Posted by: David Stewart | September 17, 2008

Pretending to be an Olympian

Yesterday I discovered that my Beijing hotel, the Shangri-La, is within 1 mile of the

Beijing 2008 Olympics course. So this morning when I was looking for a route to run, I
thought “what could be cooler”?

So I ran the course along Zhonguancun Road north from the Vollyball venue! Some things
I noticed:

  • Running at 4:00AM in Beijing is a nearly perfect time to run. Hardly any cars on
    the road anywhere. So for some parts of the course, I was able to run right down the
    middle of the three-lane road without fear of being hit.
  • I passed a misting station, still set up. I noticed these on TV, a “beat the heat”
    strategy. I was surprised that these were still hooked up to barrels of water and a
    pump. Maybe because of the Paralympics. (Unguarded, these wouldn't last 5 minutes in
    New York City).
  • Anywhere along the route where there was a patch of grass, there were erected cheery
    bits of temporary decoration. I saw two types: One was a 15 foot tall banner with
    silouetted runners. The other was a string of 5 monolyths, painted in the colors of the
    Olympic rings. These would repeat periodically along the course wherever there was a
    grassy place in front of a building.
  • All construction sites along the route were sheilded from the street with a wall and
    identical “Beijing 2008” dressing. Remember, construction work was halted city-wide to
    curtail air polution during the games. Now, every site supported an exactly identical
    banner outside of the sites.

  • Above decorations all seem temporary, like they will disappear in some collector's
    attic once the paralympics are done. This is because monolyths and banners were mounted
    on 2 by 4s or other temporary foundation.
  • Of course, as with all major streets and expressways, the flowers are in bloom and
    all of the landscaping is brightly spiffed up, with street cleaners hard at work at
    4AM. It's like a city-wide Disneyland treatment!

Too much fun – I could imagine the screaming crowds but still run only an 8 minute pace!

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