Taichung, a city located in central Taiwan, perhaps more renowned for Fengjia Night Market, the largest night market in Taiwan, and the scenic Sun Moon Lake, hosted theTaichung World Flora Exposition for the second year running. In conjunction with the Exposition, they also organised the Taichung World Flora Exposition Int Marathon to showcase how efforts in going Green can go hand in hand with tourism. And this is where we decided to do our next marathon a week after our Okinawa Marathon.
Registering for this marathon was done through a 3rd party site, Lohas. Lohas is a Taiwanese registration portal for quite a number of Taiwan races. Feel free to browse through it if you are searching for interesting races to do in Taiwan. You need to be sufficiently proficient in Traditional Chinese though as that is the only language option available on their portal. Race fee for their marathon was NT1545 and they also have the 22km, 12km and 6km categories. One thing to note though, there was no race pack collection event for this, unlike what we are pretty used to. Your race pack has to be delivered to a location in Taiwan prior to the race. Apparently, this is quite a common practice in Taiwan for smaller scale races. Well, since we obviously do not have a house in Taiwan, we arranged for our race packs to be delivered to our Taichung hotel instead.
Here is something special; they have special awards for runners who will be first time marathoners and runners who will be completing their 100th marathon here. With an additional fee, runners who qualify for these 2 awards can opt to purchase a special souvenir trophy to be awarded upon completion of the marathon. You will need to complete a form for the 100th marathon award though as they would need to verify your previous 99 marathon completions.
Flag off for marathon was scheduled for 0630hrs. They do provide free shuttle bus services from 4 locations within the Fengyuan district if I am not wrong. We can also get a NT20 discount from buses from anywhere in Taichung alighting in Fengyuan district by showing our BIBs. But since we do not stay at Fengyuan district as it is out of the main city center, we took the lazy way out by Uber-ing there instead and we arrived at Fengyuan stadium around 0545hrs.
I guess someone up there cannot bear to see us getting roasted under the sun, so that someone arranged for a shower for us. Yes, it was raining. Just like in Okinawa, we were expecting a hot run but we got another chilly one. It was already raining when we arrived and being so cold early in the morning, we simply hide it out at the hall where the baggage deposit was until 10mins before flag off. Baggage deposit was fast and efficient with many counters opened.
At around 0620hrs, we made our way to the start line on the stadium track with our ponchos still on. There were no pens or waves as all runners simply gather near the start line. At 0630hrs, we were flagged off under the rain.
With a generous cut off time of 6hrs 30mins and no other cut off times slated for individual water stations, we knew this was going to be a fun albeit chilly run.
Water stations were aplenty. Basically, every 3km or so we encountered one and boy were we surprised, pleasantly. We have always heard about the fantastic food on offer in Taiwanese races, but we still were shocked by what were actually there.
The race organisers did not provide the elevation chart for the marathon and it being a road marathon, we did not see the need for one too. And so we were not mentally prepared for the numerous rolling hills we encountered. Soon we fell back on the routine of walking when there were ascents and only running while on flats or descent.
During our 42.195km adventure, we came across many clusters of runners. Some were running together in costumes, some were running together within their running clubs carrying their club flags and all. Then we also saw some running in support for their friends doing their 100th marathon. How did we know? They were carrying big bold banners declaring there is a 100th marathon runner amongst them. 100th marathon and these fellows still look so young! Really a big achievement for these runners. Kudos to their friends who accompanied them throughout too as we can more or less gauge through their running postures some of these friends should be real fast marathon runners but they all sacrificed their timings for their friends’ achievement. About 500m or so away from the finishing line we also saw some of these clusters of runners simply standing around waiting for friends who had lagged behind because we guess they wanted to finish the marathon as a group. Such disregard for own timing, I like. 😉
There was also something we noticed – the absence of runners seemingly suffering from cramps. From past experience, based on the speed we always run at (slow), we would always see many runners by the side of the road doing stretching and spraying muscle relief for their cramps. But not here. We hardly see anyone doing these during this marathon. Taiwanese runners, strong they are.
Now for something we did not really like; there were no full road closures. Do not get me wrong, we did not run side by side with traffic. The path we ran on were clear of traffic and we were relatively safe. However, at traffic junctions, we had to stop for traffic until their road marshals gave us the all clear to cross. We were not running fast and not gunning for timing but having to stop for traffic was something we would rather not encounter.
Finally, at around 1230hrs, we returned to Fengyuan stadium and completed our 2nd marathon in 2 weeks.
We collected our medals and print-out certificates upon completion before walking over to collect something more important; Bentos. Yes, our finisher entitlement includes a bento.
We collected our baggage, found a corner in the hall, sat down and proceeded to attack our bentos. There were shower facilities and from what we overheard, hot showers were available. But being so cosy after having our bentos, we decided against going out into the rain to get to the showers. So we just changed out of our wet clothing behind some curtains at a corner of the hall. We could not suppress a smile when we saw a local runner coolly took out a hair dryer, plug it into a wall socket and started to blow dry himself after his shower. These runners sure came prepared.
Despite the weather and the seemingly never-ending rolling hills, it was a pretty enjoyable run. The route took us through their technology parks, villages, flora gardens and along their new outlet mall. So route was a break from the usual tall urban buildings we always have locally.
Running in the rain, feasting every 3km, runners encouraging each other, efficient logistic support, unique finisher entitlements, all contributed to a party feel. We cannot wait for our next Taiwan marathon. Can you?