|Having a jolly time with our Malaysian friends, Emily and Ray|
Even when we trekked up the remote Yangmingshan National Park, we found a secluded stall in the middle of nowhere and sampled their sweet potato and ginger soup.
Jovi and his girlfriend Weilin later spoiled us further with a lovely dinner. After having half-starved myself in the preceding 2 weeks before this trip due to the absence of my wife in the UK with me, I was letting myself loose and eating without any of my usual inhibitions!! However, the highlight of the evening was not the food but the fellowship which we had with both of them. We were talking non-stop for about 3 hours, catching up on news and arranging for our next meeting in 5 days’ time at the Taroko Gorge. I was disappointed and sad to find out from Jovi that he will not be running the Taroko Marathon this year as he has failed to get a number (runners are chosen from a lottery).
|Weilin, Hannisze, myself and Jovi|
The Sun Moon Lake sits on an idyllic location, surrounded by forested mountains, monuments, temples, and pagodas, giving it a very mystical Eastern/Oriental feel.
Instead of spending our 2 nights in the touristic area of the lake, we chose to stay at a remote guesthouse (30 minutes drive from the lake) called Old Five Guesthouse http://www.oldfive.com.tw/, located in the middle of a deep valley which offers us amazing views of the mountains of Yushan National Park. The construction is Japanese-style and the eco-friendly ethos is evidently apparent in every detail of the furnishing.
Upon our arrival, we asked the owner of the guesthouse whether there are any trails nearby for me to run. He seemed very enthusiastic with my question and asked me (through my wife’s translation) many details about the kind of training I want to do (how many km, how many meters of ascent). I was rather surprised by his response because more often than not, when I asked the locals about the running options in their area, they would look at me in a queer way and tell me that there is no place to run or it is not safe to do so.
|Me and Old Five|
Before leaving the guesthouse, my wife has translated to him that I had wanted to run 20km in total and he was happy with this. After we have run the first 10km together, I was waiting for him to direct me to turn back the same way we had come to complete the initial agreed 20km. However, he did not and he carried on running. I assumed that perhaps he was taking me back to the car through another route and kept on running with him. After we have completed 15km, I realised that we were still climbing the mountain and the sun was starting to set by then. I tried to find out what was his plan but he could not understand me. I decided to turn back by running towards the opposite direction, from where we came from. Without a single word, he followed me.
|Us at Wenwu Temple|
On our final day at Sun Moon Lake, just a few hours before we were due to check out from the guesthouse, I had another run with Old Five. This time, we ran in a more remote and peaceful area of on the mountains, which gave us a formidable 360-degree view to the valley below. Just like the last time, we arranged to run just 20km. Unlike the last time, as soon as my watch showed the completion of 10km, I did not wait for Old Five’s direction. I took the lead to turn back to the opposite direction and he followed me.
We were back at the guesthouse at noon and we knew before we started that we were already behind time for our long drive to Taroko Gorge. We drove through the highest road of the country, reaching an altitude of 3200m. It was one of the most beautiful routes I have driven in my life, where we were greeted by changing landscapes at every turn. It was so unique to drive at the same height as the mountain ranges and at the same time, to be able to see the vast panorama of the mountaineering landscape of Taiwan. Definitely an unforgettable experience for me!
After reaching the highest altitude of our trip, we started going down an endless snake road with thousands of turns. Fog and darkness soon descended on us and this made the entire drive a big challenge for me, while my wife was starting to experience motion sickness!!
Jovi brought us the latest news about the changes which are due to take place at the Marathon the following day. Due to the unexpected earthquake, the organizers have decided to change some of the routes and make it shorter race. It is now to be a half marathon instead of a full marathon. There were many rockfalls and landslides in the Gorge due to the earthquake and therefore, some of the routes were deemed to be unsafe for the runners. Honestly, I was very happy with this change. My knee was still not 100% ready for a fast run, and I was concerned about doing a long run and hence, prolonging my recovery time.
Few seconds before the start, Tommy and I agreed to run together at a decent fast pace, but not utilizing 100% of our energy. I was still wary of my injury and was trying to protect myself from having to go through a long healing period, while Tommy was also still recovering from his extreme races around the world.
Our first 5km pace was 4:10' and I was more than happy with that, as I enjoyed the atmosphere of running (among 14,000 runners!!) with Tommy again. While we were crossing the 10th km in 41', Tommy asked me to stop for a few seconds as he needed to use the toilet! I could not believe it and started at him, "Come on Tommy! This is a half marathon race! No time to pee!" He went nevertheless while I got restless and impatient outside the portable toilet, watching many runners overtaking us in what precious time we had. I was getting more frustrated as the minutes (probably seconds, actually!) went ticking by. I started shouting and asking him to come out as soon as possible.
We went for a boat ride after that at the scenic Liyu Lake, which was encircled by beautiful mountains with low clouds hanging over them. We drove to the coastal area with some unforgettable views of the Pacific Ocean before sunset.
While Tommy was trying to entertain us with all things Taiwanese, Jovi came to me with a big surprise. He had changed into his running clothes and asked me to join him for a short run along the panoramic coastal path! As a proper Asian man who keeps his words, he was trying to tell me that our agreement to have a run together in Taiwan has to be respected. Despite my stomach almost bursting from all the food given to me by Tommy, I could not say no to my good friend. We had a 6km run together, with a lot of talking, before rejoining the rest of the group.