As I said the other day about running my first 5k, I managed to run steadily during our time in Shanghai this summer. Shanghai has a subtropical climate. Running in this kind of very hot and humid weather is probably no big deal for people who live south of the Mason-Dixon line in the U.S. For Midwesterners like me who are used to short summers of hot humid weather, it was an adjustment.
The sun rose around 5am so by the time I hit the track or entered a park before 6am, there were already lots of people out and about. Mostly older people who were running, walking, or doing a variety of exercises like Tai-Chi, badminton, or even ballroom dancing.
At first I ran in parks, once around Century Park in Pudong and once around People’s Park in Huangpu. It took a long while to get to Century Park by the Metro from where we were living in the Hongkou district. People’s Park is also a decent place to run around, but again, it was a busy Metro ride down and back.
Since we were staying at a guesthouse at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), most mornings I ran around the campus track. Other times I ran in Lu Xun park. Regardless of where I ran, I was usually the only non-Chinese person.
As always, the heat was strong, even at 6am. One morning, after a particularly sticky run, I went online to check the weather and according to Weather.com it was 82 degrees with 89% humidity.
It was two weeks before I adjusted to running in that kind of heat. I learned to go at a slower pace. I also learned to drink most of a half-liter bottle of water before my morning runs. That way I wouldn’t feel so thirsty, or worse, get a parched mouth. The parched mouth happened once. I’d never had that during a run before, but then I’d never sweated so much during a run before.
One morning it started raining during my run at the track. Then the rain got heavy and everyone left the track except for me. I don’t know why. As I said, after a run I was always soaked in sweat. Being soaked in rain seemed far more appealing. I kept looking up for thunder clouds and lightning, but there were none. So I just kept running. It felt great, like when I was a kid and I would ride my bike in the warm summer rain.
A few words about Chinese track etiquette: there is none. It’s just like waiting in line in China, in that there is no line. Slower runners run in whatever lane they feel like running in, including the inner lanes. Faster runners simply have to go around the slow runners. Then there are the packs of 3, 4, or sometimes 10 runners who set up a wide slow-moving mass that you have to run around. Then there are the walkers who might or might not be in the middle or outer lanes. One morning, two very old women, clearly older than the rest of the morning crowd, were walking together on the track. That’s not what was unusual. What was unusual was that they were walking side-by-side in the two inner lanes clockwise; in the opposite direction of all the other runners and walkers. We all simply went around them.
I never tried running on sidewalks through the neighborhood because then I’d have to cross at lights and that would disrupt my run. A few times I tried to use Google Maps to chart a run on the streets of Shanghai, but the site would crash on me every time. Besides, I didn’t know the streets very well. Streets in our neighborhood weren’t always straight, and they often turned and changed names frequently, making it difficult to calculate distances and commit to memory when and where to turn.
The other bit of exercise I got was from walking. It was our main form of transportation for getting around Shanghai. I walked more than I have in years. I hadn’t walked that much since my wife and I lived in Chicago.
While walking, I also carried Meredith around a fair bit. In Nanjing, I carried her up to Sun Yat-Sen’s Mausoleum and back down again. After awhile, I told myself that carrying my four-year-old daughter was all part of my unofficial conditioning program.
At any rate, I’m hoping this will all have helped me to be in proper shape to run that 5k in a few weeks.