Sep 1, 2020|

JD’s 2:31 Marathoner: Fast and Warm-Hearted, In His Job and on the Course


by Ella Kidron

This past weekend, was a special partner of the BMW Hood to Coast relay race held in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, around a seven hour drive from Beijing. On top of JD Logistics providing all of the supplies for the event, both on site and ahead of time to the teams, as well as JD Super setting up a makeshift supermarket to feed hungry runners a hot meal, drinks and snacks at one of the checkpoints mid-way through the race, JD sent three teams of five people to compete in the Challenge Course race. Among the participants was a member of JD’s courier team who happens to run a 2:31 marathon, Yushuai Luan.

The JD No. 1 challenge team, led by Yan Qing, head of JD Auto

The JD No. 1 challenge team, led by Yan Qing, head of JD Auto

Hours before the race, in a small family-owned restaurant serving the kind of food you would find in Inner Mongolia – its signature dish is a big rack of lamb – Yushuai, or “Xiao Shuai”, an affectionate nickname the team gave him, roughly translated as “Little Shuai”, shared a bit about how his love of running to a captivated audience of JDers. “In school when we ran, I was always considered pretty fast,” he said humbly. As he would later share, as a kid, the native of Northeast China’s Jilin province (known for its cold weather), was accustomed to running up and down hills, even in the blistering cold. He liked running, but running a marathon was never part of the plan.

Yushuai joined JD Logistics as a courier in 2015 in Beijing’s Haidian district where delivery is held to very high speed standards. It was challenging at first, but he got the gist by familiarizing himself with the neighborhood, street by street, alley by alley. Rather than walk, he would run everywhere he could. “I would usually run upstairs in one breath. It was an amazing feeling.” Where others might deliver 130-140 orders per day, he could deliver 170 or more, and even 200-300 during promotions. His hard work paid off, and he was promoted from a delivery courier to the assistant to the head of the station. He earned recognition as a “JD Logistics Star” for his outstanding performance.

Rewind several years to 2017. JD Logistics, as the official supplier of the Beijing International Marathon, was given a batch of spots. The company hoped to organize its frontline couriers to form a JD Logistics running team. When the station head recommended Yushuai for the 42.195 km run (26.2 miles), he shied away. He said, “I was worried about running that much at once and delaying work. Also, if I wasn’t able to finish it, I would cause JD Logistics to ‘lose face’. Finally, what if I got injured and wasn’t able to work?” That didn’t happen. What did happen is that Yushuai finished his first-ever marathon with essentially no training in 4:23:23, a very formidable result for a first time marathoner. The next day, when most people would take time off to recover after running such a hard race, he was right back at work.

From there he never looked back. He explained while looking across Zhangbei’s expansive open fields, “It wasn’t that I ran super-fast from the start, but that I kept improving and improving faster than most people.” He has run several marathons since then, all in the Beijing area, so that he doesn’t delay his work. Last year, he posted a jaw dropping 2:31:04 at the Beijing Marathon.

The JD No. 1 challenge team, led by Yan Qing, head of JD Auto

JD’s Yushai Luan

The secret to his speed? Pure love of the sport. He uses the slogan of JD Retail “热爱 Re Ai”, which roughly translated means “passion” to describe his love of running. When he says it, it sounds completely natural, not forced. Even though work is busy, he makes time to run 10-20 kilometers, or maybe more, each day.

Yushuai’s positive energy is contagious. Just a few weeks ago, sitting as a team mapping out who should run which sections of the race, he eagerly volunteered for a section called “Hard as Hell” (地狱难). When the team suggested he run 10 or so more kilometers than others, he excitedly replied, “No problem!” Standing at the starting line at 3:30 am smiling a grin big enough to be seen from at least 10 meters away, he exhibited not nervousness, but pure passion. On the course, when it’s “go time” he’s unstoppable. Off the course, even after averaging 3’30” per kilometer up and down hills, he’s the first to volunteer to help the team out. He’s making sure the team is eating and well-hydrated, waiting in line with you for the rest room just to keep you company, and encouraging you every step of the way. It is no wonder that he’s somewhat of a celebrity in the Beijing running circuit – at every checkpoint, there is someone who knows his name. Speed is only half of it. At the end of the day, warmth also goes a long way.

To say that Yushuai sees the glass half full is an understatement. He explained that once time he picked up a customer’s phone call at 1:00 am. The customer was to get on a plane at 5:00 am and was eager to receive his package. He immediately got dressed and braved the cold to deliver to the customer. When he arrived much earlier than expected, the customer was both appreciative and apologetic. But Yushuai only saw the positive, “I had the chance to try a middle of the night delivery.”

On August 29th in the afternoon, as the race was nearing its end, Yushuai took off for his final 9.6 kilometers, entirely uphill. When he got to the top, he was grinning ear to ear. Just as with every time he finished the previous laps, having barely broken a sweat running on pace with some of the country’s top runners, when asked how he felt, he said, with that same contagious positivity, something equivalent to “That was amazing.” And then he put his full heart into the supporting the team and representing JD.

The day after the race, it was business as usual. Yushuai was back at work, sharing the same warmth with customers that he brought to running each and every kilometer of the race.