China and Running

An odd pair of things seem to be on my mind (and floating around the internet) today: China and running.

Perhaps not so odd. When I spent 3 weeks in China a couple years back, I was training for my first marathon, so a lot of my fond memories of the country are connected with running. (Click on the map here for a virtual tour of the trip.)

So… China. Despite that trip and subsequent travels and reading, I still feel a sense of real vagueness in my understanding of East Asia and its religions. Coming across this video about China helped, as part of the message is that China is a country and a people of many contradictions.

Shanghai, old and new, 2009.

After watching that, I highly recommend viewing this gallery of family portraits representing the 56 ethnic groups in China. And if you have any lingering doubts about China being a place of contradictions, check out this operatic senior choir doing a Lady Gaga cover:

For one last bit of Chine intrigue, have a look at this article: “Sex from Dusk till Dawn.”

And to transition to running, check out this guy, Tulku Lobsang, a running Tibetan monk. There is even a video, here (in German), where he explains his running technique. Running = Meditation. Sweet.

A great meditation teacher, Bodhipaksa, recently drew my attention to this recent article in the NY Times by Christopher McDougall. In just the last 2 months I have transitioned completely and very happily to ‘barefoot’ (actually wearing minimalist Vibram shoes) running. I love it. And everyone I’ve spoken to who has made the switch says the same thing: it’s much better. I feel lighter, faster, and the run feels more fun – like being a kid again running around the playground. The recent Bristol half-marathon will probably/hopefully be my last for wearing regular running shoes. In the spring there is a fairly rigorous trail run that I might do (options include half, full, and ultra distances), and another half-marathon in the nearby and very scenic city of Bath.

For a little motivation, if you haven’t already seen the story of the 100 year old marathoner, see here, and a fantastic story of an Olympic racer, Lauren Fleshman, running her first marathon last weekend in New York is here. A favorite excerpt (from moments after finishing the race, exhausted):

“I have to go be in a coma now,” Fleshman said, adding “All I want to do is lay down and be fed grapes and expensive cheeses by my good-looking husband.”

I can relate. And now, off for a run.

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