Rules of the Road and Running

For the past few weeks, I’ve been training for a ½ marathon. My first run was more like walk/run/walk/run as I fought the crowds on Nanjing’s streets and waited for stoplights to turn. People are fairly unaccustomed to runners here, and a runner seems to muck up the works of a very finely tuned system of movement. The flow of street traffic operates on one rule: Don’t stop for anything. Basically, everyone more or less plays chicken, and at the very last moment, the person who loses has to give way. But the game of chicken is based on the assumption that you have to act according to your mode of transportation. We have seen a bus take on a crowd of pedestrians in this manner, and it all worked out just fine even though we thought we were about to witness mass destruction. I’m certain that it would have been a disaster if one of the pedestrians were a runner. Being a runner on the streets of Nanjing is like being the person who pulls out the checkbook in the Visa commercials.

One nice thing about running in Nanjing is that I can spit with abandon, since it’s very normal to spit in China. When I say spit, I mean really SPIT. People here are spitting professionals.

I’ve also found, as always, that running is one of the best ways to discover a city. In an effort to get off the streets and avoid injury and pollution, we’ve found the track at the local teacher’s college and a long trail around a large lake, Xuanwu Hu. People still look at me like I’m a little weird and occasionally someone jumps in for a few yards of running, but generally, these places are peaceful.

People here are very athletic, even if this doesn’t tend to come in the form of distance running. People awaken early to do Tai Qi and other exercises. Walking backwards also seems to be popular (and they think running is weird, hmmm). Tennis, soccer, and basketball games are always happening around the track. By far though, my favorite show of athleticism in Nanjing is a young man who practices Tai Qi with a long sharp sword while dressed in his sportcoat, dress shoes, and khakis. He is talented and intriguing to watch, but quite intimidating too. I am trying to imagine someone in the States practicing their swordsmanship in say, Central Park, with a real weapon. Hmmmm…

I would say that the Chinese generally lead a very healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, many people, especially the men, smoke with abandon. They even smoke right underneath signs that say, “No Smoking.” This somewhat explains the lack of distance running. It is very hard to enjoy a cigarette on the run.



3 Responses to “Rules of the Road and Running”

  1. 1 coffeegopher March 31, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Hi Liz and JM!

    Just wanted you to know how much I enjoy your blog. I read it daily! I’m so glad to know you guys are getting into your own routine there. You are still my heroes!

    Take care,

  2. 2 Lydia S Lui March 31, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    I think you both should try Tai qi, if you haven’t! I loved it when I was in LA, where I could practice outside all year round. It’s really good for your mind and relaxing for your body.

  3. 3 Becca Lloyd April 1, 2008 at 2:46 am

    GO LIZ! Good luck with the 1/2 marathon!

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