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!