Eileen Gu runs half marathon on a whim, finishes second

Eileen Gu poses after finishing 2nd in the female 19-and-under category at the San Francisco half marathon.
PHOTO: Instagram/@eileen_gu_

Is there anything Eileen Gu can't do?

Not content with winning two gold medals and one silver for China at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the freestyle skier turned her talent to long distance running last weekend.

California-born Gu decided, on a whim, to take part in the half marathon race in her hometown San Francisco Marathon.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given her natural athletic ability, the 18-year-old ended up on the podium with a runner-up medal.

Gu finished second in the 19-and-under age category at the 45th annual edition of the event, with a time of one hour, 41 minutes and seven seconds.

PHOTO: Reuters

What made her achievement even more remarkable was that she had not specifically prepared for the race, and only decided to sign up a day and a half before it got under way.

"Landed in San Francisco 36 hours ago and spontaneously signed up for the San Francisco half marathon," Gu wrote in an Instagram post, having picked up her ESPY award for best breakthrough athlete of 2022 a few days earlier in Los Angeles.

"Went in with the relatively simple goal of finishing the race but got a bit competitive around mile 7 and wanted to see what I could make happen.

"Hyped to walk away with an unexpected second place in the 19 and under age group!! Still on a high. What a day."

Chinese-American Gu was born and raised in San Francisco, but opted to compete for her mother's birth country at Beijing 2022, where she won gold in the big air and half-pipe events, and a silver in slopestyle.

PHOTO: Reuters

Her achievements helped her become a celebrity sensation in both the US and China, with the part-time model now having 1.6 million Instagram followers.

She also frequently tops the trending charts on Chinese social media platform Weibo – and even got a special mention in-person from President Xi Jinping at a ceremony honouring China's Winter Olympic medallists.

Gu has also been tapped up as an ambassador for the US' bid to host the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games at Salt Lake City.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.