along on runs, envisioning a similar path. "If Dick Hoyt could make it, why can't I? Marathon Running has opened a skylight for me amidst despair, allowing me to see the dawn of destiny," he said.


Luo Shujian poses for a photo with Xiaobai after finishing the 7km mini marathon in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, November 1, 2015. (Xinhua)

In 2015, Luo took Xiaobai to their first marathon. Since then, he has rigorously trained, running early in the mornings and balancing long workdays with preparation for weekend races.

"Running has given me a sense of purpose, a new hope rising within me," he said, noting that as they race, Xiaobai waves and smiles at fellow runners and spectators, finding joy that visibly fuels his father's resolve.

For Luo, running a full marathon is a grueling challenge. "After 30 kilometers, my legs feel as heavy as lead, but I grit my teeth and persist, driven by Xiaobai's happy faces," he said. To enhance his training, Luo has taught himself various athletic techniques through sports videos, from warm-ups and dynamic stretching to pacing strategies.

Each completed marathon bib is proudly displayed on their house wall as a testament to their journey. The most memorable race was the Xin'anjiang marathon. "Our race number was B0017, which sounds like 'together' in Chinese. It symbolizes that we are running together, toward the spring of life, and toward the future," Luo said.

Luo Shujian poses for a photo with Xiaobai at the Jiande Marathon in Hangzhou in 2023, (Xinhua)

Seeking to vary their routine and inspired by Team Hoyt's participation in triathlons, Luo also customized a freight bicycle for triathlon cycling stages, hoping to offer fresh experiences for Xiaobai.

Now, Luo and his son have participated in marathons across over 20 cities, using each event as an opportunity to explore new sights - from pandas and seasides to theater performances.

"The marathon course is long, but Xiaobai's life is filled with uncertainty and could be short. In the limited time we have together, I want to take him to see a wider and more splendid world," Luo said.

During every marathon they participated in, they were greeted with warm support from spectators, as the story of the Chinese duo has resonated widely, inspiring people through media attention both domestically and internationally.

"The father and son, through their running, convey love and strength, and it embodies the spirit of sports," a Chinese netizen commented on social media.

Photo taken on February 23, 2023 show the medals and photos hung on the wall in front of Xiaobai's room. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)

Since 2017, Luo has organized outings for families with children suffering from cerebral palsy or autism in Jinhua, fostering a community of support and shared experiences.

"These families know our story and look forward to these activities. I hope to make a small difference for these communities," Luo said.

Luo was recently invited to a public event focusing on autism and shared their story. "Life, like a marathon, is filled with hardships, but I believe in finding the rainbow after the storm, and in the brilliance that life can offer through perseverance. The most important thing in life is not to win, but to love," he said.

Through sports, Luo believes, people can not only strengthen their bodies but also ignite a spirit of resilience and positivity, spreading love and strength.

"I've offered my legs to Xiaobai, and Xiaobai has instilled unwavering faith in me. I'll always run future marathons together with him," Luo said. 


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