Beijing Comes to Shanghai

I’d planned to write today about running on the Great Wall last weekend. 

Yes, life is pretty rad when I can casually type out such statements. 

But that story will come later. I feel more compelled to tell you all how my boy from Beijing contacted me yesterday. This is the race director, 6 years running–twice annually–of the Commune By the Great Wall race I just ran. 

Yes, he is the one with a very, very charming–some may use the word “extremely”– girlfriend who I also met & had lunch with last Sunday post-race. [Realized I needed to back away from all my personal We Chatting when I saw my boy’s profile pic–him with her.]

In fact, I don’t even know my boy’s name. He told me his “English name,” as many folks here do, but I insisted on knowing his Chinese name; then promptly forgot it. 

I think I saw “Sun” somewhere but may be making that up. I’m bad with names anyhow so it’s probably “Bob.”

Let’s just call him Sun for now. 

He We Chatted me up yesterday & invited me to an event he was directing this morning in Century Park, an epicenter of Shanghai running. Not a race, he said, but exercising & a 5km run. 

Date wrong on ad

He put on a tremendous event in Beijing last weekend & he and friends invited me to train with them in Olympic Park in Beijing. Great new connections but I didn’t know when I’d see him again. 

Well, only 6 days passed before I was starting a run with Sun in Century Park. It was great starting after his event because I was able to sleep in, have a good breakfast with tea, & casually take trains out to Pudong, a little ways from HongMei Road. 

Sun spotted me directly, even in the midst of a crowd of women dancing, which seems commonplace here in parks. 

A lady appeared–not his special lady–and she took my bag from me. I never got her name either, as there was zero introduction. Immediately, I noticed her “Vegan Runner” shirt, in both English & Chinese. 
Do I know her? Is that why we were not introduced formally? Is she a part of the Vegan Runners I’ve been associating with? Dang. Hard to tell. I’ve been meeting so many folks all over, it’s tough to keep up. 

Nevertheless, I handed my iPhone & bag over to a stranger & went off to run. 

Sun speaks little English & there was no talk of pace. We just decided quickly to go 20 kilometers (12.4miles). I’d figured he was a strong runner but was still startled when he told me soon after we’d started out what his marathon PR (or “PB” here) is: “Er dian er shi liu fenzhong.” 


[Note: Pinyin-English tone marks for Chinese character sounds not included as I do not know how to type them into my phone.]

Yes. Sun is not slow. 

Turns out, the Skins event this morning was also on behalf of his Skins apparel company sponsor. 

So, we jumped out into 6:19 pace. I came in today thinking 7-7:30’s. Did 11 yesterday before work, averaging about 7:15 pace. I’m feeling good, but ChangCheng is still only 6 days past. 

Beautiful weather here. It’s finally fall. Leaves fell along the tree lined running path encircling Century as temp hovered around 70. Soon, I spotted TEC. Founder of the 471 strong Vegan Runners group. 

Me: “Wo shi su shi zhe.” 

(I’m vegan.)

TEC turned, we shook hands mid-flight. 

I introduced him to Sun. He quickly recognized him (“a champion,” our mutual vegan lady friend told me afterwards). Then he ran ahead, crouched down & snapped this shot:

We cruised on. Passing hundreds of runners, walkers, families, kiddies. It’s a solid 5km loop. I felt strong. 

We spoke a lot those first 4 miles. 

Mandarin Chinese flowed more freely from my lips than ever before:

I threw out everything I’ve been practicing daily–“zai” here, “zhuan” there, simple sentences, simple questions, statements like this with time–before verb!

“Wo mingtian zaoshang qi dian zai pao bu.”

(I’m running phere at 7 tomorrow morning.)

“Wo qu ChangCheng pao bu le!” (I ran The Great Wall!)

But by mile 5 , I felt like I needed to conserve and dropped back a bit to 6:25-6:30 pace. 

Chinese practicing ceased. 

We stayed within this range until about 15-16km. 

I was never truly hurting, but I definitely was beginning to push harder than anticipated. 

Sun was not breaking a sweat. To add insult to injury, he took a quick phone call around 18.5km, when I’d slowed probably to 6:50’s. His breathing was completely unaffected. 

Happily, we soon finished & met our friend at her car. She asked me in English, “Would you like to have lunch with us?” 

Yes! And I knew there’d be some vegan foods in light of her shirt. >> but is she with the team I’ve been running with? Do I know her?! 

I’m going to try to avoid embarrassing myself yet again. So, I wondered this virtually the entire time we were together.

After a quick stretch & partial changing of clothes, we jumped in her sedan. 

Wow. I AM HERE. Driving through Shanghai, China. Saturday afternoon. Breeze cooling us through half opened windows. This is it. 


Landscaped medians full of flowers…huge silver clock-like sculpture…yizhi zou–major skyline buildings in the distance. We must be in or near Pudong. 

A few kilometers later, we pulled into a “Sports Park” parking lot, complete with a stadium, track, skateboard park, etc. We walked promptly into a hotel lobby. Oops. We walked out & into a restaurant next door: Mr. Hu Seafood Restaurant. 

Ohhhh. Not too excited. 

However, this is Zhong guo! (China)

Our friend disappeared, then came back a few minutes later. Soon thereafter, small dishes if food began appearing. First, incredible little salted peanuts–huasheng–then fresh garlic & hot peppers. Next, a beef-looking tofu dish–YES!–then vegetables of all sorts that we don’t have anywhere in North America. 

I always forget this part. 

The food just keeps on coming. It’s an embarrassment of riches. 

Just when you think, “Okay, let’s focus on this entree, as it were…” There’s a new plate, full of smoky strips of tofu with green veggies, whatever they may be. 

Black fungus, freshly squeezed pear juice–sugar free, soup with noodles, etc etc.

And there’s no time to be concerned with previous germaphobias because everyone’s all up in the bowls & plates with chopsticks. It’s completely shared and I don’t mean by using serving spoons and piling up individual plates first because that ain’t happening. 

Probably 11-12 dishes of food came out to us. All vegan minus shrimp & a crab for Sun. 

Yet another stunning lunch in China. 
Our lady friend: “Because I am Shanghainese and wanted you to try our traditional foods…”

This was told to me as she adamantly rejected a single fen (cent) of my money. Nary a WeChat transfer would take place.

(a very common payment method here which allows me to hardly ever carry my wallet anywhere nowadays). 


We were off. Finally, I got her name: Xiao Qiong. Member of yet a different vegan runners team–220+ strong. What?!

She brought us through Pudong, stopping casually at a light near these two bad boys not ever seen this up close:

Shanghai Tower on left–2nd tallest building in the world. Shanghai Financial Center to right–9th tallest building in the world.

Xiao Qiong dropped me next to a 10 Line subway station–the Metro–and I lumbered in, smelly but happy. 

On through the x ray screening bag check–present in every train station I’ve seen here–and down to the clean, quiet subway. 

Holy crap! I live in Shanghai, China. 

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