After my third marathon in 2009, I decided that I wouldn’t do any more of them. Marathons, I thought, are long, boring, expensive, and for me require too much of a focus on long-distance endurance at the expense of other aspects of fitness. Despite all this great reasoning, though, I thought the idea of running an international race on a section of the Great Wall to be too cool to pass up. And after finding out both that the ridiculously high entry price was the same for all distances, and that my little sister would of course be coming from Hunan Province to run all 26.2, I decided I might as well get the most out of my money and my pride and do the whole thing.
That was last fall. Now, after a busy spring semester with too few miles and a long week of travel with way too many, this thing was finally going to happen.
Coming from Chengde, we puzzled everybody on the train to Beijing by gathering up our belongings on the approach to Xinglongxian (‘Thriving County’), a stop in the mountains with not much around, and little evident reason for two foreigners and their baby to disembark. We had to show our tickets and explain our purpose to the attendant before she decided that it wasn’t her problem if we were trying to get ourselves lost and stuck somewhere.
This update from our trip north is a little late, but that’s because the highly-portable computer that we bring, an iPod Touch, is also ultra-droppable. Now, after a trip to the Apple Store in Shanghai (a story deserving its own post), we’re back in blog business. I know our one reader will be thrilled.
Anyway, about Chengde. Once again, our original draft was probably destined to become the introduction to one of China’s more interesting sights, but now the world (okay, our moms) is stuck with our less-inspired paraphrasing of the original masterpiece.
So here goes: Chengde may be the best side trip there is from Beijing, and one of the most interesting places in China regarding the history of the Qing. A morning train ride from Beijing’s main station (itself an interesting sight, and probably the nicest train station in China) took us up, off of the North China plain and through winding mountain passes back toward the Manchu homeland. Along the way, we passed through the Great Wall and the old frontier between the agrarian Chinese and steppe nomadic worlds.
It’s International Mothers’ Day in the Zhongguo, and here in the village of Yujiacun we happen to have the best mom in the whole world.
This is a travel post. We’re back in the Beifangrrrr, in Hebei Province, a part of northern China that our route last summer, along the Yellow River, had us skip right past. Now we’re travelling from the dusty hills of southwest Hebei north through China’s (current) imperial capital and onward, on a week-long sprint before arriving at the Great Wall marathon next weekend.