China's marathon legend Chen Penbin races to a brighter future (2)

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-03 12:00:44|Editor: huaxia
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When asked if he missed fishing, Penbin said: "Not at all," shaking his head with zero hesitation. "Every offshore trip was pure agony. We spent more than half a year on boat, even as we pull inland we had to sleep on the boat so nothing got stolen. It wasn't pleasant to say the least."

Penbin says this taste of hardship still motivates him during every race.

By accident he fell into the sea twice. There were no life jackets available; he was saved by his brother once, another time he was lucky enough to catch a rope. Ultimately, this amount of work requires a great deal of strength and stamina, which he says, eventually, set him up for a stellar running career.

Routinely there were close calls: "One time the motor stopped working, and the boat headed straight towards a fishing nest we placed in between two rocks. My first concern was that my brother didn't know how to swim, I ran to shake the motor with all that I had, luckily it started functioning again, less then ten meters to the nest."

Fast forward to spring festival in the year 2000. That is when everything changed for Penbin. During the festival, the town council decided to hold a push up competition. When he discovered that the prize was 600 yuan, Penbin did 438 push-ups, only to realize that his fellow competitors gave up at around 150. He soon became a household name and had a first taste at fame through this achievement.

It was after that Penbin began to focus on sporting events. "I've always loved the spirit of chivalry," says Penbin.

One year later, Penbin borrowed 200 yuan from his uncle. He traveled to the Wenzhou television station to take part in a show where participants can attempt at breaking Guinness world records. Failing the first challenge, Penbin feared judgment from his neighboring villagers. With this in mind, he decided to leave Jishan island to work part time while training for the next available competition.

His father, Baoshui, was furious after hearing of Penbin's choice. But in defiance of his father, Penbin trained hard. Eventually, he had his big break: recording the longest-ever walk of 14 hours with 20kg of water in May of 2001. It was through this particular show that Penbin recognized the reach of media.

The show ended in 2003, and without sponsors or any major savings, Penbin wasn't able to continue to compete.


The first sponsor that Penbin thought he could get was a factory that specialized in leather shoes. This Wenzhou factory had once sponsored a marathon race back in 2001. This first attempt at paid sponsorship garnered a solid "no."

Using a connection from his uncle, Penbin was able to get a corporate job beginning in 2004 at a kitchen appliances company called Supor. The security of working at Supor was something that others envied. He had one chance at making something of this opportunity. In a meeting with the corporate chairman, Su Xianze, Penbin shared his story. Penbin's passion for sports together with his willpower and perseverance touched Su profoundly. Su related Penbin's story to his own, when he endured times of difficulty as his business first began.

To ensure a successful run with Penbin, Supor corporate invested more than four million yuan over 10 years. From basic triathlons to ultimate marathon, Penbin proceeded to take the world by storm. "Even if I were to pay back the initial sponsorship fee, I couldn't pay back any deeds on a personal level," which is to say, without Supor there would be no Penbin today.

Su's sponsorship came with little to no conditions. He didn't require Penbin to display any visuals relating to Supor when he ran. But to pay back his debt of gratitude, Penbin designed his own Supor logo and placed it onto his racing gear.

From a venture capital point of view, Su's investment was not about profit but why? Su's branding director Huang Li gave her version of explanation.

"In my opinion, Mr. Su's original concept of Supor was shared by Penbin. It was this determination that aided our company's breakthrough. I think he believes Penbin's dream and passion will term him successful just like Su once did," Huang said.

Fate alone could not decide Penbin's course. It took determination and grit, and by the age of 26, he became the man he dreamt of becoming. (More)