Posted by: David Stewart | September 24, 2011

Five fun places to run in Beijing

Sunday morning in Beijing, time for a long run.

The challenge was, where to go?  My priorities were simple:

I am staying in a different hotel than usual (a very new and nice place called the Crowne Plaza Sun Palace). This hotel is nestled in the cross hairs of four expressways which intersect like the # sign, and one of them is the super-busy 3rd Ring Road, suicide to cross on foot, even at 6:30 in the morning.

But close scrutiny of Google Maps satellite view showed a little river-side path which crossed in front of the hotel and then burrowed under the highways to get me out. Success!

Ancient Beijing was laid out following the principles of Chinese geomancy, so if you can get on the right street, many interesting places are strung along like pearls before you. These are also convenient for running because you are less likely to get into a dead end and need to turn around to keep on your run.

  • Parks abound in Beijing, today I ran through Yuandadu Park, where one of the ancient walls of the city used to run and the old moat still exists. Today it was a very nice respite from dodging traffic and bikes and was relatively quiet.
  • Hepingli West Street is one of those North/South geomantic lines through the city. The only problem is, the streets in this city change names every mile or so. So for a mile it was Huixin Street, Ylianxuan Street, Yonghegong Street, Dongsi North Street, oh forget about it. (Taxi drivers must need to have a huge equivalency table built into their brains to figure out addresses).
  • Temple of the Earth Park (also called Ditan Park) has a very quiet interior space and plenty of gardens. Just outside the south gate is Jin Ding Xuan, my favorite Dim Sum place inthe city.
  • Temple of Heaven Park is also on this same North/South line through town, it’s where the old emperors used to burn a ton of silk every year for good luck.
  • Just off of this North/South line, on the main East/West line through town is the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the new Opera House and Mao’s Tomb. Pedestrians are sometimes blocked from running that way because of some event or other; I have had to abort a run before because of this, so I decided not to chance it this time.

No doubt, running on the streets of Beijing is a major sport in an of itself – careful crossing the streets since cars have the right of way over pedestrians. Once the sidewalk became impassible because of a sidewalk market, so carefully ran in the dedicated bike lane. Of course random smells, sights, and sounds that you never experience anyplace else is the major treat for running in a strange city. Enjoy it!

Unfortunately, I was keeping a good 8:15 minute per mile pace through most of this, but started getting a little tired at 8.5 miles, so decided my usual travel dehydration was kicking in. Time to hail a taxi and call it a morning.

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