Marathon dad runs with son

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Luo Shujian, a native of Jinhua in East China's Zhejiang province, is unlike other marathon runners. He doesn't run for fame or glory; he runs for his son who has cerebral palsy.

Luo Shujian (left) runs with his son Xiao Bo at a marathon event held in Lanzhou, Gansu province. [Photo/China Daily]

Luo Shujian (left) runs with his son Xiao Bo at a marathon event held in Lanzhou, Gansu province. [Photo/China Daily]

Luo, 39, who works as an express delivery man, is preparing for a marathon in Beijing in September. It will be the eighth 42-km run that the father has taken part in with his 7-year-old son, whose nickname is Xiao Bo.

Xiao Bo doesn't look like other children his age. He's smaller and only weighs about 13.5 kg. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was just 6-month-old, and began having epileptic fits before he was 3.

Luo says he is mentally prepared for his son's death, as the outlook "is not optimistic".

"But I don't want to give up on him. I decided to start running to build up my body, as well to look after him. The healthier I am, the longer I can take care of him," he said.

"Xiao Bo likes watching others run. He can focus and shows desire to chase as runners pass by. Therefore, I made the decision to bring him running last year."

In June, the father completed a marathon in Lanzhou, capital of Northwest China's Gansu province, pushing his son in a stroller.

Rain dampened their spirits at first, but Luo and Xiao Bo managed to complete the race in five hours and five minutes - ranking 3,100 among more than 6,500 participants.

"I never thought of giving up, and I want my son to feel that faith as we run together," Luo said.

"I know he dislikes the rain, but I could feel his joy during the latter part of the event. Although his body does not look better after running with me, he does love to laugh. That's my biggest achievement and motivates me to persist."

Luo idolizes Dick and Rick Hoyt, a father-and-son team who have become famous for their participation in the Boston Marathon in the United States. Rick, the son, was born a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, unable to walk or talk. Together, they have run in more than 1,000 road races, marathons and triathlons.

Luo learned of the Hoyts six years ago while searching the internet for more information about his son's ailments.

"I was touched at the time and their story encouraged me a lot," he said. "Rick once said that running made him not feel disabled, and to fulfill that dream, Dick decided to be his son's legs."

Luo hopes that by running with his son, he can also raise awareness of cerebral palsy.

"I will be content if other people can smile at children like my son and provide them with help," he said.

Financial help is also welcome, because Luo is the family's only breadwinner and often feels exhausted after a long day at work, he said.

"My wife not only looks after our son, but also our 3-year-old daughter, who is healthy. I am always grateful when I see her with our girl at the finish line of every marathon, but we four have to live our lives and I must shoulder the burden," he said.

In addition to delivering around 120 packages every day, he also works at a recycling center next to his home, earning an additional 2,000 yuan ($300) per month.

"It's my son who lets me know how to be a father, and his happiness or sadness is also mine," Luo said.

"Life is hard, but we can be happy while running. Why not continue to do it? I can laugh with my dearest as well as relaxing myself."

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