Monday, October 20, 2014

Why I Run Beijing Marathon Under Toxic Air?

The 34th Beijing international marathon kicks off Oct.20, despite the day’s hazardous air index which soars above 340 against 25-50 designed by the World Health Organization. As a runner, I not only participated, but completed the race in a little over four hours.

Why on earth would people run a marathon in such a toxic air?

Why on earth would I run the race?

I never forget the first physic education class at my university. According to requirement, we have to compete the run of 1,500 meter in a certain time. So a group of us, led by a strong and tall guy from an oilfield along the yellow river, started running the circle.

When we crossed the finish line, the person who felt mostly relieved is not one of us, but our strong and tall PE class representative. He bent down on this knees and throw up his gut out. That’s pretty much the beginning and the end of my distance run training.

After moving to Beijing more than two years ago, I have picked up running. The last year, I even run my first Beijing marathon, which happened to have strong wind blew away a blanket of smog I run to the end feeling thrilled.

So I already have a medal from Beijing marathon, the medal, although addictive, is not the motivation for this run.

Race fee could be another reason. After thinking thoroughly, the few hundred Chinese yuan is also neglectable, compared with unforeseeable immediate and long-term damages to the body and mind.

So, what exactly, is the reason for the race? I can think of three reasons:

1.      If the history is such that a marathon has to be held under toxic air, then as a runner I want to be the witness to the history

2.      I have never run wearing a mask, why don’t I experiment it on my own body? Does it work? Can one wear a mask and run to the finish line of a full marathon?

3.      Who are the runners so determined to run?

Even on the morning of the race day, I was not convinced to run. I wondered if there is a lasts-minute announcement from the Beijing organizing committee to cancel or suspend the race. There have been such cases. The most recent one is being New York City, which in 2013 cancelled the New York Marathon amid the aftermath of super storm Sandy.

So, can Beijing, for the health sake of tens of thousands runners and make the similar conclusion? I started searching for any news, no luck.

Sitting on the subway train to the starting point, I met several runners. One standing next to me is running his first half-marathon. He was dragged by one friend and entered a lottery for the half-marathon due to overwhelming applicants. His friend wasn’t chosen, but he was.

Beijing marathon became such popular, a sign of the strong social demand for health and fitness in Beijing.

I looked out of the train windows, searching for signs of Olympic Torch Tower, a landmark clearly seen miles away in a normal day or even lightly polluted day, but nowhere to be seen now.

Oddly, running in the bad air feels like running in high-attitude Mountains, and I constantly feel short of breath.

The mask proved to short-lasting. To improve air ventilation, I decided on a light-weight mask one filter opened.

While closed tightly via elastic bands, the mask trapped warm air inside it. While walking should not be an issue, running is a different story. The warm air quickly accumulated inside the mask, dampening it. By one hour mark, the mask started changing shape. Meanwhile, the moisture made the each breath heavier and harder.

One and half hours into running, I felt the mask has effectively stopped working. I took it off for quick seconds and put it back on, hoping to revitalize the only protection from the choky air.

The strategy worked, for another 20 minutes and the mask gave up. I took off and went on without it.

Less than two hours, that’s my experiment with mask in a marathon race.

Without any protection, I ran for another 2 hours and twenty minutes, before crossing the finish line.

And during the last few kilometers, there were literally no runners wearing masks.

During the last section leading to the finish line, the biggest topic for every runner is, where the finish is. After hours of running and exposing to the toxic air, every one is eager to put it behind them and just finish it, so they call it a day and can hide inside.

However, the pollution is so heavy that the red-colored finish gate is nowhere to be seen from hundreds of meters away, even the Bird’s Nest, the landmark next to the finish, only showing an obscured sketch.

The toughest section is around 37 kilometers, where I started feeling nausea. Despite fatigue, cramped legs and pain, nausea is something new to me, and I have never felt that way before. I felt a little panic attack, afraid of not being able to finish even coming this far.

I knew that I can’t throw up, which would take the remaining energy from my body. So I carried on, and stopped briefly at a drinking station, using fluids to force down the urge to throw up.

The nausea, however, remained with me to the next day. As to any mid-to long-term health impact, I have no idea.

Upon crossing the finish line, young volunteers customarily handed one white plastic bag to me. Inside is customarily a medal and some small-packaged snacks. This year, a large towel from the sport sponsors is been replaced by a light paper vest printed with Beijing Marathon logo.

Under a barely glowing sun light due to the smog, the paper vest provides shivering sweet-soaked runners with paper-like warmth.

The medal is about the same weight as the one from the last year.

Holding it, I can’t stop wondering, is the medal the proof of the completion of just another marathon race?

















  1. 世界上有多少已举办了33年的国际级马拉松赛事是在空气污染指数高达341 的情况下举办的?如果是历史在上演,就做一个历史的见证人吧
  2. 从没戴口罩跑过马拉松,就那拿自己做一个实验吧,看究竟是怎样的体验?到底能不能一直跑下去直至终点?
  3. 他的人为什么要跑,到底是些什么人?





即使不大口呼吸,也于事无补。5-10公里之后通常是马拉松的加速跑阶段,随着时间推移,距离加大,口罩继续悲鸣着。 到一个半小时后, 我已明显感到口罩的沉重和呼吸的困难,此时的防护过滤器已感觉不在作用,更像一个敷在鼻口上面的打湿了的棉布。








Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Japan Readies for Cultural Export

Japan has come out stronger after the March 11 earthquake. This time, Tokyo said it wants the world to know more about its culture and entertainment.

For a long time, Japan is represented mainly to the rest of the world through the lens of Hollywood, The Last Samurai, Memoirs of a Geisha, Lost in Translation are household movie titles among others.

However, few people outside Japan know about its thriving domestic movie and TV series industry which has produced such big name directors, Akira Hirosawa, Juzo Itami and emerging Kazuaki Kiriya.

Feeling the heat from both traditional entertainment stronghold of Hollywood and newcomer Bollywood, Japan is eager to promote its cultural products for the consumption of the global audience. However, a long held history of Japanese language has deterred the efforts.

According to the news from African Executive, Japan has readied to introduce many copyrighted works from both corporations and individuals to the world, the target is mainly the U.S., but emerging African countries is another potential.

The newly created All Nippon Entertainment Works Company Ltd, a brainchild of more established Innovative Network Corp of Japan (INCJ), kicked off August 15th. With 6 billion yen investment, the goal is to "introducing copyright works of Japanese companies and individuals to international audience."

The list of companies include TBS, Fuji TV as well as Mitsubishi Corps, Densu, Toho-Towa among others.

Will Africans get to accept Japan beyond Ninja, Samurai to a mixed bag of contents?

Friday, July 01, 2011

Chinese Fan Cools Japanse Summer

Hit by the worst nuclear energy crisis, Japan will now face another natural disaster, sizzling summer and soaring heat stroke patients.

Due to the shutdown of nuclear power generators, the government has imposed a limit on energy use, the directly impacted will be millions of citizens who face a summer that has kicked into a high gear since early May and has not shown mercy. Kumagaya in Saitama recorded 39.8C on June 24, and Japan authorities reported the heat wave is the highest in 50 years.

The number of patients who suffer from heat stroke and had to be delivered to hospitals are increasing by several folds, around 3,000 had been rushed to hospitals nationwide last week.

One relief is electric fans that were made in China. As Japanese makers have shifted the production to China, this May has seen 3.21 million fans cleared Tokyo Customs. Even so, residents in some areas of Japan still find no fans left in their electronic store shelves.

From rare earth ban to toxic frozen gyoza (dumplings), who could have think electronic fan become another hot item on Sino-Japan trade list. However, this time is different: Japanese are eager to embrace for made-in-china goods, either with little or no choice.

(I will soon hit the road, mostly in Ghana for the next one month and half. After that, I will transition to Dhaka, Bangladesh. The posting therefore will be sporadic, if none at all during this transition period. I wish everyone a good summer. Stay cool!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Just Ask, Regain the Art of Asking

Special piece for proud mothers, fathers, and anyone in between…

As a parent, have you ever wondered why your kids ask so much? They seem to have endless questions. And when they don’t get what they asked, they….cry, which is another way of asking. Grownups, however, forget the art of asking. So I am asking, why do you think there is a difference between kids and adults when comes to asking?

The reason, I think, lies in a fear of rejection. Adults, me included, have egos. And egos are like shoes, come in different sizes. When you start asking, you risk the consequence of being told, NO! So, most of the time, the fear overwhelms you, and you tell self No before even asking. You may very well get a no, anyway, so, why bother.

Kids, on the other hand, have very small sized (act out) egos. And trust me; they are well aware of that. When they desire for something, they don’t self-doubt themselves, they simply ask. Quite often, you will find these questions range anywhere from reasonable, to regrettable to ridicules.

Not only do they ask, they also ask multiple times, in various forms, in order to get what they desire. “Mom, Can I have this?” “No. How about that?” “I love you, Mom, but if you give me that, I will love you more” No matter what techniques they use, the message is loud and clear-- they are not afraid to ask for what they want.

I am not a behavior scientist, I am nevertheless keen on asking why some people are more successful than others, my answer is, they succeed because they not only ask, they ask more and they keep asking.

Don’t these people be considered as needy? You might ask. Fair enough, the difference, however, according to their individual definitions, needy people either have disasters and manmade reasons to have little means to support themselves, or have low or no self-confidence, so they rely on emotional and material support of others. While persistent people know the support they need is the wings to help them take off, so they only ask what exactly they need and when they need it.

When you ask, make sure don’t ask wrong questions. When you are stopped by a policeman, and he thought you are speeding, what’s the first thing he will ask you, “How fast had you been driving?” Do you think he will ever ask, how slow had you been driving?

Similarly, we want to get certain results, like a pay raise, bonus, promotion, etc, we need to ask the right questions. Something like, I have just saved million dollars for the organization, what should I do to have a bigger role to save the company even more?

The right questions open doors, and windows, encourage discussions, deepen relationships and create a learning environment. They are necessary in any relationship, be it at work or at home.

So next time, when you hear a kid keep asking, ask yourself, do I need to start asking as well? However, no one in this world gets what he or she wants, not even a fraction of that. Professor Randy Pausch, author of the Last Lecture, once said, experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

The next time when you ask and get rejected, think like a kid. You won’t be asking, are there anything worse than the humiliation or embarrassment than the sound of a NO? Instead, do what a kid would do. They cry, they shrug off and they move on.

Monday, May 09, 2011

5 Tips to Gain Resilience and Bounce Back From Lows

Several years ago, I felt I was the anathema of the world: struck with a job that drained my energy like a vampire, day in and day out. Getting up becomes a chore. I woke up in the middle of a night, dreadful of repetitive tasks ahead. Like a boat drifting along a river without a direction, I had a low moment in life.

As humans, who hasn’t had such lows in life? Bad economy, sluggish job market, layoffs, uncertainties, life sometimes turns unexpectedly, whether we are prepared or not. Friends, familiar locations and comfortable surroundings give way to an unknown terrain, dark deep channels with no light in sight, crossroads waiting to choose, what should you do? Here are 5 tips for you:

  1. You need to eat well and sleep 8 hours a night. It helps lift you up. Don’t let yourself down just because life shuts down on you. Better, get up at 4 and do some physical activities. If you forget nutritious meals and stay up at night, you will not only finish today poorly, but start off tomorrow on a wrong foot. No matter how tough the situation, remember to keep the priority, you, front and center.
  2. Create value. Just because you are down, doesn’t mean you don’t have something of value to offer. Quite the opposite, since you have free time on hand; it could be the perfect time to be creative. Start from yourself, write down 10 ideas for your dream job, if you done that, treat self for a cake and come back to write 20 more. How about establishing a Facebook page for your friends’ shop, get 50 new connections through Linkedin?
  3. Open up for all opportunities. Someone once said, there is never lack of chances, only lack of guided eyes. During the good times, we become so used to staying inside a comfort zone that we don’t always look for other opportunities. However, when you are low, chances are you need whatever available to get you out of the stinky swamp. Get out and show up at social events, speak up and seek help.
  4. Give out for free. Offer your time and expertise to help others, mentor a youth, take care of your sister’s kids while she works, and make a speech to your middle school about the importance of education. Give and you will receive.
  5. Read a lot, write a lot. Forget the “to do” list, Create an “I did” list. From time to time, you need to remind how much you have achieved. Forget the situation; forgive someone in your life. Who doesn’t like the feeling of completion and forgiveness?

To combat the life’s low, my action plan is: treat self well, Lift self up from the bad situation, keep moving, pay attention to knocks of Mr. Opportunities, make self valuable. Create things that people will need and like, give these things out for free. Finally, remember how much you have done, and keep doing the right things.

Years later, I quit that job, start writing stories and editing articles, I also found another one I am passionate about and jumping out the bed every morning. The boat I am sitting in is steadily moving forward, I can feel breeze blows my face, picturesque sceneries swaying by.

Are you on board? Share with me your tips by leaving a comment.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

China Rapidly Becomes Another Japan

The first census in a decade shows that Chinese population is rapidly aging, people over the age of 60 now account for 13.3% of the population, up nearly 3% since 2000. Nearly one in six people in China is over 60 years old.

Although in terms of percentage of aging population, China is still far behind Japan, the pace of aging in China has been alarmingly similar to that of Japan.

Merely twenty years ago, only 11.6% of the population in Japan was 65 years or older. Now, the ratio stand at 21%, the highest proportion of elderly citizens in the world.

In China, the aging trend is accelerating, according to Ma Jiantang, head of the National Bureau of Statistics. The 3% increase in a decade could seen a significance booster from now on.

One the other hand, the proportion of mainland Chinese people aged 14 or younger was 16.6%, down by 6.29 percentage points from 2000.

The quickly aging trend could bring many issues, such as an increased demand for care facilities, care services and personnel, heavy burden on young workers, and anxiety over post-retirement care.
Share |