Running in Taipei

Greetings from Taipei, Taiwan!

When I was here last summer, it was very hot and humid — about 80-90 degrees with 90% humidity by 7am.  During that visit, the Gypsy Runner and I managed to do one very short run of maybe 1-2 miles before deciding it was too unbearable to continue.  (I think he ran once more without me, or at least attempted to do some sort of exercise at the park, while I lounged around in the air-conditioned comfort of my parent’s apartment.  I have no excuse for this except sheer laziness.)  This year, the weather has ranged from optimal (mid-50’s) to warm and humid (mid-70’s) — a definite improvement!  I was determined to exercise a bit more this visit since I wanted to maintain minimal baseline running fitness so I could return to building marathon base after I get back to the U.S.  Plus, I eat A LOT while I’m in Taiwan – the food is SO good that I usually gain a few pounds.  So I hoped that running semi-regularly would address both of these goals.

I’ve been here for over a week now, and have managed to run 3 times, about 5.5 miles each time.  I’m planning on running again Monday morning before my flight.  Considering that my original goal was to run 3 times, I’m pretty pleased with myself.  I probably could have run more often, but I also wanted to prioritize time with my family and relaxing, since this is my big vacation of 2013.  I’ve also been doing plenty of walking, stair climbing (in and out of the metro stations), and shopping — definitely an endurance sport if executed properly!

In addition to the weather, another thing that’s helped me keep a regular running routine is the riverside biking/running path nearby.  My parents live in Sanzhong, which is across the Dan Shui River from Taipei.  (I like to think that Sanzhong is to Taipei like Brooklyn is to Manhattan, but Queens or Staten Island is probably more appropriate.)  Where you might find a couple of upscale neighborhoods in Taipei with wide, tree-lined sidewalks and pleasant parks, Sanzhong is full of stores, restaurants, residential buildings, and more shops.  The older buildings mean very irregular walkways that are often jam-packed with parked motor scooters.  A recent beautification effort to clean up the Dan Shui River has resulted in a 20 km paved path around the island that includes Sanzhong and Luzhou.  The path might not seem super impressive, but it is a HUGE improvement over the polluted, putrid, trash-strewn river banks that existed until about 10 years ago.

My experience so far with the running path is that it has its pros and cons.  The pros: flat, fairly scenic, lots of porta potties/bathrooms, just one traffic light once on the path (at least the section that I run), and not very crowded, but still enough cyclists and runners to make it look lively.  Cons: no water fountains, very exposed, and the 1/2 mile from my parents’ apartment to the path is not very pedestrian friendly.  There was also a lot of headwind on my first trip out there.  The lack of water fountains is a pain, but luckily, my dad has ridden his bike nearby during 2 of my runs, and has been acting as my personal water carrier. 🙂  Bonus: it’s also been a nice father-daughter bonding activity!

As for the running culture, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of runners out on the path, especially on the first day I ran, a Saturday.  I’ve seen signs for a local running club and there was a “Night Run” event last week that was similar to the Rave/Neon Runs in the U.S.  With a few exceptions, people tend to run/jog pretty slowly.  I’d also estimate that only 10% of the runners that I’ve seen were women, which is slightly depressing but not surprising, given the beauty standards here of porcelain white skin and very, very stick thin builds (i.e., muscle tone is very undesirable).  Yesterday I saw a woman running by herself and she waved at me, then I waved back.  Solidarity!

Here are some photos I took last week during run #2. Enjoy!

sidewalk

Sidewalk en route to the riverside path.  It’s a lot worse than it looks in this photo.

Taipei skyline

Taipei skyline from the “wharf”. You can see Taipei 101 in the distance to the left.

the path

Looking south on the path from the wharf.

one of the better bathroom facilities

One of the better bathroom facilities, aptly named.

Looking back at the (old) Taipei Bridge.

Looking back at the (old) Taipei Bridge.

guy doing tai chi under the tree

There was a man doing tai chi under the tree.

tiny temple under the Zhongxiao Bridge

Tiny temple under the Zhongxiao Bridge

Taipei Metropolitan Park

Partially completed Taipei Metropolitan Park. (The left side is still under construction.)  There have been saxophone players practicing under those trees every time I’ve run at the park.

Another view of the park

Another view of the park

Potable water? Not sure...

Potable water? Not sure…

at the far edge of the park, which is 1.2 km long

At the far edge of the park, which is 1.2 km long.

Taiwanese kitsch

Taiwanese kitsch

A flea market, because you never know in case you feel like shopping in the middle of your run

A flea market, because you never know if you might feel like shopping in the middle of your run.

The New Taipei Bridge

The New Taipei Bridge

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About

Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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19 comments on “Running in Taipei
  1. Mike says:

    Nice! Probably feels good to get out from around Lake Merritt for a while, I’d imagine Taipei has a slightly different feel than Oakland. Have you calculated your average miles per dumpling? If you’d planned your visit for two weeks later you could have run the Taipei Fubon Marathon… although admittedly I know next to nothing about that race.

    • Jen says:

      I’ve definitely exceeded my dumpling to miles ratio — leaving here with a little carb belly, but no regrets. As for the Taipei Marathon — I read about that on Marathon Guide recently. The reviews are from several years ago, but it sounds quite boring, with the course going back and forth on a section of closed expressway. The Taroko Gorge Marathon (and half) sounds like the “premier” race here… unfortunately, it’s halfway down the island (about 3-4 hour train ride from Taipei) and happened in early November.

  2. Everything looks so GREEN! I’m glad you were able to get your runs in while enjoying family time! Happy Thanksgiving weekend! 🙂

  3. BT says:

    @Jen — the lush and tropical bit reminds me of the 2/3 of Hong Kong that is completely undeveloped. The Island influence is so cool in these regions. Enjoy your visit and thanks for sharing!

  4. Amy says:

    I’m impressed that you ran at all! And from what I hear, the concept of female running is really limited to a few counties which is so crazy. With all of that good food, how do women stay stick thin??? And I’m actually surprised to see how many signs are translated into English. This gives me hope that I can travel to Asia one day and not be completely disoriented. Hope you are having a safe trip home!

    • Jen says:

      Re: how women stay thin in Taiwan — there are many answers to that:
      1. Genetics.
      2. Like women everywhere, the younger you are, the more likely you are to be “stick thin.” Most Taiwanese women middle-aged and older have a soft layer of fat — but mostly hidden by clothing, or else just not concentrated in one place (i.e., the butt, hips).
      3. They don’t eat as unhealthily as I did when I was there. 🙂
      4. People in Taipei walk a lot (as is generally true for city dwellers).
      5. There is a lot of pressure to be thin. I have had to buy clothing sized medium to XL in Taiwan, whereas I’m almost always a small in the States. I’m guessing that some bigger people might choose to stay out of sight due to shame (same thing goes for disabled people, whom you hardly see in Taipei).

      You could definitely travel in Asia! The metro in Taipei is so easy — the maps are bilingual, they announce every stop in 4 languages, and Taiwanese people are really friendly to Westerners.

  5. Dominick S. says:

    Man, I always enjoy running on vacation. Glad you had a chance to explore and soak in/examine the culture from a new perspective this time (or at least MORE this time).

  6. Cathryn says:

    This looks so cool – reminds me a little of running in Japan except that it’s so very popular there. I can’t imagine women not running – makes me appreciate that we get the chance to do so!!!

    • Jen says:

      Yeah – I’m hoping that running in Taiwan, especially among women, catches on to the extent of its popularity in Japan. That would be awesome. I think these new running paths will definitely help!

  7. I love running on vacation and to read about running in places where I’ve never been. Running through the shopping area would be a good distraction when you’re tired. I’m glad you’re not afraid of muscles like some of the women!

  8. […] from Taipei!  Maybe some of you remember the post I wrote about running in Taipei last year, maybe you don’t.  Either way, I’m not going to rehash anything from that post, except […]

  9. GS says:

    Found your blog while looking for places to run in Taipei. Great blog about running and food:)! I’m from the East Bay, too! Will be in Taipei for another 2 weeks. Don’t feel like I’ve eaten enough since my kids are picky eaters, sigh… Happy eating and running! Maybe I’ll run:) into you at a race back in the Bay Area. I’ll let you know how my Taipei running experience goes.

  10. cathrine says:

    Hi Jen!
    could you possibly assist me with a registration for Jiji Music Marathon.
    I`m struggling soo much and cant get hold of the organisers .. I have been googling but don’t know where to turn .. I`m on cf@travelconnections.co.za and would so greatly appreciate any assistance you can offer.

    • Jen says:

      Hi Cathrine, I’m sorry, but I’m not in Taiwan, and my Chinese is limited, so I’m not sure what I can do to help. Hope you find some answers!

  11. […] Taiwanese Runner (Jen) has written about running in Taiwan – initial observations from 2013 HERE and changes she noticed in 2014 […]

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