Monday, July 5, 2010

Running in China

Running in China was one of the most interesting experiences I have ever had. I might add, that I have run in Europe, South Korea, Mexico, Peru, Africa, and a host of other places. But, China afforded a unique environment that I haven't experienced before.

For one thing, it gets light at 4:30 in the morning, and my eyes popped open right along with the sunlight...although, there was not a lot of sunshine, as there was this perpetual gray, smog I figured, that blotted out the sun's rays.

Running in Beijing was interesting, as the sidewalks were broad and smooth; very well taken care of. At five in the morning, the streets are already "abuzz." People are out on their bicycles and scooters, electric bikes, and motorcycles, making their way to work. They are also out in droves, practicing Tai Chi, meditation, and clapping exercises. Street vendors are setting up their stands, cooking dumplings, and little pancake-looking items. A particular smell fills the air, a unique smell that I can't pinpoint. It is certainly different from my running routes in Abilene, where I can smell donuts, bacon, and biscuits cooking in people's homes and restauraunts.

Nanjing was our home while there, at least for a week. We stayed in a nice hotel there, although the airconditioning was out for most of the time we were there. It was also very humid. Again, as the light appears in the morning sky, around 4:15 to 4:30 a.m., I found myself out and about, running with some of our students...Matt, who was a football player and former track runner. I also ran with Amanda, who was on the cross country team, and Katie, who is going to coach on the cross country team. They added a nice touch to my morning runs.

Nanjing, around the area we were staying, was right in the heart of the city, but the many bike lanes, and sidewalks allowed for easy running. Again, people were already out, making food, riding their bikes to work, and walking along, exercising, doing Yoga, meditating, and doing early morning Tai Chi Quan. Along one street I ran on, it was lined with many bird cages. Each cage contained one bird...anything from Finches to birds I could not identify.

I ran twice a day there, most of the time, and the humidity was always high. By the time I got out of the shower, I was already sweating again. We marked our time during the day by long hikes and walks around the Ming City Wall, or hiking through the square where I saw an ancient Confucian Temple. During the evening, we were carousing around the alley, trying new foods and experimenting with different kinds of Chinese dishes.

Guillen was a different place, entirely. Located in Southern China, we were in the middle of the mountains. Running in the morning was beautiful, as we ran through the mountains alongside the main road. We were staying in a country club, golf course, and recreational area, and the grounds were gorgeous. We saw a demonstration of Tai Chi, and actually got to participate in a class, where they taught us the basic moves. It was beautiful.

While there, we had the opportunity to take a ride on a boat down a river, through some incredible limestone mountains. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. We capped that off with a hike up the side of a mountain, through rice paddies, up to a small mountain village school. We talked to children there, and then hiked back down. The views were incredible. After we finished the climb, we went White Water Rafting. It was a majestic ride down the Li River, on what must have been level four rapids in places. Adrenaline rush!!!

Then, it was back to Beijing, where I got my last run in before we headed out to the Great Wall. Hiking the Great Wall was magnificent, yet, very taxing. I had just ran 5 miles before we hiked the wall, so I was warmed up, but I can't imagine running a 26 mile marathon on that wall....that would be one tough run to say the least.

Running in China was one of the most interesting experiences of my life, as I saw so many things you wouldn't see if you were just touring around. Waking up early, going out to run, seeing the people start their day...was the way to see a country. Magnificent!

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