Feature: The Beloved Jacket
BEIJING, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Slim, wearing a worn-out cotton jacket under the sizzling sun, an elderly runner caught everyone's attention at a marathon held in May in Changchun, northeast China's Jilin Province.
Xi Zhanyu, who is approaching 70, has kept the old jacket with him through thick and thin for seven years.
"This was my wife's jacket when she was alive, and I want to run with her," Xi explained.
After his wife Xia Shuyun passed away in 2016, Xi wore the jacket every time he ran a marathon.
Sports form a link between Xi and Xia. The sports-loving man financed the first local games in his small village in 1988. In a video of the opening ceremony of that games, Xia spoke but failed to finish a sentence, then she shyly hid behind Xi, and the then-32-year-old Xi smiled and took over the microphone, announcing the games open.
With the Beijing 2008 Olympics approaching, Xi chose to spend a year jogging across China to welcome the Games, an idea that Xia supported.
That year, Xi ran 12,000 kilometers through 16 provinces of China, while Xia took care of matters at home.
On August 9, 2008, the day after the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games, Xi returned to his hometown. Xia touched her husband's hands again and again, shedding tears.
In 2015, Xia was diagnosed with lung cancer and died a year later. Xi was distraught, but resolved to fulfil his wife's will to continue running and living.
Come rain or shine, a slim figure would run along the Songhua River every day. In marathons around the country, Xi would appear on the track wearing his beloved jacket.
Before going to other places to run marathons, Xi often visits Xia's tomb.
"Cheer me on. I will achieve a good result," Xi always says to the gravestone.
"I used to run marathons alone, but now that I'm wearing it, it's like we are running together."
Xi, who has competed in several races over the past years, has more goals for the future.
"I'm going to sell the chickens, ducks, and geese that I raise, as well as the bees. I'm going to run the other half of China, taking my wife's jacket with me and letting her see how our country looks these days," said the 67-year-old.
For the first half of Xi's running career, Xia always waited for him at home. But in the second half, Xi takes his beloved wife with him.
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