Okay, so maybe I did mention the whole running thing on this blog a few times before. After all, one of the benefits of physical exercise is being able to brag about it to others, am I right? Why should I be the only one impressed by my efforts? That would just be selfish, you know?
Sharing is caring, people.
And, while I’m sure you all are substantially impressed by my brand new exercise routine, I don’t know if you quite understand the level of risk that I’m taking by running in China.
Sure, jogging may not sound that dangerous, but this is China we’re talking about here, people.
China can make watermelons explode! If China can convert everyone’s favorite summertime treat into an explosive device, than, trust me, they can make jogging into a death sport.
Don’t believe me?
Well, then, here you go:
Top 10 Dangers of Running in China (or “The Things I Put Up With To Be Able to Fit Into My Pants Again”)
1. The AirI heard this statistic once that breathing the air in China is the equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
I don’t know if this is true, as I’m too afraid to Google search it. I’m pretty sure if I googled the air quality of my current home, I’d never want to breathe again. And that could get pretty inconvenient, you know?
I live in a suburb with lots of parks and trees, so I’m pretty sure the air quality is better here than that in more populated areas like Beijing or Shanghai.
But it’s still not great.
I don’t need a Google search to tell me that.
I just need my eyes.The sky is almost always overcast, and all the buildings are wreathed in a grey haze.
It’s like I’m living in the blurry soft focus of my senior yearbook photo… except now I know a thing or two about plucking my eyebrows.
The smog makes for some really great photos; see:
But the smog can’t be too great for my lungs – especially since I tend to breathe a lot while I’m running – like, a whole lot. I believe fitness professionals call my method of breathing “huffing and puffing”. (Frankly, I prefer to call it “oxygen-loading.” It’s kind of like “carbo-loading” but without as many potato chips.)
If that statistic about Chinese air quality is to be believed, I have to be up to at least two packs of cigarettes a day with my new running habit. At the rate I’m going, I’m sure I’ll have a “runner’s cough” in no time. (It’s kind of like a “smoker’s cough,” but without, you know, the cigarettes.)
2. The DehydrationHave I mentioned it’s like a kazillion degrees outside right now? Well, it is.
As you can imagine, running in this kind of heat can lead to dehydration pretty easily.
And, let me tell you, dehydration is a total jerk.
Dehydration makes you feel really crappy. First, you get all woozy and dizzy and headachey. Then, if you don’t rehydrate, you can end up with a hungover-feeling for the entire day after your run.
Dehydration-hangovers are even worse than real hangovers. A real hangover makes you feel really horrible, but you have some good memories from the night before (or no memory at all but a camera full of random photos of people’s feet… so you’re pretty sure you had a good time). Dehydration-hangovers just make you feel horrible without the fun memories or photos or phone calls from random people you might have passed your phone number out to.
Secondly, dehydration can KILL you. Yep, one minute you could be all like, “Look at me. I’m running! Whee! I can’t wait to brag about this on my blog” and the next minute all your internal organs are failing due to dehydration and you DIE instantly… or maybe slowly and painfully… or maybe you’re fine for a couple days but then keel over while at the grocery store.
I don’t know.
I’m not really sure how this whole death-by-dehydration thing works as I refuse to google it. I’m pretty sure it would just scare the bejesus out of me. But, the fact is, dehydration is a jerk – a jerk who might KILL you. (Which probably also applies to the guy who is now calling you at 4 AM because you might have given him your phone number last night.)
3. The Waking up EarlyIn order to beat the kazillion-degree heat, I have to wake up by 6 AM to go running. Yep, that’s 6 AM in the morning.
I’m sure this doesn’t sound very dangerous to you, but that’s because you haven’t met Morning Sally. (She is usually caged up and kept away from visitors.)
You see, Morning Sally, despite what the name might imply, is not a morning person. It takes a lot of enticement to get Morning Sally out of bed before noon – like, say, the promise of a paycheck or pancakes. As you can imagine, going for a run is really not enticement enough for Morning Sally to get out of bed early.
Luckily, Nighttime Sally knows this.
In order to get Morning Sally out of bed on time, Nighttime Sally sets the alarms on both her cell phone and wristwatch and then hides these devices in hard-to-reach places in her bedroom.
Nighttime Sally, being the optimist that she is, thinks that once Morning Sally is up out of bed she will then figure, “Hey, since I’m up crawling around on the floor looking for my watch, maybe I should just get dressed and go running.”
Obviously, Nighttime Sally is kind of a jerk.
And Morning Sally doesn’t want to play that game.
Morning Sally just wants THE BEEPING TO STOP. Morning Sally gets very angry and frustrated because she can’t find her watch to make THE BEEPING TO STOP. Morning Sally can’t figure out how to turn of the alarm on her cell phone which means there’s even more beeping and, oh God, make THE BEEPING STOP. Morning Sally would really like to punch Nighttime Sally in the face right now if it would make THE BEEPING STOP. Morning Sally is going to get up, okay, and go running just so that she can make THE BEEPING STOP.
And then Morning Sally goes out into the world – where, one day, she will probably be arrested for punching someone in face. (And, then she will be caged up and kept away from visitors, as she should be.)
4. The RainThis is my first summer in China, so I was not aware that there are only two summertime weather patterns here: a kazillion degrees or raining.
Luckily, the rain is usually just the drizzly kind of rain, so it’s not that bad. Plus, running through the rain always makes me feel really hardcore like I’m Rocky or something.
So I really don’t mind running in the rain — until I remember that I’m running in the rain in China.
You know, where watermelons explode and the breathing air is like asking for lung cancer. I don’t know what’s in the rain in China (because, again, I’m not willing to Google search it), but I have a feeling it can’t be good.
But, hey, would Rocky Balboa let a little acid rain stop him? I don’t think so. And neither will I. (Umm, that burning sensation on my skin when I come back from a run through the rain is normal, right? That’s just calories I’m burning off and not, say, the bulk of my epidermis, right?)
5. The TrafficEven though I always run on the sidewalks or in the park, this doesn’t mean I can avoid the threat of being run over by motor vehicles.
This is China, after all.
There’s pretty much always a threat of being run over by motor vehicles in China – except maybe when you’re in bed. (Even then, I’d suggest wearing some of those reflective strips on your pajamas.)
Since moving to China I’ve almost been hit by countless bicycles, motorbikes, cars, trucks and, at one point, a full-size bus — all while I was standing on the sidewalk. (And people wonder why I cry every time I have to cross the street.)
6. The WildlifeOkay, sure, I may not exactly be living in sub-Saharan Africa or the Outback. There isn’t much chance of my being attacked by wild elephants or having a dingo eat my Nikes.
But, I have had a few close calls with some creepy critters in the park where I go running.
I once saw a snake
I’ve almost stepped on a few toads.
There’s a group of rather shady-looking chickens who hang out around the park exit. (And, if you don’t think chickens are dangerous, it’s obvious you didn’t grow up on a farm.)
Last week, I saw this weird rodent-like creature that looked like a cross between a squirrel and a dachshund. I tried to google it to figure out what the heck it was, but after typing in “rodents in China” I came up with a lot of disturbing results, which, frankly, made me never want to eat in a restaurant in this country again.
And then, the other day, I came home to find this dangerous creature on my shirt.
I’m not sure how long he’d been there, but it’s obvious from the look in his eyes that he was plotting my death.
7. The PeopleIf you have ever run in a park or public place, you are probably aware of something I like to call the Goldfish Principle of the People Walking in Front of You.
You see, it doesn’t matter how many people could be walking on the sidewalk or walkway in front of you while you’re running. There could be twenty people or merely two people. It doesn’t matter. They could be huge hulking giants or tiny little leprechauns. It doesn’t matter.
The Goldfish Principle of the People Walking in Front of You dictates that those people – no matter how many of them there are or how big they happen to be — will expand to fit their surroundings.
You know, just like goldfish.
And, like goldfish, they will totally block your running path and annoy the heck out of you. (Okay, so I don’t think goldfish actually do that, but go with me here.)
Therefore, if you want to continue your run, you’ll either have to ask them to move or wait until they notice you barreling towards them. And, let’s be honest, goldfish don’t always have the best observation skills.
The park where I run is usually pretty quiet in the morning. The walkways there are huge – at least big enough to fit a full-size bus. (I would know because that’s where I came head-to-head with a bus once.) And, let me remind you, Chinese people are, for the most part, pretty petite.
None of this matters, though.
Every time I’m running behind a group of people – even if it’s two tiny little Chinese grandmothers — they will take up the entire walkway.
Seeing as I don’t know how to ask people to move in Mandarin, I have to wait for them to notice me barreling towards them — which doesn’t always happen in a timely manner. Usually, I end up jogging in place behind them for a while and getting really annoyed with them because, remember, this is Morning Sally we’re talking about here. I also get annoyed with myself because I should really know how to say “Excuse me” by now in Mandarin… or, maybe something a bit more to the point, like “Move it or lose it.” (I don’t know what they would “lose,” but I’m sure Morning Sally would come up with something.)
Eventually, they notice me huffing and puffing behind them (or, err, “oxygen-loading”), and they move to the side… or, you know, they just stand there and stare at me… as you do.
8. The PantsAs I was attempting to pack light before moving to China, I only brought one pair of running pants with me in my luggage. You know, because spandex running pants take up sooo much room.
While the one pair is holding up surprisingly well, I’m a bit worried they won’t last long. Not only do they have to resist a lot of wear and tear while I’m running, but they also have to withstand a lot of spin cycles in my rather abusive washing machine.
Given my general lack of enthusiasm to shop for pants in Asia (springing from my general lack of enthusiasm to purchase any piece of clothing with multiple X’s on the tag), I’m not looking forward to venturing out to find myself a new pair of running pants. But I’m also not looking forward to having my current pair split open while I’m running. (At least, then, the people would have something worth staring at, I suppose.)
9. The iTunesRunning makes you do a lot of things you wouldn’t usually do in your everyday life – like wake up before noon or wear spandex or download music by someone with a dollar sign in her name on to your iPod.
In my everyday life, I pride myself on my music taste – I tend towards eclectic, alternative, indie bands or musicians – you know, adult music.
But in my running life, I have no pride. (I am wearing spandex, after all.) In my running life, I’m also a twelve-year-old — a twelve-year-old with a credit card.
I’ve downloaded so many new cheesy pop songs from iTunes recently, that, frankly, I’m afraid to look at my credit card statement.
I’m also afraid that, should I lose my iPod, the person who finds it will just return it to the nearest twelve-year-old because, clearly, there’s no reason why an adult person would have Justin Bieber on her iPod. (No pride, I tell you. None.)
10. The EnjoymentI try to pretend I’m not one of those people — you know, one of those people who actually runs for fun and enjoyment and not, say, to justify eating an entire tube of Pringles for breakfast.
But the truth is I like running.
I like being outside. (Even if the air in China is actively giving me a tumor.)
I like how running jumpstarts my brain in the morning and gives me a chance to think over what I’ll be writing about that day.
I like the sense of community I feel while running in the park each morning. The other “regulars” at the park have started to recognize me and wave at me. The grounds crew and security guards now smile and say nihao to me instead of just staring. Every once in a while, I’ll see another foreign lady there and we’ll nod encouragement at each other.
And I like the feeling of accomplishment I get after completing a particularly difficult run.
It feels good to know that you defied acid rain, spandex and park-lurking chickens — all before your morning coffee.
I believe this is what the fitness professionals call a “runner’s high.”
I don’t know.
I’m too scared to Google search it.