Seyon Asia Limited
WenShan TH3 Marathon: 10 January 2004

Report 1 | Report 2 | 8km Results | 16km Results

Report from Babs -

The first( and last ) time I went racing in Taipei - 1996, I was keen to escape back to HK's 'clean' air. Arriving on Jan 9th this year it was a relief to escape from HK's foul smogs. I had made 3 overseas racing trips in the preceding 2mths and they'd all gone awry - Powerman Duathlon didn't make the start line due to acute thoracic pain. Hainan triathlon didn't make the bike finish line due to food poisoning. World Tri Champs - barely finished the race fell in the middle of a prolonged bout of asthma..

So fourth time lucky? It certainly didn't seem to be the case as I stared at my internet booked Amigo Hostel room across from Tingshi station, it was a hovel. Things could only get better. And they did! 2 resident americans in the MTR station assured me I'd find nowhere locally for under $100US. However a local guy overhearing this accompanied me to a nearby bookshop to buy a Llonely Planet.He then offered to buy the book on his 20% discount card.Reassured by it's comforting presence, I braved the gathering dusk and risked a wander up to the solitary local hotel I'd espied earlier on the MTR map.

The K Hotel is bliss: The glass coffee tables in the lobby are suspended from the ceiling by wire cables. I MUST GET 10 FOR MY FLAT. The 1st thing they ask you at reception is wether you want a non smoking room, 9 yrs travelling in Asia - have always previously had to ask myself. There was a jacuzzi in the bathroom.

Best of all the room had a full stereo system. Another 1st, after 20yrs of trans global travel. I will never understand the emphasis hotels place on TVs when music is much more likely to be trans lingual/ cultural.

As this was a last minute jaunt the final stage of my travel was only confirmed the following morning by a 7am call to a very cheerful woman called Sherry, or so I thought. Exiting Taipei Zoo Station however I found the the taxi drivers had other ideas. My Mandarin is worse than my Yoruba, so although I understood that some (?) exorbitant fee was being demanded I couldn't make out why.

There happened to be some policeman helping a woman at a desk near the zoo entrance, so I toddled over to seek enlightenment. They didn't speak english but the woman did and she accompanied me back to the taxis. All was revealed, the race start was a couple of floors below heaven. Being so elevated and because once anyone got anywhere near heaven they never came back, the one way taxi fare was double.

Back to the policemen. The lady asked them about taking the bus, but apparently it would be far too complex a task for the average Mancunian speaking gweilo to manage. She then amazed me by suggesting that the police drive me up. This definitely was a concept far too difficult for Mancunian mind to fathom. In Manchester and Liverpool, if not being arrested by the police for being the wrong colour, or being stopped by them caught in possession of my own car, I am accustomed to watching 10yr olds throwing stones at them.

'Why would the police drive me up?' I asked
'Oh I'll ask them' was the reply.

And she did and they did and I was gob smacked. Turns out she was their boss, in civvies on a friendly visit. I'm not sure if it's general Taipei driving or just goes with driving a huge 4 wheel drive with 'police' emblazoned all over it , but the never ending upward bends were a taken in a hairaising manner. And then suddenly Chi Nan Temple was before and below us. I uttered profuse thanks and alighted to curious looks. I registered then with plenty of time to spare , wandered down to the temple ,took in the views back towards Taipei and its wonderful police force and, most importantly, stored the loos locations in my memory banks for later use.

Start line, dead dead serious athlete, Neil Tait had been round the course the day before and warned me about slippery descents. He didn't warn me to sprint like hell along the 1st 2k of road to ensure a good postion on the narrow trail that was to follow. For which I am thankful, I would have been obliged to make use of the advice and it would have been far too much effort, far too soon for my presently decrepit frame.

The trail was flat for a good stretch and then started climbing and as far as I can recall continued to do so for the next 50 miles. It's saving graces were that it was wide so people could pass (me) at will and it was all in the shade.In fact about 90% of the whole race was in shade a wonderful respite from the sun blazing down at the start venue.

Having used every gram of concentration to force the quads to maintain their never ending stumble upwards,another kilogram had to be quickly rustled up to cope with traversing the top. Race organizer Keith Noyes had described it as a bit technical - I have already nominated him for the (Ig)Nobel Understatement Prize 2004. I do recall a few inches of level ground, in fact some of it was paved - the only time in my life I have been pleased to feel concrete underfoot - the rest was an interminable path of micro peaks and vales.only a few feet in height or depth but just enogh to prevent ever taking a full stride.And the whole way was crocheted with either tree branches above or roots below. Definitely a gloves course.

Somewhere towards the end there was a more prolonged climb, beyond a bend to the left and a plummet. A scary plummet,for 50 or 100ft the steps were tiled with slate which glistened back at you daring you to push it and slip. Eventually the descent continued on nature's own surfacing and finally earth steps, with of course the odd tree root thrown in for good measure.

Relieved at having survived so far, I relaxed but only a smidgeon (ever notice how accidents are rare on the 'dangerous' parts of courses/) and, for 5th time in a week, immediately stubbed my right big toe and went sprawling on my stomach. Must get a wobble board or start sleeping stood on my right leg. Fortunately no racers were around to witness my embarrassment. Along the tops half a dozen of us had been swapping places but I had left them behind on the initial descent.I had then been passed , after the slate steps , by a guy who literally 'whooped' his way down the mountain. I set off again in the whoopers wake. My memory of the end of the descent is vague,there was abundant dodging through trees and definitely another short ascent where I passed the whooper only for him to dissappear out of sight on the final descent.

I was initially pleased to be on levellish ground winding my way gently down through extensive padi fields,here and there families or groups of workers cheering us on, popping my head up above a temple's floor level to ask a monk 'which way'. But around the 90 minute mark the wheels began to fall off my not so well oiled machine. And I ground to a walk.

This quickly revealed how easy it is to be deluded that you are alone in the bush. Before I stopped running I'd not seen or heard any racers for ages. Yet within the space of 5 mins about 10 people shot passed me. The last of my power gels consumed, I staggered on. Onto a road, left up the hill, off the road, across a stream, narrow trail hugging the side of the hill, leaf burning pyre.

Wait a minute I've been here before in the grounds of Chi Nan Temple. Sanctuary! Not quite, through the grounds, down the hill AWAY from the finish ( Keith's obviously had a warped childhood) till finally heading back up the hill and over your common or garden temple cattle grid to the finish.

EEE, by eck what fun. Then reality gave me a slap. Over the last 13mths I've slowly been getting back to my fell running roots. This being a Honkers renaissance, it's cosseted against the real world out there of being surrounded by people who though fell runners think it a bad race if they run a 32 road 10k and from fellrunning ex girlfriend who likewise was a 35min 10ker. And of course I've been winning vets prizes, so when I had my meltdown I was anxiously trying to suss the age of those overtaking me. I approach the results board. 19th, 1hr43, I'm happy enough with that, there must have been 200+ starters. I continue up the list.

EEE what a laugh. There's at least 10 vets ahead of me including the overall winner in 1hr18. Gotta loose some weight, gotta get fit.