Running Recap II: Recap’s Revenge

A Lot Can Happen in a Day or Two.

5 min readNov 11, 2021

Last time I started with the Hangzhou marathon. This time I’ll start with its Shanghainese cousin. Last time I said it was yet to be cancelled. This time, I regret to say, that is no longer the case.

Yesterday, the organising committee of the Shanghai marathon sent out a press release, officially announcing the postponement of this year’s race. Today, they sent out text messages to all those who were signed up to run, confirming the same.

I’d expected it to happen, just as I’d expected the Hangzhou marathon to be postponed back at the end of October, and just like then, I’d been hoping that against all odds it would go ahead anyway. However, the fact that a positive case was confirmed at a crowded Shanghai Disney Land a week or so ago meant it was always unlikely that any public events, CIIE aside, would go ahead.

*An event of the magnitude of CIIE certainly shouldn’t have gone ahead either, but the loss of face to detached politicians of cancelling that particular event meant that sense was never likely to prevail. But that’s hardly relevant; as sad as it might make aforementioned politicians to admit it, no one gives a **** about CIIE.

Back to running. The cancellation of my last scheduled race (well, Lishui hasn’t actually been cancelled, but they’ve been very poor with communication so far and I’m certainly not booking trains and hotels and taking time off work on the off-chance it’s the only November marathon this side of the Himalayas not to be cancelled) leaves me with only Plan C to fall back on: a one-man marathon in my own backyard.

Such a scenario certainly isn’t the end of the world. Sure, I won’t get a medal, or a t-shirt, or the thrill of the event and the 加油s of the fantastic volunteers which were about the only thing that kept me going by the end of my first attempt, but I’ll get familiar roads and a more agreeable wake-up call. And as for the goodies, I signed up for an online half-marathon on Boxing Day so I’ll still end the year with some new duds and a gaudy trinket to hang round my neck.

So now that the marathon situation is set in stone, I guess the only real thing I need to recap is those PBs I mentioned before. I came into this year having only ever been an extremely casual runner. I had a best 10 km time of somewhere just over 48 minutes. Then, while setting my base time for my first ever training block back on January 1st, I surprised myself by running close to 46 minutes (I think it was something around 46:20).

I improved that mark by about 30 seconds during my best ever half-marathon attempt at the beginning of March (which I’m hoping — and expecting — to finally beat on Boxing Day), but after that it remained unchanged until August. Mainly because I didn’t run any more 10 kms.

I started my current training block in July, but it was too hot to set a benchmark outside, so I planned to set one on the treadmills at work. I set off at a pace I thought I could hold and then dug in and tried to persevere to the end. I failed.

I never made it to 10 km, failing at six, before revising my target time based on how far I got and just setting my training paces from that. It wouldn’t have counted as a PB anyway; I only count times run out of the road.

Then in August we got caught by the outskirts of a hurricane (typhoon, whatever you wanna call it; they’re the same damn thing) and for a glorious three or four days the temperature plummeted and human life was capable of thriving once more. During the coldest of these days I went out for a run. The first run, in fact, in my brand new Saucony Endorphin Speed shoes.

I was hoping to try and snatch a time somewhere just under 44 minutes. I ended up running 42:46. This was a time which genuinely shocked me, quite a lot.

As I mentioned before, this recent training block has been hard; I’ve felt unfit, slow, and for weeks on end it’s been quite demoralising, trying to get back to where I was before the heat struck back at the beginning of May. To watch the needle drop and to pull out a time like that was uplifting. It still wasn’t quite where I believed myself to have been before my meltdown, but I was getting close.

Then in early October, my wife, who I should mention is simply wonderful (she’ll hit me if I don’t), bought me a pair of Nike Vaporfly for our anniversary — the best present a runner could get — and I decided to take them out immediately for a short tempo run.

The plan was to run 8.5 km at 4:20–4:25 per km pace and I set off at what I thought was an easyish effort, only my watch wouldn’t stop reading 4:00. For the first kilometre, I tried to correct it down to my target pace but as I didn’t want to over-correct I guess I must have ended up just, I dunno, counteracting a natural tendency to accelerate off the line?

Either way, the first kilometre ended up going by in only 4:03…and I was feeling good…and I was wearing a brand new pair of carbon-plated racing shoes…the only ones I’d ever owned…and I really wanted to see what they could do.

So for the next few kilometres I just went with it. A 4:01, 4:06, 4:09, and 4:04 took me “with it” to a new 5 km PB and after that I had to force it a bit more, following up with a 4:11, 4:22 (there’s a slight “hill” on my route), two more 4:11s, and a 3:54 for a new 10 km PB of 41:08.

If I’d known how close I was to going under 41 minutes I might have pushed a bit more on kilometres eight and nine, but nevertheless, I’d shocked myself again (and become an instant Vaporfly fanboy in the process).

That all set me up with the confidence that I have the speed in my legs to go under 3:30 for the marathon. And now that I seem to have got back on track with the endurance side of things, running three 30+ km long runs in the space of four weeks in October (including a 32.5 km run averaging 4:52 per km at an average heart rate inside my low aerobic zone), I feel like I’ve got the staying power to do it too.

So that’s where I’m at. It hasn’t felt like the easiest road to running redemption to get over this summer-long hump, but I’m back on track and feeling good at long last. In two and a half week’s time, we’ll get to see if I can achieve my goal from back in May and run one of these damn things in under three and a half hours. Fingers crossed.




A blog about life, love, language, literature and lüyou in Shanghai, China and beyond. I’m a student, a translator, a husband, a human, or at least I try to be.