Thursday 26 April 2012

Beijing - China

Ready to run? The view from my hotel window in Beijing
Okay first of all, if you are reading this in Beijing, congratulations, you got a Visa! After two seperate trips to London filling in various forms, obligations and photo sessions, I got in. And boy was it not worth the effort. I previously described Luxembourg as grey and bleak. But compared to Beijing that place looks like paradise.

Probably a little harsh, but there is just such a huge difference in cultures that I cannot see why you would come here for anything other than business. That may sound like a typical English thing to say as we are renowned for liking our comfort zones, but I am usually very open to experiencing and seeing different ways of life. But China was just a step too far for me.

My favourite city is Rio de Janeiro, so I guess I should have expected China to not be my thing, and man this is not Rio! Everything is so controlled, there seems to be no freedom, character, spontaneity. Almost a feeling of fear. 

There is just such a methodical, disciplined feel wherever you go, which is very surprising as the Chinese are such fantastic innovators when it comes to architecture, construction and technology. 

Anyway back to the running, which is why you are reading this. I arrived at night, I was here with my friend, and after looking out of my window in the morning, (see above) I have to say, and I really shouldn't, this is one place where the treadmill actually looked reasonably tempting!
Resisting, we laced up our trainers and hit the streets, assuming it was okay to run on the roads in China. From our hotel in Dongxiaokouzhen in the north side of Beijing we set off south towards the Olympic Park. The reasoning for this was that if exercising in public is going to be okay anywhere, surely it would be there!

We stumbled across a park, which Google Maps later revealed to be Dengsheng Culture & Sports Park (our Mandarin is not the best!) and preceded to navigate our way from the northern tip in a full circuit, exiting the park through the south eastern exit.

Now you may be thinking this was some ellaborate spectacular high-tech park. Let me tell you it was not! A concrete walkway made it a nice clean surface for running but there were really no points of interest or highlights, other than a couple of small lake/ponds. NY Central Park this is not.

Being 6 foot 2" and 6 foot respectively, wearing shorts and woolly hats, it is fair to say that we probably didn't blend in too well, so it was good thing that the place was absolutely deserted. Okay it was a weekday but I cannot recall seeing a single soul in the whole park.
Proceeding south on Heiquan Road, which crossed over the River Qinghe before becoming Lincui Road, we reached the Olympic Park - although there was still no sign of the 2008 Olympic Stadium dubbed the Bird's Nest.

With asking for directions out of the question and neither of us having our phones on us just for precaution, like Forrest Gump we just kept running!

Having now travelled 2.5km to this point, we were both still fresh despite the usual poor night's sleep after a fly day and arriving in a new country/time zone.

We followed Lincui Road all the way south until it eased left (east) becoming Ao Lin Xi Lu Road, meandering through the middle of two relatively small green areas which I presume are more parks (obviously to keep up with the demand from people using them!).

After 6.2km we got a glimpse of the Nest much to our relief and one final push south on Thanchen East Road and a left on the imaginatively named National Stadium North Road saw us reach our destination.
The 2008 Beijing Olympic Stadium, dubbed the Bird's Nest - for obvious reasons
The highly impressive stadium holds 91,000 people and it has to be said, is absolutely extraordinary. Allegedly almost 5,000 local residents were forced to move from their homes from near the site, something which seem ridiculous given the sheer size of the city.

Satisfied with our morning's work. We set off back north towards our hotel. Neither of us said it at the time, but I am not sure either of us was 100% sure of the way back!
Probably even more spectacular than it's more infamous neighbour is the National Aquatics Center. In a city of pathetic fallacy where the grey gloomy weather seems to mirror much of its surroundings, these two achitectural beacons stand out as what could be possible if the state allowed the people to flourish.

Looking like a gigantic series of bubbles, it is one of the most imaginative and striking structure I have ever seen.

The temperature in Beijing can get very cold so definitely pack your cool weather running gear.

It was now just a case of following our tracks along the same route, which by the time we reached our total measured at just over 15km. Further than perhaps we had planned, but actually in the end what turned out to be one of the better runs overseas.

You can follow me and my blog on Twitter @fairboyruns, Instagram @tomlfairbrother or on Facebook. You can also follow my running progress on Power of 10


Start - Dongxiaokouzhen
Journey - Through Dengsheng Culture & Sports Park then south on Heiquan Road, Lincui Road and east on Ao Lin Xi Lu Road. Finally south on Thanchen East Road and east on National Stadium North Road. Lap of Bird's Nest Stadium, past Aquatic Center and follow same route home. 
Finish - Dengsheng Culture & Sports Park north exit.

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