Aug 29, 2010

Running in China

Last week I was at a conference in Beijing and I chose to stay at a hotel close to the Bird's Nest and the Olympic Village. I've never been to China earlier and was unsure what to expect. I was worried how this trip will interrupt my running (again) and diet. But all my worries were short lived. I ran every morning during my visit as usual and loaded up on the complimentary breakfast at the hotel. Perhaps the hotel staff were surprised at the quantity I consumed! So I would wake up each morning before sunrise and head outdoors for a run that almost always included passing the National Stadium (aka Bird's Nest) and the National Aquatics Center.

The stadium is unlike any structure I've ever seen. During my first run, an American tourist couple spotted me in my running attire staring at the Birds's Nest in awe and said, "Aren't you too late for the Olympics?".

A run at the Bird's Nest. Check out the Satellite View.
Near the Bird's Nest is the National Aquatics Center which looks like a giant blue aquarium with bubbles on the surface. Apparently the bubbles are in the shape of H2O's molecular structure. Geeks unite!

Pollution in the city is very noticeable despite of the government's efforts to relocate the factories away from Beijing for the Olympics. Every morning I could see the sun making its way through the thick Beijing smog. Also beware of drivers in Beijing. Red light does not necessarily mean stop!

For a big city like Beijing, I did not see any runners on my route other than a lone runner. The first day we exchanged glances, the next day I did a "ni hao" with a grin and another day we both ran together with him not knowing English and me not speaking Mandarin. I did see a lot of old people walking. Many of them were conservative looking and were either shocked or offended to see my skimpy running shorts.

Diet was my biggest worry. When I'm at home, I'm really careful about what I eat and plan my meals around my runs. I decided to fall off the wagon for a week and surprisingly I didn't do bad. My instincts served me right and I managed to eat the right kind of food most times.

I'm glad to be back home, although jet lagged, where I can browse the internet uncensored. Throughout my trip, I could not access Twitter, Facebook or Blogger. I imagine grad students in China must be very productive!


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