It was a cold, windy 5 o’clock in the morning with a drizzle plunging the already chilly Taipei pre-spring temperature to around 10 degrees. I missed the warmth of my hotel bed and chided myself for being gungho to take part in a marathon while on vacation.
Then again, I’ve been to Taipei a couple of times and seen most of the attractions so I figured that the next best way to experience one of my favourite Asian cities is to become one with the locals in the nation’s favourite sport — running. In 2012, there were only close to a hundred running events in Taiwan. Today, more than 300 marathons happen year-round in the country! This is one holiday where my luggage packed on the kilos but not me.
Starting of point of the Taipei Standard Chartered Marathon 2015 was in front of the Presidential Office Building. I was fighting goosebumps from the cold but unbelievably, some of the runners were clad in just a singlet and short shorts (see the couple in blue tank-top and black shorts behind me). I shiver for them.
I signed up for the 8km run. It’s not an eye-popping distance but for someone with asthma, a bad knee and who runs as often as the moon is blue, this felt like I’m going on a mission to Mars. I began training a month prior to the marathon but due to a couple of long-haul travels, I was never able to complete 8km during my practice sessions. I seriously doubted I could reach the finish point without being delivered on a stretcher.
Flag off and my heartbeat was synchronised with the pulse of the Taiwanese. I’m no longer a tourist.
In most marathons, anything under 10km is considered a fun run but the Taipei participants were very serious during the 8km run. I felt delinquent skiving off to make frequent photo stops.
When breathing became laborious and my knees started to tingle and the temptation to just stop running and walk the rest of the distance was strong, I looked to the blind and paraplegic participants for strength. If they can do it, so can I!
I’m terrible at taking selfies but can’t resist snapping a memento of this rare scene in the middle of a Taipei highway with a horde behind me.
One of the great things about running an overseas marathon is you get to act like it’s your grandfather’s road in a foreign country.
I wasn’t the only one running a marathon. It was a snap-a-thon for my handphone too. Love the photo opportunities 🙂
The adrenaline of the masses was fuel to complete the marathon.
Finally reached the finishing point at Da-Jia Riverside Park. I didn’t think I could complete the marathon unscathed since I haven’t ran such a long distance in a long time but I made it! Having so many ‘companions’ on the route really helped made completing the run much easier.
8km conquered! I actually didn’t feel the distance because of the cold and the freshness in scenery of a foreign route. Felt great after the run knowing I’ll return home fitter! This is definitely a holiday off the beaten track 🙂
This post has been made possible by CTC Travel (Singapore) who can help plan and realise a sporting vacation in Taiwan.