Blind runner's determination on the track helps inspire others
He Yajun pulled on a 20-centimeter-long cord before starting to run with his partner on the track at Olympic Forest Park on a recent cloudy Saturday morning.
A serious illness when he was 10 left him blind, and in 2003 he moved to Beijing from his hometown in Sichuan province to learn massage from other blind therapists.
Previously, he seldom exercised and rarely felt the sun's rays due to long hours at the massage business.
But in 2014, the then 34-year-old began running for the first time at the park with the help of one of his customers, developing a love for sports.
In less than a year, his weight dropped from 95 kilograms to 70 kg, his blood pressure fell significantly and the risk from a fatty liver was reduced.
In addition to running weekly to improve his fitness, He has taken part in 26 marathons nationwide, registering a personal best time of 3 hr 3 min 38 sec.
"I enjoy the feeling of running at Olympic Forest Park all year round," He said. "In winter, I can touch the snow that has just fallen, and when spring comes, the fragrance of the soil and sound of the birds make me feel good.
"I especially like my friends to take pictures of the flowers for me when they bloom," he added.
His determination and running ability have inspired many blind people to exercise during their spare time. A group named after him is the largest that runs in the park during weekends.
The group, which trains twice a week, is divided into five subgroups based on the participants' times.
The park features three running courses of different length, the shortest being 3 kilometers and the longest 10 km. The different routes are marked in green, yellow and blue.
But in recent years, as running has gained in popularity among Beijing residents, these courses have become more crowded.
In 2015, a study by Beijing Forestry University advised that special lanes should be allocated at the park to reduce the potential risk to runners.
The park's operating company also set up signs along the running routes to guide visitors.
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