Oct 19, 2008

Beijing marathon 2008

Today we got up early to partake in what's become one of my annual traditions in Beijing, the 10K run portion of the Beijing Marathon. Last year, due to some government meetings near central Beijing, the route started near Yingdong Natatorium and wound around the Olympic park. (my post on the 2007 marathon)

In the previous two years I ran in it, the marathon started at Tiananmen and went west and then north. This year, the route reverted to how it was a couple years ago. One major improvement was that they closed off both directions of traffic on Chang An Avenue, rather than just the westbound direction. In 2005 and 2006, they only closed the street in only one direction. This left a parade of smoggy, idling cars on the side opposite the runners, resulting in horrible air for everyone for the first few kilometers of the run. (my post on the 2005 marathon)

One of the higher-ups must have been reading my blog, or otherwise heard the complaints, because this year the marathon was very well done. With the full width of Chang An Avenue for running, the first part of the route wasn't nearly as congested with runners pushing and shoving as it used to be. And of course, the air was much better.

Here's the start of the race, looking north along Tiananmen Square:




The start of the race, looking behind me:




Here are some race participants next to us, looking like Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter, or possibly like a human garbage bag:



And yes, all those plastic raincoats that the many college kids were wearing to keep warm in the morning simply ended up on the ground a minute after the starting gun, creating a nice hazard for us all to slip and slide on.

Here's the official starting line, which we got too around 8:30 AM, a good half hour after the official marathon start:




Winding the turn out of the square:




Running west on Chang An Avenue. Notice the wide space available for running compared to years past:




My favorite photo of the day, which I've named "Belgian with bladder infection":



This scene was at about 9.5 km into the race, in which a 40-something guy, who appeared to be talking French or Flemish with his buddies, and whose shirt said "Team Belgium" or similar, lost control of his bladder. I think he must have a bladder infection. I for one wouldn't have had the nerve to pee in full view of hundreds of runners, at least ten Beijing police officers, and a handful of PLA paramilitary police. If he could have held off until just another 500 meters ahead, the guy could have used the porta-potties the event organizers had set up.

There's a line in Fight Club that this scene reminds me of. The lead character, a banquet waiter at a fancy hotel, pees into as soup tureen of sweet tomato bisque with cilantro and clams, and then turns and says to his buddy next to him, "Don't look at me, or I can't go."
I was thinking, it would have been hilarious if this Belgian guy swung his head around while he was facing the concrete pillar, and shouted that line at the hundreds of runners racing by. "Don't look at me, or I can't go." He could have said it in English or Chinese, it doesn't matter. Itwould have been hilarious.

This is the 10K finish area:




This is a street near my place, almost four hours after the race started. You've got to plan your driving routes carefully on marathon day since traffic gets messed up until the early afternoon.

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