Hangover to Century Park, 2010

June 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

My cell phone is buzzing and twisting on the floor like an injured fly. I open my eyes a bit and find myself on the living room floor. I look at the time, 4:00AM. Saturday. What the fuck?

What could I have been thinking setting the alarm so early? Must have been drunk. Oh no….. must have been drunk and made arrangements with someone for an early morning run.

I sit up, look around. I wipe the sweat off my forehead. I think about spitting. The spots fade in front of my eyes. I seem to have only barely crossed the threshold into my apartment before undressing and crumpling on the floor. I take a deep breath, exhale and stand up. My throat burns and I need to steady myself on the shoe rack.

Canceling isn’t an option. Drinking is not an acceptable excuse for not running. With my running club, TARC, it is more of a raison d’etre. I pull on some shorts, a shirt, socks, grab my Garmin, my Camelpack, some tissues. I consider a shower. I reconsider. I shuffle into the kitchen to make toast. I fill the Camelpack. I shuffle into the bathroom to do my business. I quickly duck my reflection in the mirror washing my hands. I drink some water and eat my toast over the sink, contemplating the fountain in the dark. Any lovebirds in still out this fine summer morning? A car drives by below, illuminating an empty gazebo and some beer bottles lying in the playground. My mouth tastes like someone else’s bad breath. I brush my teeth and look at myself in the mirror. I’m going to make it, but I’m glad it’s dark out.

I lace up my shoes by the fountain while my Garmin links up with three lucky satellites in the sky. The digits pop up and I lurch into motion, a little woosy and wobbly, yes, but running, ok, jogging. The late night partiers are still out. They’re eating meat on a stick and drinking warm beer on plastic stools on the sidewalk. A stumbling man is being escorted by a bar girl to the trashy hotel across the street. The street reeks of fresh, organic refuse.

I can see Wei Laoshi (PE Teacher Wei from a local middle school) well before he sees me. He’s wearing a yellow, zip-up cycling jersey, sunglasses and short fly-away shorts and fidgeting nervously, pretending to stretch while he checks his phone for messages. He’s waiting for Maezawa and soon so am I. This is something of a tradition and the conversation is scripted, for me anyway.

“Joe! There you are. I was wondering when you’d arrive.”

“Good morning.”

“Where is everyone?”

“I’m not sure. I think it’s just you and me and Maezawa.”

“I called Maezawa twice already, but she didn’t answer.”

“She’s probably running over now and didn’t hear.”

“Where’s XXX?”

“He/She was probably out late last night and couldn’t get up this morning. Oh, there’s Maezawa.”

“What? Where?”

“Coming down the street, right there.”

“Where? Oh! MAEZAWA! You’re finally here!”

Maezawa apologies. Wei Laoshi tells her how many times he called/texted her. We wait around for a few minutes for the people who couldn’t wake up and then set off at a trot. Really it is just walking with some exaggerated bouncing and swinging of the arms, like someone demonstrating how to run. It grates on me for a few minutes and then I fall into the rhythm and the peaceful smalltalk .

Maezawa: “Joooooeeee, were you out drinking last night?”

Joe (feigning shame): “Yes, I feel awful right now.”

Maezawa: “You smell like beer. You’re sweating beer right now.”

Wei Laoshi (before I can answer): “Joe, where is XXX? Was he drinking with you last night?”

Joe: Not with me, but probably with someone else.

Wei Laoshi: XXX is always out late and sleeping through morning runs.

Joe: [grunt]

Maezawa: [giggle]

Wei Laoshi launches into a chronicle of someone’s history of missing runs, getting drunk, improving/declining running performance, work, injuries, attendance at track night and I tune out, laugh at the right spots, consider his ability to repeat himself without ever tiring or catching himself.

4 and 6 lane roads are empty at this hour. You can run down the middle if you want and some people do, as that’s the flattest part of the road. In the dark the asphalt feels softer. The lights make everything look like a movie set. I’m sweating and I take a slug from the camelpack. I almost gag, but smile at the taste of the nozzle, stale beer and saliva. I worry if I’m really smelling bad.

The route cuts east, south-east through Puxi. There’s the shuttered fashion shops on Huaihai Rd., the stucco villas and canopy of trees on Fuxing and then the construction barriers with safety slogans when we’re almost to the river. Time passes subway station by subway station.

By the time we crest the last pedestrian bridge, get a good look at the river and run down to the ferry it’s light and there’s already a clatter of activity at the ferry dock, revving engines, yelling, creaking turnstiles, banging grates. I grab a Gatorade. Maezawa grabs a coffee. Wei Laoshi grabs a Red Bull. We stretch in the midst of a lot of bored staring. Wei Laoshi announces to someone that we’re marathoners and moves into the crowd to fill the guy in on the details of our times, years running, marathons run, marathons run together and so on. Maezawa and I marvel at Wei Laoshi’s childish enthusiasm for making friends and repetitive story telling. I marvel at Maezawa drinking hot coffee half way into a 20 mile run on a 90 degree morning. Maezawa marvels at me drinking until the early hours of the morning before a 20 mile run in 90 degree weather.

We get on the boat and it rumbles and pivots. I do some light stretching and consider that Pudong was built (in relative terms) basically in a day. I’m suddenly aware that I’m no longer drunk or uncomfortable, but relaxed and projecting an image of health, especially in comparison with my surroundings.

The rest of the run is along the wide, smooth streets of Pudong. Nothing is particularly interesting or inspiring, but there are plenty of trees and very little interruption. We dip into the underground shopping center that surrounds the Science and Technology Museum subway stop and connects to Century Park. I love running through underground urban spaces. It really symbolizes for me the ridiculous side of the urban distance running experience. We grab another drink at Family Mart and then pop up to meet the rest of TARC for the Saturday 8am Century Park distance session, 5k loops around the part at varying speeds.

I can tell who’s been running already from the wet clothes and the way they stretch, not idly and gingerly, but deeply, grimacing. I can tell who’s been out drinking too late from their bleary eyes and late arrivals. I can see who’s new by the way they don’t fit in the circle and try to follow other’s conversations. I can see who’s getting psyched for a tough workout by the way they play with their watch and shake their legs. I revel in the fact that I was out late drinking AND I’ve already put away 12 miles AND I’m ready for a tough workout.


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