Kai Markus Xiong describes himself as “a normal person who’s running to China.”
In March 2017, the 45-year-old German set off on the challenge of running 12,000KM (almost 7,500 miles) from Hamburg to Shanghai in China.
He’s following the route of the Silk Road, an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction, connecting East and West. From Germany, the route has taken him via Poland, Belarus, Russia to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and finally he’s reached China for the final part of the journey.
Kai has been running between 30 and 70KM every day. After 7,000KM he says he’s feeling healthier and fitter and has dropped 20KG in weight, from 85 to 65KG. He runs alone and is only accompanied by a vehicle in extreme areas for example, very hot deserts or at high altitude in the mountains.
The trip isn’t about telling the world about his athletic prowess. Kai is on mission to challenge prejudice and is actively integrating with communities by running with locals at the grassroots. At Volgograd in Russia, he was joined by a group of regular park runners (another barrier-breaking enterprise) from Parkrun Volgograd and treated like a celebrity, being interviewed for TV at the finish line – but he still insists, he’s just a normal runner.
We live in a time where unity is under threat and very often it takes one symbolic act, one random act of optimism to change things.
For Kai, the purpose of the challenge is to integrate with fellow runners – from many different countries and cultures and each time add one stone in a metaphoric bridge. “Without each stone, the bridge is not stable,” he says. “Running connects cultures and people,” he adds.
Kai has defined his goals as:
- Building a cultural bridge between the eight countries – and breaking down prejudice.
- Encouraging social responsibility amongst us all.
- Motivating young people to achieve their goals and to work together to be strong.
He says he’s inspired by the words of Chinese philosopher Confucius “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” And to take each step he’s supported by a brand which has its roots in China – 361°– who have suppled all his sports gear and equipment.