China has fallen in love with running – estimates say around 25 million Chinese run regularly – and an outbreak of a virus is not going to put a stop to that.

As the country battles the coronavirus outbreak, Chinese runners, unable or unwilling to leave their flats, are finding increasingly creative ways to run indoors. Many share humorous stories of their indoor running online and their fellow runners draw support and inspiration from these posts.

A few days ago, one runner posted on Weibo a “commentary” of a one-person “race” she did in her family flat.

“I swipe my race card and start in the kitchen, go through the living room, turn into my daughter’s room, the less than 20m-long racecourse has beautiful scenery and on my left my husband’s snoring is cheering me on, goji berry tea from the living room table is my mid-route nutritional supply, on the right, the handsome men and beautiful women on TV are waving, cheering me on,” the runner wrote. “This is a silent battle. I put in a burst of speed and power on to the balcony. My husband’s verdict is that I have psychological issues.”

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But the current hero of the Chinese running community is Pan Shancu, from Hangzhou. Pan works as a Chinese medicine health therapist and is a well-known amateur marathoner with a two-hour, 59-minute personal best. Stuck in his flat, he recently ran 6,250 loops in one room.

“I have not been outside for many days, today I cannot bear sitting down any more!” he wrote. “Let’s run laps around the two massage tables in the room, then! Yes, one lap is about 8m – I ran 50km, did it in 4:48:44, sweated all over, feels great!”

There has been a desperate surge in demand for surgical masks across China as people fear catching the coronavirus. Photo: Winson Wong

In his Weibo post he included a video of himself running and a screenshot from a running app stating time and distance as proof.

Pan’s exploits quickly went viral, accumulating nearly 26,000 reads with dozens of runners commenting.

“I thought it was just me doing this crazy indoor running,” said the first comment.

Pan Shancu uploaded a video and app data as proof of his run. Photo: WeChat

“Hard core! 50km with no support or supply stations!” said another reader.

Others shared in their comments the distances they accumulated running in their own flats, some adding the reactions of their bemused family members and pets: “I did a 5,200m run yesterday in a 20m long loop. I managed not to get dizzy, but the dog was barking like crazy for 40 minutes.”

“The people living below are going to kill you!” was one reaction to Pan’s story.

Pan explained that he does not make noise while running, because he strikes the ground (or his neighbours’ ceiling) softly with his forefoot rather than stomping using his heels.

Even during an epidemic, they make sure their running technique stays good – it will take a lot more than a coronavirus outbreak to break the spirit of Chinese runners.