A Runner’s Guide to Hong Kong

I woke up one morning on the other side of the world, wide-eyed and ready to go. When on vacation, I always become one of two people: the very efficient go getter, and the lazy slob found halfway between the beach and the beach bar, too imbibed or immobile to move and pleasantly happy with my sloth-like state. Unfortunately, there aren’t white sandy beaches and tiki huts filled with rum and cokes in Hong Kong, so I opted to go on a lengthy run to kick start my two weeks here.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming to be an expert runner… in fact, I don’t know if I would even call myself a runner. I ran track for a hot second in high school before realizing it was an utter waste of time (and subsequently became my school’s Student Union President, a even bigger waste of my time). Since then, I’ve always enjoyed the occasional half-mile run since I’m incredibly fast (yes, in case you’re wondering, I’ve already brushed my shoulder’s off), but anything more than a couple of miles takes a lot of mental determination and ample amount of time to be wasted in order to get me out of the house. That, and taking the dog out of the house is helpful for both Roddick and me, so I try and do it as often as possible.

So out I went. In the middle of Kowloon, I went out with my running shoes and iPod. The first thing I realized? People stare at a runner on the street in Hong Kong like you would stare a naked black guy in spandex on a unicycle in America (yes, naked black guy in spandex on a unicycle in Ann Arbor, I AM TALKING TO YOU!). No one runs in Hong Kong. No one. Partially because the streets area already congested with school children, street vendors, and the eldery. Also because there are literally no streets without a thousand people sharing a 10 foot sidewalk with you. In fact, Hong Kong is home of one of the the world’s busiest intersections! Weaving in and out of foot traffic and startling people becomes a game, sort of like pedestrian Frogger. That is, until you start to cross streets.

…Which is when you start to remember that traffic runs the opposite direction. Yes. Let this be your one and only warning. Look out both ways! Luckily, when the British colonized Hong Kong, they realized that Americans are dumb, so they made these handy directions on every intersection:

So after overcoming the “being a freak running on the street” and mastering the traffic system, the next issue is finding a good place to run. New Yorkers have Central Park and Riverside Park. Michiganders never even encounter such issues. But those from Hong Kong? They really have to find places to run. I checked a couple of running blogging sites, and it appears that the only places to run are all 20 to 30 minutes away from where our flat is, which is in the middle of the city. Luckily, we live by some really nice houses, so I was able to run a loop around some of the upper class homes, while all their house keepers were washing cars and yet again, staring at that freak running on the street.

Finally, as if there was a final obstacle, the pollution in Hong Kong is terrible. There are double-decker buses on every street, crazy amounts of traffic, and what I’m guessing are sub-par pollution standards. After two or three miles, I could hardly breathe, and had to crawl my way back home 13 floors up just to get some fresh air.

So. Chances are no one who actually reads my blog will ever end up in Hong Kong, let alone go for a run, here are a couple of places you can try (I never got a chance to do so). Otherwise, let this be a lesson for all of us, we shouldn’t take anything for granted. Things like clean air, open streets, and vast parks are gifts, so make sure you enjoy your next run outdoors!

Yu Live, Yu Learn

Photo from here.

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