Shanghai Running Magazine Volume 3 - Page 11

see in second or third-tier Chinese cities. Upon entry it became clear that it was at best a three-star hotel, albeit one with a bizarre collection of amenities. The hotel featured a microbrewery, karaoke club, billiards, virtual golf machine, multiple shops, bar and swimming pool. Rooms were dated but functional and amazingly featured BBC News 24. All electronic appliances or perceivable brands were Chinese. Guards stood outside the front of the hotel to prevent us leaving but largely we were left to our devices once inside hotel. Dinner was an underwhelming selection of re-heated food. Male waiting staff were stiffly bow-tied in white dinner jackets while women wore traditional Korean dresses. Service was robotic, any request for personalisation was normally met with a resentful stare. Another bottle of water, stare. Change seats, stare. Given we were running the next day I asked for an additional bowl of rice and the waiter stared so ferociously at me that I got the impression I’d taken it directly out of his child’s mouth. Not impossible given regime. I was up at six on the day of the race, the sun was shining through a haze of smog, which I soon realised was no doubt partly due to the coal-powered power station in the middle of the city. Arriving at the stadium we saw thousands of people pouring in. Nearly all of them were wearing a dreary selection of Mao suits from a muddy palette of brown, black or navy blue. We were given more briefings, and then the runners, including more than 200 international amateurs, marched in something resembling unison into the stadium, heaving with people. At this point I started to realize how ridiculous the situation was: a motley collection of international tourists from across Asia, Europe and the States parading © Shanghai Running 2014 around an essentially Olympic-scale event. Most people fell enthusiastically into their new role, waving to the crowds, who in turn gladly reciprocated. After reaching the centre of stadium we listened to a speech in Korean from the Minister of Sports opening the event before having to bow to giant posters of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Following that a brief stretch and we gathered on the start line, international professionals, Korean runners and international amateurs all jostling for position. After a false start, because a football team kicked a ball into a professional runner’s face, the gun went off and everyone streamed out of the stadium. The Korean runners were dressed in sports kit straight out of the 1980s. Most of them seemed to be wearing skimpy shorts with basic running flats. Despite this apparent handicap they were fast. Outside of the elite 11