The past 11 months have been quite an adventure for me. Last August, I went home to the States for my 30-year high school reunion and met with a high school friend who is a life coach. I was living and working in the Middle East, had been offered a job in China and weighed 255 lbs. I completely changed my lifestyle a few weeks later, moved to China in September, started running in January and lost 111 pounds! I ran my first 5K on June 9th and came in just past the middle of the pack. I’m now training for a triathlon.
I started my run at The Vineyard. A restaurant in the West Lake District that is run by an American chef, Reuben, who gets my diet needs. I am so thankful for the food I’m served there and the friends I’ve met there. They have all made living so far away from home much easier!
From there we headed down the sidewalk towards West Lake. Our first stop was at the bike outlet. Hangzhou is one of the “greenest” cities in China. They encourage walking, biking and e-bikes, which are electric scooters. There is an entire network of paths that run parallel to the streets for bikes and e-bikes and wide sidewalks for walking. I am so thankful to the leaders of Hangzhou for think so consciously about our environment!
As we neared West Lake we pass one of my favorite little parks on this side of the city. A park within a bamboo forest, just off a pretty busy road. I’m grateful for the solitude and fresh air this park offers. I often stop there to meditate during walks and runs in the area.
This next picture is in front of the display at West Lake celebrating the Dragon Festival also known as the Duanwu Festival. This festival is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunisolar calendar. This year it was on June 23. I stopped here because I wanted to express my gratitude for the rich culture I have experienced in the 10 months I’ve lived here!
One of my favorite venues to share with visitors is the Impressions Opera on the Water. It is a beautiful story of love found and lost. It is produced and directed by Zhang Yimou who is China’s most famous movie director and the general director of the opening ceremony of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games! I am thankful to my colleague Vivien for sharing this beautiful performance with me on my visit to Hangzhou last year!
This is my Aussie friend Rory. Rory is a runner and a teacher of little preschool kids. We met at The Vineyard and he graciously agreed to come along this run to keep me company and take pictures. THANK YOU, RORY!!
Boy was I thankful for Starbucks this morning! This is my favorite Starbucks in the world. The upper balcony juts out over the lake and the view is relaxing. The stop is about halfway through this run and a perfect place for a quick stop to refuel!
Part of our running path takes us through this shady park nestled up against West Lake. The atmosphere is electric with people waltzing, dancing, playing music, singing, children running around, families visiting and Tai Chi group practice. I often stop here for a 20 minute tai chi practice. I am so grateful that the masters teaching the class welcome all people and it’s free!
And then we reached our turn around point. The bronze water buffalo in the water. I love this spot! He’s formally known as Emerging Water Buffalo. With the lake and bridge in the background this is a great place to catch your breath soak in the surroundings and head back… I’m thankful this was the halfway mark 🙂
We headed back with only a stop to chat with my favorite Hangzhou driver, Jerry! I am VERY THANKFUL to Jerry for taking me places I need to be, picking me up at the train station and airport, taking me to the best places to eat in Hangzhou, translating when needed and being a friend. Rory and I were chatting about him and violá, he pulled up to say hi! Randomly, in a city of 7 million people!
Our run finished back where it started, at The Vineyard. Reuben, the chef from Boston, was there to greet us! He cooked me a fabulous gluten-free meal to finish off my long afternoon of running! Thank you, Reuben, for changing up your recipes to suit my needs!
The organization I donated to is The Michelle Standridge Memorial 5K run and BBQ cook off. It is sponsored by Marion County Firefighter Benevolence Fund to assist women in the firefighter family who are battling cancer. I can’t think of a better reason to donate! I ran this 5K in June while visiting Florida (my first 5K!!) and the love and compassion of these firefighters was amazing!
Hangzhou… A beautiful city with safe running paths. This is city will stay in my heart as the place I learned to run.