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  • Taipei on the Run

    Posted on May 12th, 2009 Michele Sun No comments

    The annual ING Bay to Breakers is coming up this weekend, and no way that I am going to miss this San Francisco signature event. To run 12K with a pack of fun participants in creative and flambount costumes, flying tortilla, and some not so beautiful nude runners, makes it one of its kind event. I actually look forward to this race every spring, and hope this time will run into my friend Jesse who lives in San Francisco.

    Jesse used to live in Connecticut and about 10 years ago he moved to Taiwan to seek alternative medical treatment for his Ankylosing spondylitis. Just to think the ordeal and pain he has gone through in his life, and the way he pushed himself through all the painful exercise and rehabs, I can’t help but admire his strength and courage.

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    Summer of 2007 I was in Taiwan for a extensive job orientation, the non-stop “plum rains”, common drizzly rains at the end of spring in Asia, has totally messed up my running routines — running on the street in Taipei. I tried to run at the local 24Hr Fitness instead, but any runner can tell you that running on a treadmill for 20 minutes is harder than running 2 hours outdoor. As a result, I actually watched the second half of a NBA game which I never done before :-p

    When the rain finally ceased, I called up Jesse and told him that I needed a long run buddy. Jesse has done the ING Taipei Marathon and a dedicated runner for years, so I was very grateful and in-debt that he not only mapped out a course for me but actually came out to do a long run with me, in hot (36 °C/ 98 °F) and humid Taipei. We met at 6:30am outside of the MRT Taipei City Hall station, and started out toward the Riverside Park. The plan was to run along KeeLung River, then toward TamSui River, from SongShan to GuanDo/TamSui; our goal was to run at least 25KM depending on how well I could handle the heat.

    It’s early morning and no sight of anybody except some wondering wild dogs, but was already unbearably hot. The population of marathon runners is very small in Taiwan, according to Jesse the ING had only pulled in about 2,000 participants for the actual full marathon. Compare to the States, people in Taiwan are just not very into long distance running. Since there is no running trails in Taipei, we were on bike trail instead. I could see DaJi Bridge in distance, shaped as two phoenixes, and near empty MRT running smoothly on an early weekend morning.

    My fuel belt was so insufficient in this kind of weather, so we stopped at convenient store in DaJi to refill our bottles. One will never find himself lack of convenient stores in Taipei; in fact Taiwan has the most convenience stores density in the world – one per 2500 capita; you can easily find 3 in one intersection. The brief moment of air conditioned 7 Eleven was so tempting that I seriously was considering staying inside and just enjoying some icy cold Heineken. :-p

    Thanks to Jesses, his chit chat about WiMAX and running critiques had distracted me from fainting in the heat wave. Beautiful high rise apartments on both side of the river scattered in front of the mountains like legos, and ahead of us I could see the magnificent GuanDu Temple and the beautiful red GuanDu Bridge. Continuing our run after a short stop at GuanDu Temple, we came to Chuwei where I saw the Kandelia candel for the first time in my life.

    Kandelia candel are unique and famous for their viviparous method of reproduction, which involves germinating the seeds directly on the tree and then waiting until the time is right to either drop the seeds into the mud below or float them on waves until they find a suitable environment for survival.

    It’s getting hotter and hotter, and Jesse started really worried about my condition, but I assured him over 100 times that I felt the run was costing me double or triple effort and this might actually be good for my upcoming Anchorage Marathon, June 23rd. After this long run, I would just do maintenance runs throughout the remaining of my trip in Taiwan.

    Along the trail, we barely met anyone else – it’s simply too hot to walk or bike. My face was red and burning, and body was steaming with sweat; by the time we concluded that 26KM run I am sure I looked like an over cooked red lobster. To celebrate this tiring 26KM run, I rewarded myself a grande ice coffee at Starbucks that cost me NT$350 (about $10), ouch!! Ahh….now I see why people drink iced coffee in Taiwan.

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