Upon arrival to this new place, I wandered down the road, following the smell of the sea and the feeling of wind that somehow reminded me of an Asia I had not yet experienced. Wind turbines, a few trees and the occasional architectural structure were in view over an enormous sea of tall green grass.
The meeting point was beside a temple with high gray steps next to some kind of traditional Chinese structure with painted-carvings and protruding Chinese dragons. An electronic sign above the bathroom displayed the temperature; 31 degrees, and the time; 2:02pm.
After a mere minute of running, it became clear that this run would need more balance than cardiovascular endurance. The wind grew with each passing minute. It threatened to throw us off the ledges into the grass and the water below.
At one point I led the group off the trail, not having taken care to see whether I had been following the actual markers. We had to turn around and find the way. It’s never clear where the trail is. You have to look for the markers, and sometimes they’re in the last place you expect…
I looked up and saw a sea of seagulls swimming in the air, and it’s the first time I remember seeing so many seagulls in Taiwan. There are few birds in this country.
We ran forward, and the group thinned as those who ran faster separated themselves from those who were slower. We ran atop another one of those ledges by which an old man was wading through the tall grass with his hands clasped behind his back, sagelike. I stopped several times to try and enjoy the view. The entire run was 8.5Km, and 5.5 in was the “beer check.” I’m not saying I don’t appreciate some cold Taiwan Beer (台灣啤酒) on a hot autumn day, but I still had 3Km to go, so I drank some water.
I then followed the runners ahead of me, which led me up onto a short hill with rocks decorating the exterior, with train tracks at the top. Then it was down, down, across a deserted paved road and toward the town. I ran with two Taiwanese guys, and this was when the wind decided it was finally time to choose its victim. I fell down to the right side of a ledge, attempting in vain to grab the edge of the ledge, leaving a nasty cut on my left wrist and soaking my socks with water. I climbed back up and continued running, barely managing not to fall in again despite the unrelenting wind.
Not long after we made our way through the town. A smiling old man shouting words (they sounding encouraging, whatever they were) as we neared the temple, and after 1 hour and seven minutes, I returned to the start where brownies, a peanut butter sandwich, fruit, and Taiwan Beer awaited this weary runner.