The 39-year-old from southern Zhejiang province has become somewhat of a celebrity after running 100 marathons in 100 days around China.
“This commercial activity has started an enthusiasm among Chinese people towards marathon running, and it has inspired a lot of people to improve their body through sports,” he told SBS World News.
“In China there are 1.3 billion people and just over two million people participate in running”
After finishing primary school, Chen began working in a fishing business to ease the financial pressures on his family.
At 22, he won money in a pushup competition, sparking his enthusiasm for stamina sports. He found running was a way to see the world.
“When I visited foreign countries, I discovered that each country was different. And I decided to go around the world to prove that Chinese people could also be good in this area,” he said.
His accomplishments, which also includes conquering extreme marathons in all seven continents, has generated much interest in his home land, and according to one of Australia’s greatest ever endurance Paralympians, Kurt Fearnley, it makes sense that China would want to nurture the sport.
“They are trying to promote a healthy lifestyle because they have an ageing population, they need to keep physical and healthy and active and I think they are trying to get the internationals into their races too.”
Chen finished outside the top 150 in the Sydney Marathon.