Lindong Li, a deaf amateur runner who breaks his limit in 10 years

Lindong Li, a deaf amateur runner who breaks his limit in 10 years

 At the 10th Chongqing Marathon on November 15 2020, a dramatic scene took place before the finish line: 3 runners of the second group fought against each other fiercely after the 42-kilometre mark. 

After nearly a hundred meters of intense competition, Lindong Li, runner A0006, finally beat his two opponents and won third place with a score of 2:32:40 and stood on the podium, at the same time, he created the new personal best score, that is nearly 7 minutes faster than before!

What many people don't know is that Lindong is not only an amateur runner who has never been to a sports school for a day, but also is a hearing impaired.

What is even more surprising is, in the last 10 km of the Chongqing Marathon, Lindong persisted to run under leg cramps!

Below are his stories based on our interviews with him before and after the game.


The best witness of Chongqing Marathon for 10 years


No doubt Lindong is the best witness of the Chongqing Marathon for 10 years. In fact, the first marathon in his life was the first Chongqing Marathon held on March 19, 2011. 

After 10 years of Chongqing Marathons along the way, Lindong has grown up with it: he did not miss any one of them; his performance has improved from not finishing a race in the first time of the marathon to being the 2hr 32min master now.  

Lindong has won the Chongqing Citizen Award from the Chongqing Marathon 3 or 4 times. The best ranking was being at third place in 2018.

Lindong signed up for the Chongqing Marathon last year by himself, and he passed through based on his achievements. "I don't know how much I can run this time." He told us modestly before the game. After the race started on Sunday morning (November 15 2020), he ran in the second group with a pace of about 3:30.

After 18 km, he started to speed up -- well actually, he did not speed up too much because it was actually the other runners who were getting behind. 

Lindong took 1hr 14min to run halfway through, faster than his official half marathon PB! After running for more than 30km, Lindong also encountered difficulties, as he said "I can't lift my legs. I really have no power, and I still have cramps on both legs!”

At that time, Lindong told himself: "You must be steady! You must be steady!" Because many friends, including his coach, were waiting for him at the destination, and he didn't want to disappoint them.

“I must keep running! I cannot stop!” Lindong repeated to himself. “This is my 10th Chongqing Marathon, and I have to perform well!” 

At last, Lindong had nothing left but was totally dependent on willpower, and with astounding perseverance and hard work, he won the 200-meter sprint before the finish line and ranked among the top three for the first time, with an average pace of 3:37/km. 

Fortunately, when we interviewed him, his cramps and other discomforts had gone after some stretching post-game, and there was no black toenail. 


The deaf who don’t know sign language

Lindong Li was born in a farming family in Fuling, Chongqing on 4th April 1992. His parents were originally farmers, but they later worked in the city. His family lived in no fixed place -- they just "go with the job". 

Lindong has a younger sister, and unfortunately, both of them are hearing impaired. His hearing disorder was not congenital, but he lost his hearing when he was 5. His sister was deaf when she was born.

As soon as Lindong takes off his hearing aid, his world becomes silent suddenly.

“I’ve visited lots of hospitals, but no one knew why I got this hearing disorder. I don’t know if it was related to the time when I fell into water or it was a problem of family heredity.” He told the author.

The strange thing is that only Lindong and his sister in his family suffer from the hearing disorder, not their parents or any other relatives. Lindong wears a hearing aid every day including when he is running, but only on one side. The size of His hearing aid is as smaller as a finger, and placed deep in his ear. People won’t notice it if they don’t look closely.

The price of his imported hearing aid is tens of thousands yuan, and its life span is 5 to 8 years with the battery duration lasing for about a week. Although he “can’t hear any sound” without the hearing aid, Lindong feels that this defect doesn’t seem to hinder him much, and many people don’t treat him as a disabled.

“I could communicate both with normal people and the disabled. But I don’t know sign language, nor read it. I can only speak with my mouth.”

His sister's hearing impairment is much more serious than his. Even if she is wearing a hearing aid, Lindong sometimes needs to talk to her several times before she could hear him clearly. Also, Lindong always could not understand what his sister said. "So if I want to tell her something, I always type my message out."

In Lindong’s view, although his deafness does not bring major inconvenience to his life, it still impacts his life more than running does: "It is annoying to not hear what people say and my communications with them are influenced."  

Meanwhile, there is another side: "Take off the hearing aid, you hear nothing. Without any noise, I feel refreshed, quiet and comfortable."


Not born to run

If there is a possible family reason for Lindong's deafness, he does not seem to have a natural advantage when it comes to running.

Lindong professed himself to be only moderately gifted in the field, as no one was good at running in his family -- even his sister showed little interest in running.

He not only didn’t have any professional or sports school experience, but also "never participated in a running race” in school. “I just watched others run when I was a student," said Lindong.

The only sign that he could run was that he enjoyed P.E. classes in primary school. Every day when the school bell rang, everyone ran home, and Lindong was always the first one who arrived home by running.

After entering high school, Lindong didn't run much. He went to a medical college after graduating from junior high school. After college, he has been working in Fuling City Landscaping Administration Bureau (public institution), engaging in greening and pruning areas at the age of 18 until 2019.

Th first time Lindong ran at the Chongqing Marathon was the first Chongqing Marathon held in 2011. At that time, he didn't know how to practice, so he joined the race without any preparation. The longest distance he had ever run before that race was only 10km.

Surprisingly, he ran quite well at the beginning of the race, but experienced cramps as he reached 30km and thus got on a reception car, which is the first and the only one marathon he quit in his life. 

Then, Lindong fell in love with marathons. After a year of training and laying the foundation, he stood at the starting line of the 2nd Chongqing Marathon in 2012. This time, he finally finished the race, and the score was more than 4 hours.

In the 2014 Chongqing Marathon, Lindong improved his score to 3hr 42min. Until the sixth year of running in the marathon, in the 2016 Guizhou Liupanshui Marathon, it was his first time to break into 3hr. In the 2017 Shanghai Marathon, Lindong broke the 2:40 mark for the first time with 2:39:54.

Lindong has run nearly 200 races so far, including mountaineering, building-climbing competitions, and run and ride races. 


He has won several domestic championships:

4th internationally and 1st in China at the 2017 Hubei Yichang Marathon (PB 2:40:32);

6th internationally and 1st domestically at the 2017 Hubei Jingzhou Half Marathon (with score 1:17:08);

Champion at the Chongqing "Walks the World" 12hr for 118km super marathon (slopes on track).


Lindong’s PB was 2:39:31 at the 2019 Hangzhou Marathon. 

"Each race that I joined last year was challenging: in the first half of the year, in the Qingdao Marathon, my PB was 9 seconds faster than before. In the second half of the year, in the Hangzhou Marathon, my PB was improved by 8 seconds. Each time my BP improved by only a few seconds.” 

His BP for the Chongqing Renshou Half Marathon was 1:15:06 in January.

Now Lindong’s strengths should have improved again: in the half-marathon test competition within the running team in September 2020, he refreshed his personal unofficial best with 1hr 12min.

Lindong did not sign up for the whole marathon last year. 

"The main reason is to calm down and practice hard", focusing on preparing for the Chongqing Marathon. My weekly running distance is about 140 km, with an average of more than 20 km per day. I run long-distance twice a week, each time about 25 to 30 km.” Lindong’s training plan is made with the help of his coach.

In Lindong’s view, (core) strength, speed, and endurance are indispensable in marathon training.

Mindset Determines The Future 

Lindong lives in a rented apartment in Chongqing's Shapingba district. He worked in the first half of 2020, but now he is a freelancer. His monthly disability allowance is only a few tens yuan, and he has to fend for himself.

He was an old friend with Hao Zhao and other Chongqing amateur runners, and they had known each other for many years. But they usually practice separately. 

Lindong said, the improvement of his performance is not only the result of hard work, but also mindset, that is -- we should be open-minded.

He does not deliberately pursue a certain score. "I just hope that the next race could be better, and run as much as possible. Otherwise, my pressure will be greater. In other words, the mind determines the future.”

Lindong believes that as long as he put his best mindset to race, a breakthrough (speed) may come in the end. 

As he already 28-year-old, Lindong said he has considered starting a family, but he “has not met the right person yet.” “I’m optimistic, because I know there are many people who are better than me, and there are those who are worse. So just drifting it.”

There are many golden words from Lindong. For example, “I run almost every day and running has been integrated into my body.” “I could give up anything, except for running.” “I am happy when I am running. As long as you want to run, there is always a way ahead. So just start, and you could arrive at the end!” 

When Lindong spoke to us before the race, he said his goal was to “get a better score in the National Paralympics.”

Lindong only raced in one National Paralympic Game so far in Tianjin, China in 2019. He said: “I didn’t run well in the April marathon. I finished in 2:41, with a sixth place. I didn’t run well either in September because of a fever.” 

The National Paralympic Games, currently held every two years, will be held in Xi’an this year (then, it will be held every four years). 

The national marathon record for the disabled class similar to Lindong’s is 2hr 35min, which was set many years ago. With his previous PB being only 4 minutes slower than this record, Lindong has now become the "Top 1 runner with Hearing Impairment in China.” 

Based on Lindong’s performance at the 2020 Chongqing Marathon, the 2hr 30min record, which was once a bit distant, is now really close to him!




*Translate from the article: