2022 Man of the Year: Uncle Chen

50-year-old Uncle Chen running a marathon in Jiande, China, November 2022 / Twitter
December 31, 2022

As most of our readers know, the Washington Free Beacon does not endorse participating in "marathons." Our editorial opinion on the matter is best summed up by baseball legend Kenny Powers, who once opined: "I play real sports. Not trying to be the best at exercising."

But let’s suspend disbelief for a moment. Imagine you’re an assistant sociology professor (non-tenure track) at Portland State University. Maybe you take a year abroad in Beijing to study the wise egalitarianism of the government of the People’s Republic of China. And, to get over your cruel wife who recently left you for one of her French Ph.D. students, you decide to run a marathon in Jiande, China. It will help you "get back out there" and lose the extra 45 pounds you packed on during COVID lockdowns. Plus, you can take some new photos that will be sure to impress future Tinder dates.

It’s race day, and you’re halfway through the marathon when suddenly a cloud of noxious fumes envelopes you. "It’s just a bit of smog," you tell yourself. "Part of the different, but completely justifiable, industrial norms of China that are driven by U.S. imperialism."

It’s not. You quickly realize that the plumes of smoke are emanating from a cigarette held by a competitor who is passing you: a 50-year-old chain-smoking marathon runner, known to the locals adoringly as "Uncle Chen."

Uncle Chen is a stud at marathons. He runs them all the time and chain-smokes cigarettes the entire way through. In fact, he "only smokes when he runs," according to news reports, and he went on to finish his race in less than three-and-a-half hours. And while you spent the last two months waking up at 5 a.m. to hit the treadmill, forgoing carbs, and trading beer for sparkling water, Uncle Chen spent it sucking down unfiltered Lucky’s and stacking chicks at the local teahouses, probably.

As he whizzes ahead, it suddenly dawns on you: running isn’t a substitute for having a personality. In fact, running isn’t even very hard. "How does he do it?" you marvel, as crowds of women—who all resemble your beautiful but unfaithful wife—cheer Uncle Chen on from the sidelines. "How can I ever compete?"

You can’t. For making a mockery of "marathon" runners (and for bagging your evil, estranged wife, probably) Uncle Chen is a Washington Free Beacon Man of the Year.