Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Running/Walking Through Taipei

From Danshui, Taiwan     My first visit to Taiwan and what a surprise to discover that something that I love to do is almost impossible to do here in the city – RUN.

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I’ve run through the streets and smoggy pollution of Beijing, down the main streets of Lisbon and through the alley ways of Porto, but there is no place safe to run in the city of Taipei.  Well, at least I haven’t discovered one yet.

Unless you’re suicidal I’d suggest you never run through the streets in Taipei or you’ll be placing your life at risk.      The sidewalks are crowded, there are nonexistent shoulders and you’ll be dodging cars, bikes and scooters as well as pedestrians giving you nasty looks or dogs trying to run you down.

Like many other urban areas in Asia the air quality is poor, but Taipei does have a lot of charm and some interesting places to see.    Fortunately our hotel is the Grandee Taipei located in the Shihlin District and right outside is the famous Shihlin Night Market, the largest of its kind in Taiwan.  Walking the market place from one end to the other takes hours and is well worth the adventure as everything and almost anything is for sale.

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A short 40 minute bus ride away is Yangmingshan National Park which is the perfect venue for someone looking to log in a few miles of exercise without worrying about being run over by a car or bitten by one of the hundreds of loose dogs in the city.    We took the bus right outside of our hotel for a visit to Yangmingshan with a roundtrip cost of 30 NTD, or less than one US dollar.

The bus ride is gorgeous, beautiful views and winding roads through the forests.  There is no fee to get into the park which is opened all day, each and every day.  Be sure to catch the return trip bus by 6:30 pm as this is the last one that leaves the park for the day.

If you love trail running, Yangmingshan, is the perfect venue.  There are many well marked trails that wind throughout the park.  Just don’t be too surprised if you see a snake or two and take a look at the many varieties of bugs; just don’t stray too far from the trails.     The park is also noted for their red bellied squirrels and there are wild monkeys throughout the forest.

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Few people would consider Taiwan a place for runners.   Most portions of the island are not runner-friendly and the people are not used to seeing strangers jogging in the heat of summer.     No need to play Russian roulette with buses so for Randee and the Big Dog its exercise by walking through the Night Market in the evening and heading to the park early in the morning for a 60 to 90 minute jog before discovering the many sites and flavors of Taiwan.     Besides you never know who you might run into while traveling abroad.

We ran into Michelle Camero while on our adventure through the night market.  Camero has been living in Taiwan since 2005 where she is a full-time English teacher.     Originally from San Antonio, Texas, and a huge Spurs fan, Camero came to Taiwan after graduating from Chico State in California where she majored in Linguistics.    I don’t know how I bump into these runners, but Camero is a former high school cross-country runner who ran just to stay in shape.     “I have no hand-eye coordination, due to my genetics,” she said with a grin.  “I joined cross-country because I always liked to run and I was fast.”

At age eleven Camero was diagnosed with scoliosis, curvature of the spine, and it was so bad that she had to have surgery.  “Without the surgery my ribs, in time, would be pushed against one another and they would collapse,” Camero said.    After her surgery she was laid up for six months and was tutored from home.  “My inactivity caused me to gain a lot of weight and I stopped growing due to the two metal rods that had been fused to my spine,” she said.

It was during her sophomore year in high school that she began to exercise again.  “I began by following a regimen that I found in a teen magazine.  Once school started back, I would come home and exercise everyday and wouldn’t allow myself to do anything before hand,” she said.   Camero began reading fitness magazines and educating herself.  “I also started to buy videos to help keep me in shape and I started lifting weights instead of calisthenics,” she said.

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In college Camero signed up for cardio and weight lifting classes and eventually switched her majors to exercise physiology and nutrition.  “I switched back to English because I wasn’t motivated to tackle the science classes that were required to get the exercise physiology and nutrition degrees,” she said.     Camero is just one of the many friendly and polite people that we have met while walking through the city.

And all is not lost for the future of running in Taiwan as President Ma Ying-jeou, a Harvard law graduate, is an avid jogger that also loves swimming and cycling.    In a press release recently Ma supported the opening of swimming pools at all Junior High Schools throughout his country so that young people can get the much needed exercise required for a healthy body.

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Taiwan, the traffic is nuts, but if you take a deep breath and open yourself to its people you can discover how charming the locals can be.  English is clearly a second language and directions can get muddled, but it is all worth the patient effort.

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June 29, 2009 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Travels through Taipei and Beyond

My gracious tour guide and beautiful daughter Jackie

My gracious tour guide and beautiful daughter Jackie

Enjoying the many sites and flavors of Taipei with our great tour guide, Jackie.

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The "kink your neck photo"

Randee eats and tries everything, but I’m careful in what goes in my mouth.

Chicken feet is very popular and Randee has tried it.

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The only thing that really bothers me is the smell of what the locals call “stinky tofu” which I have trouble inhailing.

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Put in five miles before breakfast and now will head out to the Taipei zoo to get in another few miles of walking before heading back to the Shilin Night Market for our evening walk and to discover the many more choices in food.

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June 27, 2009 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , | 1 Comment

Walking Shihlin Night Market

Shihlin Night Market in Taipei, Taiwan

Shihlin Night Market in Taipei, Taiwan

Looking to stay fit and healthy while on vacation, then find the closest shopping area and walk, walk, walk.

Randee and I discovered the largest shopping area in all of Taiwan, the Shihlin Night Market.

Walking from one end to the other and back can take several hours and makes for a wonderful cultural experience.

Most people speak some English and everyone barters.

Food is great and people are charming.

More will follow on Taiwan in Mondays, Running with the Big Dog.  Now to look at trying something new for dinner.

June 26, 2009 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , | 4 Comments

Gary Kuroyama Walks Liliuokalani Gardens

Daily walking around Liliuokalani Gardens
Daily walking around Liliuokalani Gardens

There are days when I drive into Hilo to run errands, attend various meetings or to just have lunch with friends.  Often I find gaps in my schedule and I find myself with some free time on my hands.

My favorite way of filling that open period of time is to visit Liliuokalani Gardens and to walk laps around the park.

Not only is this a good way for me to burn some unwanted calories it is also a relaxing method of putting in some additional mileage while taking in the beauty of nature.

We are so fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful spots in the world.  The view from Liliuokalani Gardens is absolutely breathtaking.  Mauna Kea, Hilo Bay, the Gardens itself are all reasons for me to be grateful to be alive.

What’s equally as impressive is the amount of people who take advantage of the area by walking, jogging or biking around the park.  There are couples holding hands while walking, grandparents taking their grandchildren to lunch, mothers jogging around with their baby strollers, all taking in the beauty that surrounds us.

For quite some time now I’ve been seeing this young, senior citizen, walking laps around the park covered from head to toe.  It can be 80 degrees out and he is walking with a jacket, a towel wrapped around his neck and a cap on his head.

On one of my recent trips around the park I decided to stop and talk with him so that I could satisfy my growing curiosity.

Turns out that his name is Gary Kuroyama, a retired state employee who worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist, who is married with two children.

“As you can see, I am covered up,” he told me when we first met.  “I like to sweat when I walk.  It makes me feel good.”

Kuroyama started walking about five years ago and now he does it almost every day.  “I started walking after retirement because I found myself to be at about 175 pounds which is a bit much for my 5’ 6” frame, he said.

Kuroyama will go to the park each day, between 10 am and 2 pm because he enjoys the heat and during that time it provides him the type of workout that he is looking for. “I try to go and walk anywhere from 10 to 20 laps around the park each day,” Kuroyama said.

Now, for those readers that don’t know, one lap around Liliuokalani Gardens is 1K or .6 of a mile and when Kuroyama says he’s doing 10 to 20 laps we’re talking about 6 to 12 miles each day.

Kuroyama also adds lots of stretching to his daily walks.  Doing some gentle stretching prior to his walk and then stretching the key muscle groups after his walk.

When asked if the repetition of walking laps around the park can get boring, Kuroyama replied, “I never get bored walking around the park because of the view.  You get to see the mountains, sometimes snowcapped, the ocean and the greenery of the park.”

“From time to time some people, including my wife, have joined me walking laps around the park.  But most of the time I will walk alone,” he said.  “I can feel the tranquility of the park and feel the cool ocean breeze all at the same time.  The park is also a very beautiful and safe place to be at.”

Kuroyama, who was born and raised in Hilo, tried his hand at little league baseball as a youngster before moving onto judo at age 10.

In 1964 he received his black belt, 1st degree in judo, which allowed him to become an instructor in the sport.

A 1965 graduate of Hilo High School Kuroyama doesn’t really watch what he eats, except for one basic rule.  “I try to stay away from fatty foods or eat them only in moderation,” he said.

Today Kuroyama is a 5th degree black belt in judo as he recently was awarded the rank of Godan.  He serves as the Head Instructor of the Hilo Hongwanji Judo Club and has instructed literally hundreds of students, many of whom are prominent in our community.

In 2006 Kuroyama was inducted in to the Big Island Sports Hall of Fame for his years of service to the community in his instruction of his favorite sport, judo.

“Exercise is important to me because it keeps me healthy,” he said.

For those just starting out with a walking routine Kuroyama offers the following advice, “It is important to not over do it in the beginning, but to take it one step at a time.”

“Some people like to run or jog, for me; I just love to walk for the exercise,” Kuroyama said.

“I’d like to be able to keep on walking for as long as I can.”

June 22, 2009 Posted by | Health and Fitness, Profiles | , , | Leave a comment

Wedemann to Bike Around Island on Sunday

Ironman, Joe Wedemann, to bike 215 miles on Sunday
Ironman, Joe Wedemann, to bike 215 miles on Sunday

     Firefighter, Joe Wedemann, is looking to celebrate Father’s Day in a special way, with a bike ride around the island.

    “This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a few years now,” Wedemann said of his desire to bike 215 miles around the island in a single day.

   Wedemann plans on starting his adventure at 3 a.m. Sunday morning from Hilo Bayfront.  “I have a friend, Adam Busek, that is planning to ride with me for the first half, and then Mike Brown is going to ride from Kona back to Hilo with me,” Wedemann said.

   “We’ll be with headlights for the first two plus hours until the sun comes up, and the idea is to make it back to Hilo before sundown, around 7:20 p.m.,” he said.

    The course that Wedemann will follow heads up to Volcano first and works its way around South Point.  Wedemann will then ride up to Holualoa using the high road to Waimea before heading back to Hilo along the Hamakua Coast.

   “If we average 15 MPH and have limited breaks, theoretically it is possible,” Wedemann said of making it back home by sunset. 

   “My friend Adam (Busek) says it’s not a race, it’s a stunt.  Either way, bragging rights would be pretty cool!”

June 18, 2009 Posted by | Events, Health and Fitness | , , | 4 Comments