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 »

  1. Taipei may not be very friendly to runners, but there is a great system of trails and mountain biking is popular. Check out the Formosan Fat Tire Association http://www.formosanfattire.com/ for some interesting trail ride diaries and contacts for bike riding.

    Speaking of night markets, have you been to Snake Ally yet?

    Comment by Mike | June 29, 2009 | Reply

    • Thanks Mike. Each day we are discovering different places and different things to do. We just found a residential garden/park with a 400 meter track. With the heat and humidity we try to get onto it at 5:30 a.m. and spend 60 to 70 minutes.
      Didn’t realize how hot it gets by 7 a.m. I’ve taken three showers per day and have gone through three sets of clothes in a day. Good thing my daughter has a washer to keep everything clean. Thanks for your suggestions. Wayne

      Comment by waynejoseph | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  2. That last picture of your “Tour Guide”???

    Holy Cow! I didn’t know they allowed that much “Leg” to be shown in “Eastern Countries”.

    Either a set of “Runners legs” or a set of “Model Legs”!

    Great Pix Mr. Joseph… Enjoy the rest of your stay.

    Comment by Damon Tucker | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  3. A mutual friend Leann informed me you had been in Taiwan, and so I read your postings with interest. (I lived in Kona for 8 years until 2 years ago and did the local races and even the Ironman. We probably never formally met, as you were on the east side most of the time, the “Big Dog!”) I used to live in Taipei and the only real way to run was to do the hash runs in the hills some way out of town. I know the CKS memorial well, I worked right next to it for many years.
    Now I live in Kaohsiung and have written about swimming and cycling there (many good biking trails in the city) (http://brucesstewart.blogspot.com). We are living just inside the big city, but are able to get out of it quickly. One thing I find lacking here is good people to train with, so if you plan to come out again, it would be great to do some training with you!

    Comment by Bruce Stewart | July 6, 2009 | Reply


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