Being a runner has certainly improved my life in more ways than I could possibly count. I‘m a calmer, happier and more self-fulfilled person when I‘m running. Life without running is to me like life without internet: it sucks.
Opposed to what most people think it doesn‘t really take me any effort to go running – therefore I have a hard time explaining to people that I‘m not especially disciplined but just a runner (actually with any other sport I‘m pretty bad – I‘d do it for 2 or 3 weeks and then start slacking off -.-‘). It‘s like those naturally skinny people that claim even though they try they can‘t gain a pound (I‘m the first one to be jealous of that condition :P). It does not really have anything to do with determination or the kind of discipline normal people have to raise in order to do it – it‘s just there. And for me this applies to running.
There‘re only few moments or periods in my life where that kinda sucks – during hiking high in the mountains (who wants to run uphill for half an hour???), at the beach (ever run in sand? yep, NOT funny) or – like right now – during periods of extremely cold weather, also called winter.
Now in Germany I had to deal with that as well which made me go running effectively once or twice a week. Even though the temperature also contributed to that it was mostly the ice and snow I was trying to avoid. In some winters that made me go to fitness studios in search of a treadmill, in others I just endured it and settled with going fewer times.
In Taiyuan, however, this proves to become a huge problem. The average daytime (!) temperature here was in the past three weeks around -14° (for the American readers – that‘s like 7°F) and any runner will tell you that this is seriously NOT the kind of temperature where you wanna go running anymore. It‘s not even healthy, I‘m pretty sure about that. Also the alternative treadmill is hard to get since you‘d have to be a member of a fitness studio to gain access to that and my Chinese is way too bad to manage that task (don‘t really have any desire to join one here, either – could kill me).
Now what happens when a running addict is deprived of his sport is that at some point – sometimes it takes a week but usually you can go on for a couple of weeks – you‘re gonna get really squirrely. And I mean that literally. You can‘t really calm down anymore and have this itching feeling THAT YOU NEED TO GO RUNNING RIGHT NOW. Believe me, there‘s hardly a more annoying feeling (maybe same category as resisting a bad chocolate craving for days) in the whole world. It will deprive you of your sleep. It‘ll take over your thoughts. In short – it‘ll make you go running.
Now as I am in Taiyuan right now, today was the day I had to give in. After a little more than two weeks (and trying at home strength training as an alternative – but like I said I‘m not the most disciplined person in the world) I couldn‘t put it off anymore – and went running today (-13°) not sure if I‘d be making it back – ever. It was every bit as bad as you‘d imagine it – my lung was not exactly happy about ice-air, my fingers were freezing off, my legs were numb the entire time – but when I came back I was the most content person in the whole world. As bad as it was to me it was pure bliss.
That also made me think I should describe a bit of running culture and my running experience in China. The first one is comparatively easy – there is none. I‘m not entirely sure if this also applies to summer time in China but even if it is I think it‘s safe to say that running as a sport has not yet arrived in China. In my entire time of staying here (remember, also Beijing for nearly 2 months and up to 5 times/week running) I might have seen about 30 runners. In China! With 1,2 billion people! I think you get what I‘m talking about. Personally I think it‘s a shame (well, not today but let‘s say above -10°) but it makes it an even more unique experience since now you‘re not only a weird looking 老外 (laowai or foreigner) anymore – no, you‘re also the crazy person running around in parks!
So let‘s move on to the best (and the weirdest) running experiences I had here:
- One thing in I remember in particular was my race with a biker that one time in Beijing. I was totally on a runner‘s high and running as fast as I could (last mile). Then there was this biker trying to round me but of course I couldn‘t let him win and speeded up even more. It was most probably the weirdest sight ever for Chinese people if they see a foreigner chasing a bike. I remember the staring and I can tell you 99% hadn‘t seen anything like that before;)
- My second best experience was right after visiting the forbidden city. Me and my friend were already running late to meet up with the others who had already seen it and after a whole lot of begging I got him to run with me back. Takes you usually about 10 min to get there if you‘re fast but with all the stopping and arguing about going on it took us like 20 min. But imagine the stares you get when you‘re NOT ONLY a foreigner and a runner BUT ALSO in normal clothes! Certainly memorable;)
- This experience actually sucked pretty bad. Being a dog owner myself I‘d never tell people they should put their dogs on the leash all the time. However, I do expect from the dogs in exchange to not be chasing me. Unfortunately that‘s exactly what happened a couple of times to me when I went running (though I also gotta tell you that 90% of the dogs I encountered would do no such thing) with one being particularly bad: I was running and saw this cute puppy when it started chasing me. Trying to get away as fast as I could I started speeding up and actually was able to escape. But when I turned around just to make sure I really lost him I tripped and hurt my foot so bad that I wasn‘t able to run (or walk for that matter) for the entire next week – which really sucked since I was badly into running that time. Needless to say I didn‘t run that part of my route ever again.
- Some of the usual stuff I kinda just wanna name: When I was running here a lot of the time people would starting waving their hands and shouting random stuff in English. In the beginning I just shyly waved back, now I go all out and do some crazy-ass running especially for them. Also sometimes they would start running when they see me coming (especially kids tend to do that) so that I feel obligated to round them with double-speed. 😛
- Also funny are those phases when (especially while listening to your sports remix) you just feel like dancing and naturally start to do so while running. Combining weird hobbies in public (dancing and running) certainly get you most of the attention of whoever you encounter.
Of course there‘s a lot more to say about running (like tasting the coal in the air in Taiyuan) but I think this were some of the most important remarks I can make. And sorry for not posting sth about New Year, I might do that tomorrow.