A once ordinary young man from Taipei has become the nation's new hero after completing the first coast-to-coast run across the Sahara in history.
Together with American Charlie Engle and Canadian Ray Zahab, Taiwanese ultramarathon runner Kevin Lin (
The adventure began last November on Africa's Atlantic coast and finished on Feb. 20 as the three runners reached Egypt's Red Sea coast.
Lin shared his story with the Taipei Times during an interview on Friday.
"I grew up like any other ordinary child in Taipei," Lin said.
Before moving to Taipei, Lin's parents were farmers in Yunlin County, he said.
A handshake with former Olympic medalist Chi Cheng (
"Chi Cheng was everyone's heroine at the time, and on one occasion, I was able to shake her hand," Lin said. "I was like, wow, it would be great if I could run like her one day."
He did not forget his dream. Lin received basic athletic training by participating in extracurricular activities throughout his elementary and junior high school years. He then attended a high school known for its athletic programs.
"I met Coach Pan there," Lin said. "He is the most important person in my life."
"Kevin didn't run very fast, but endurance was his particular strength," said Pan Jui-ken (潘瑞根), who accompanied his star to the interview.
As soon as Pan discovered Lin's strength, he put Lin through formal training and gave him full support.
"Coach Pan made me a real athlete," Lin said.
After completing studies at Taipei Physical Education College, Lin worked at various jobs, including as a teacher and a contract athlete for a sports marketing firm.
Date of Birth: Nov. 19, 1976
Place of Birth: Taipei
Interest: Reading, travel, music, sports and playing with Bibi (a four-year old golden retriever)
Education: Taipei Physical Education College. Currently working toward a master's degree in sports and psychology at National Chung Cheng University.
1998. Taipei International Marathon
1999, World Cup 24-hour ultramarathon, France.
2000, 1st place, Taipei International 24-hour ultarmarathon
2000, 1st place, Taipei International 100km ultarmarathon
2002, 9th place, Marathon des Sables, Morocco.
2003, 3rd place, the Gobi March, China
2004, 1st place, Atacama Crossing, Chile
2004, 2nd place, Amazon Jungle marathon, South America
2005, 3rd place, Antarctica Cross, Antarctica.
2006-to last month, completed trek across the Sahara Desert in 111 days together with a Canadian and an American partner.
Finally, Lin had an opportunity to run in a marathon in 1998.
"It was a 100km ultra-marathon race hosted by Road Running Association. Originally I signed up just for fun," Lin said.
"But unexpectedly, I found myself actually interested in the sport," he said.
"So I continued. After the 100km in Taiwan, I ran a 24-hour marathon in Taiwan and moved on to a 24-hour marathon overseas. Then I completed the so-called `king of marathons' -- Marathon des Sables," he said.
Marathon des Sables -- an annnual race across the Moroccan Sahara -- means "marathon of the sands" in French. Lin took the challenge in 2002.
"I finished in 12th place, which was the best record ever by a runner from Asia," he said, with a proud smile on his face.
"I really have no idea how I did it," he said.
After demonstrating what he could accomplish, Lin became more convinced he should keep running. However, as his career in ultra-marathon began to take off, his relationship with his parents became troubled.
"Who would want their child to become a runner? It's impossible," he said.
His parents, like all others, wanted him to succeed in school and become a "useful person." They did not consider athletics an option.
"But I liked sports, it's my passion, it's my life," Lin said.
He decided to follow his own heart and prove to his parents that his choice was a justified one.
"I decided to go my own way to prove that I wasn't doing anything bad," he said.
In 2003 he ran across the Gobi Desert in China. In 2004 he won first place in an ultramarathon across the Atacama Desert in Chile. The same year he also ran across the Amazon rainforest. The following year, he finished in second place in a run across the Egyptian Sahara. Last year, he took on another challenge and ran across Antarctica.