HONG KONG — A fanatical runner jogged the equivalent of an ultra-marathon inside his small apartment as people in virus-hit China desperately try to keep fit while cooped up indoors.
The country is at the centre of an outbreak of a new coronavirus, leaving more than 1,500 dead and sparking global alarm, but it is also in the grip of a health drive because the government is aggressively encouraging people to exercise to fight the disease.
With much of the 1.4 billion population ordered indoors and gyms closed, people are competing to outdo each other in how many bottles of water they can lift, how many push-ups they can do with their children on their backs or how many flights of stairs they can scale in their tower blocks.
But Pan Shancu has easily won the unofficial gold medal, saying he jogged 66 kilometres (41 miles) in a loop at home in six hours, 41 minutes.
He has the data tracker that he says proves it, and the 44-year-old’s feat and a video of him repeatedly circling furniture in his apartment went viral in China.
“I felt a little dizzy at first, but you get used to it after you circle many times,” Pan told AFP by telephone from Hangzhou, near Shanghai.
“Running is like an addiction. If you don’t run for a long time, you get itchy feet.”
On another occasion Pan ran 30 kilometres on the spot in his bathroom and live-streamed it to inspire others who have similarly been confined at home for the last two weeks.
“I am in an online chat group in which people are asking what we want to do most after the epidemic,” said Pan, a massage therapist and dedicated long-distance runner.
“Some people said they want to have a feast. I said that I want to run 100 kilometres outside.”