Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Training Log - Ancient City Wall & Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Xi'an, China)

The ticket for the "City Wall", RMB 54.
Day #1

As soon as I arrived at my hotel in Xi'an, China I made sure to grab a city map in preparation of my first run in China. I always make a piont of going for a run while on business travel and the more exotic the place, the more eager I am to get out and do a "destination run".



In Xi'an, China, the old capital of the Peoples Republic of China, the most famous place within the city is the ancient city wall that surrounds the entire city center. Visitors can purchase a ticket for about $6 USD to allow them to ascend to the top of the wall via stairs at one of the main gates and to walk a section of the wall or even the entire length of the wall.


In fact, people can actually rent bicycles on top of the wall and that seemed to be the most popular mode of transportation while on top of the wall. There were even a few electric train trolleys shuttling visitors along the wall. I, on the other hand, was the only one running the wall.


I had decided to run the entire length of the wall for a total of just over 8 miles. The running surface could be described as stone tiles that were generally easy to run on with the exception of a few areas were tiles were damaged. The entire length of the walls was decorated with red lanterns as well as hidden speakers providing a musical background interspersed with little bits of tour guide info (I'm speculating here, since I do not speak Mandarin).

There were a couple of large bells located on top of the wall, which I assume used to be housed in one of the larger buildings along the city. While I chose to run on top of the wall, there is also a beautiful walking path along the outside bottom of the wall between the wall itself and a water moat. Clearly, this wall used to protect this major city during ancient times. It was an amazing run to say the least, allowing my glimpses of inner city life from just above the roof line.


Along the center of each of the 4 tangents of the city walls, there were large gates, some of them still allowing traffic to pass through to get to the center of the city. Others had been converted to visitor centers, instead with tourism buses parked below.


Each corner had what I would assume used to be guard towers, which were obviously all meticulously rebuild and ornately decorated. All along the wall, there would be visitor's centers every half mile or so. providing visitors with areas to sit and enjoy the view as well as get details about the history of this amazing architectural structure.



In the 1980s, folks must have been able to purchase stone tiles inscribed with their names or messages, as these inscriptions could be seen in several areas of the wall surface.



 Every building on top of this wall was as ornate and beautifully decorated as the next. It seemed lots of folks just came up to the top to sit down somewhere and reflect. I couldn't think of a better place. Even though it was in the middle of a bustling city, being here felt almost quiet.



Amazing buildings everywhere and this building with a golden roof was one of them.


The walls seemed to go on forever and there were plenty of sections where I was the only visitor. The wall was busiest right near the entry gates, since most folks didn't venture too far from the access stairs.


I was glad that I got to get this run in on my first day since air pollution was fairly low during this time.


Day #3

After having opted for the hotel treadmill on day 2, it was time to venture out again for one more destination run. About 4 miles one way from my hotel there was another famous site, the "Big Wild Goose Pagoda".


The pagoda is surrounded by multiple public parks that are very popular with the locals as I spotted many of them exercising, singing and, yes, screaming. I wasn't familiar with that particular activity, but whatever relaxes you, I guess.


While I didn't get to ascend the pagoda, I arrived at 6AM and visits aren't possible until 8AM, I was able to run around the outside of the temple and witness how the locals spend their early mornings. All of the parks contained beautifully manicured lawns and plants and were bustling with early morning activities, just like one would witness in Central Park in New York, just with different types of activities.


On my way to and from the pagoda, I passed through an early morning farmers market that stretched for about half a mile along a side street just outside the big pagoda. I can describe the amazing vibe along with some amazing colors and the scents of freshly prepared foods that the locals enjoy.


Fountains and large pieces of art decorated many of the entry ways of the parks surrounding the pagoda. I am so glad I once again got the opportunity to travel to an exotic place for work and still manage to get my run in.


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