This article looks back to Saturday the 18th of October 2014 and the first official Shanghai 10 Bridge Half Marathon. This started off in Hongqiao, ran along the Wusong River finishing on the Bund on the banks of Huangpu river in the historic center of the city. Quite an ambitious route considering that no roads were closed for the race and Shanghai is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Thankfully the route was well marked and no-one got lost. It was also a great day to be out running with pleasant weather and clean air (this contrasted heavily with the scenes beamed back from the Beijing marathon with thick smog and record pollution levels). I finished well in 2nd place but left with a sprained foot for my troubles. Two months later and I’m just back in training, but I’m really glad I managed to catch this race before my enforced time-out.
A nice early 8am start for this race, which meant an overnight stay in Shanghai and a trip on the high speed train from Suzhou. I’d injured my foot a couple of weeks earlier and not fully recovered but the trip was already planned and I hate to miss a race, especially longer-distance races which can be harder to find in China. Originally I planned to run the Beijing marathon but the inscriptions seemed to close about as soon as they appeared. I ended up missing registration for both the Beijing and Shanghai marathons this year, so I guess you really need to be vigilant to catch the race inscriptions in China. With hindsight it wasn’t so bad to miss Beijing which turned out to be hit bad by pollution. Perhaps I should have taken this as a sign to stay at home and let my foot heal, but at the time I felt I could walk without pain and wanted to run. I actually planned to take the race easy but things didn’t turn out that way in the end.
The race started off in Hongqiao close to the Songhong subway station. A short ride from the center of Shanghai and a good distance walk to warm the legs up. I counted around 80 or 90 starters. The organizers had bananas and water waiting for us and toilets were available in a nearby building. I always like to take on just the right amount of fluid for the start of a race and just a bite of food to feel comfortable. The sun was out but not too bright. Perfect race conditions.
The area at the start of the race was pretty uninspiring but this would quickly change as we hit the river before the spectacular finish at the Bund. We started off, strangely enough, on a crossroads running along quite a wide road then, within about 100 meters, crossed the first bridge (which was not one of the 10 bridges) and cut left toward the Wusong river. We then left the river to meet a fairly busy road to run on the path for e-bikes. This continued for about three kilometers before we crossed our first bridge across the Wusong and into a small park. By this time the field was already starting to break up and I was in the leading group. I was happy to hang on but was worried the pace might be too much for me at around 4:25 per k.
At around about 5k we went up and down stairs to cross a road and around 6 1/2 we crossed another bridge. Taken with the relative flat of the course these steep climbs could feel tough on the legs. Thankfully, whenever the course twisted the arrows painted onto the road were quite easy to follow and there was plenty of support from the organizers who were strategically placed along the course to shout directions and pass out water.
At some points along the route we had to share the road with pedestrians, bikes and rickshaws. There were people eating, selling stuff, playing chess, everything. At one point we even had to swerve to get past a man getting his hair cut on the pavement, crazy. But even though we were running through one of the biggest cities on earth there was still a lot of green and it was nice to be by the riverside. All in all it was a great urban running experience with plenty of color and enough action to keep things kicking all along the course.
As we reached the halfway point in the race people started to drop out of the leading group until there were five, four then just three of us. Then the pace increased and the leader started to creep away. We just about matched him for two kilometers until it was too much. At around 12k he was away. I turned around to see there was only one runner close by and if I stayed with him till the end I could catch a second or third place. The problem was, we’d already spent quite a lot of energy chasing the leader and I felt the following pack might catch us.
I held on snaking along the twisting river toward the Bund and the famous Shanghai skyline. I was starting to feel my bad foot and we’d slowed right down but there were no other runners in sight so it looked like the race for second was on. The pace picked up again around 15k to 4:20 per k but every-time either one of us tried to break away the mental strain of running ahead and looking for the arrows meant we’d soon be dragged back by the other one. I was starting to count off the bridges. I knew the last four all came in the last 3k, the final was the famous iron bridge by the Bund museum, then the Bund.
Each of the the last four bridges hurt our legs just a little more but the end was close. After the last bridge I started to get confused. Is the Bund to the left or straight ahead? I had to wait to ask the following runner who was just behind me. Straight ahead. I sprinted the final 200 meters until the end to come in second. My foot was quite sore by this time, but it felt fantastic to finish.
I clocked the distance at 19.65 k. The leader had finished a good two and a half minutes before us in 1:25:30. I came in on 1:27:53 with the third place 6 seconds behind and the fourth around two minuted behind again. My foot began to throb a bit as we watched the other runners coming in but it was a fantastic day in the sun. Hopefully I’ll be fully recovered and well trained for the next edition.