Focus on Athlete: Yun Yan Qiao, winner of the 2012 Grassland Marathon

Yun Yan Qiao was the class of the field in the 2012 Grassland Marathon as he led nearly the entire race. Nobody was able to follow the fast pace set by the young man, who originally hails from the beautiful coastal city of Qingdao, but is now living and working in Beijing. Yun Yan Qiao is a true thoroughbred: running is his passion, his life. Here’s a short Q&A with last year’s champion.

Q: Do you train often? How many kilometers do you run per week? And where do you run?
A: Yes, I train often, just like eating. I run 150 km per week, and usually I go to Olympic forest garden and Xiang Shan. But most of the time, I run to work from home to the office, and off work from office to home. I run everyday which means a transport card is basically useless for me.

During the 2012 grassland marathon, you were leading virtually all the way from start to finish. Other participants didn’t and couldn’t catch up with you. What were you thinking when running alone for so long?
If it was on the tarmac road, I would be bored for sure and wouldn’t run like that. I might play some trick, like running with others. But I was kind of “selfish” on the vast grassland. I thought such a place will show its true value when you can enjoy it alone. You need to sense the quiet when the windbreeze touches the edges of your ears. I was in the leading position not because I was so keen to win or get the prizes, but because I wanted to be alone in such a great environment, which made me feel satisfied from the bottom of my heart.

You have participated in many big and tough events before this year’s Genghis Khan Festival. How did the previous experiences help you with winning the Grassland Marathon?
I would say the track of grassland marathon was designed perfectly. It is off-road, with ups and downs, and I even saw some small lakes. I often run on tracks in the hills, so I am used to ups and downs; I had also often trained on pure speed, so I was definitely confident for the final km on the road; I had taken part in the Gobi Desert Marathon before, so I wasn’t afraid of the grassland marathon at all. Also important was that I had wonderful running gear—thanks to North Face and Skins—which prevented me from suffering a sunstroke and tiring too quickly.

What impressed you most in the grassland marathon? In what aspects do you think we could make further improvement?
I was satisfied by the service and the running track, but I believe more high-level runners would come if the prize money can be more.

There will be even more participants in 2013 grassland marathon, and some of them are powerful. Will it give you any pressure?
Not at all, instead I feel it will be more interesting. Racing itself is a big party for runners, and I expect more high- level runners. After all, the more the merrier.

Your job is to introduce and organize runners to interesting places. What do you think is the most necessary in promoting this sport? What difficulties did you encounter in this process and how did you solve them?
The most important part is to serve every runner nicely, to ensure they are satisfied every time. If a lot of people are unhappy, then you get complained at. I like it when people speak out about any issues, so that I can try my best to solve them. There is nothing that cannot be solved if you communicate with people patiently.

Marathon and cross country running, which one do you like more? And why?
I like cross country running more because most marathons are held on big roads in cities, few are run in the open air like the grassland marathon. I like the feeling of being close to the nature, like running in the mountains alone.

Which advice would you give to people who want to take part in the Genghis Khan Festival?
It is a little bit hard for beginners who are on their own, so you need to join a club and take part in running activities often. And it is also helpful if you make running friends, for they can supervise and support you in running. Do not run for prizes or compare yourself to others. Running is for fitness and health, nothing more than that. Running will save you a large amount of expenditure on health care and keep you away from any medical institution once you have become a regular runner.

Yun Yan Qiao dominated the 2012 Grassland Marathon