Wednesday morning. The sun is out but it’s raining. I can hear the thunder as I type this. A weird weather welcome to be greeted back home to Los Angeles.
This weekend was a blur. There are some races where all you think about is training. Then a week out, your specific diet and hydration before race day to get you as ready as possible. Then the day before, resting your legs and getting the right amount of sleep. This wasn’t one of those races.
The pinnacle of RUN HAI was not toe-ing the line Sunday morning, or opening up at 23 miles or even crossing that finish line at the Shanghai Stadium. It was somewhere between getting offered the last soup dumpling by a new friend and belting out a Bohemian Rhapsody duet at 3 in the morning two days before the marathon.
One our runners Jen will sum it up better below.
"SHANGHAI MARATHON 11/17. YOU IN?"
Ten weeks ago, Duy asked if I wanted to run a marathon in Shanghai. Instinctively I replied, “I’m down!” Moments later I was added to the “SHANGHAI MARATHON” group chat and noticed the 12 members in the group including myself – 2 females and 10 males to be exact. Ozzie, Mike, Carol, Javier, Iggy, Kevin, Duy, Gordon, Chaz, Daniel and Willie to be even more exact.
Most of the other runners are fast. I honestly felt doubtful saying yes so quickly knowing that I’m slower and haven’t been running consistently. But I knew this trip would be more than running the marathon. I reminded myself to let go of those doubts and have fun. I did exactly that. This past week was not only about running a marathon. It was about human relation and bringing communities together. It went beyond running.
THURSDAY, 11/14 RUNHAI DAY 1
After an almost 14-hour flight, half of our group made it to Shanghai. Luckily for us, we had an empty plane and each of us had an entire row to ourselves. It was fantastic! Energy levels were high and we were all smiles. We kept this momentum until our first gathering later that evening for a night run led by local Shanghai run crew, Dark Runners.
We ran through the streets of Shanghai, across bridges over the Huangpu River, all while trying not to get knocked out by motor bikes without their lights on. Yet the skyscrapers lit the streets so brightly. It was the perfect skyline view while running with old and new friends.
Like after a typical Thursday night KRC run at Beer Belly, the run ended at a bar called the Beer Lady. Since arriving at the airport, checking into our hotels and later splitting into groups before the night run, we didn’t have much time to connect with the other members of the different run crews.
Beer Lady quickly became the first spot where everyone let loose, still full of adrenaline after running a casual 6km, sharing introductions over food and drinks. We had a bottomless basket of drinks we could choose from. Everything at this moment felt so surreal to know that we were 6,400 miles away from Los Angeles. Yet, it still felt really familiar being surrounded by runners having a good time. You realize everyone laughs in the same language.
FRIDAY, 11/15 RUNHAI DAY 2
With just a few hours of sleep, we made it to Day 2 of RUNHAI. There was a morning run led by SH Fishing Club. After the run, we ate breakfast and listened to local run crews sharing their stories at DOE. It was such a neat space with an interesting philosophy. The philosophy behind DOE is “Be Formless.” Like the water we drink, the air we breathe, the revolving culture also has no shape, no form, yet it’s something every individual has been participating in.
Each local run crew had an inspirational and feel-good story to share. Thank you to SH Fishing Club, The One Crew, and Charlie’s Running Club for sharing your stories. If you haven’t heard of them, please check them out and join them on a run if you’re ever in Shanghai.
After a productive morning, we were already hungry for some lunch. We quickly freshened up and met everyone again at Din Tai Fung. Yes, there are a few locations here, near Los Angeles, but something about eating at this restaurant in Shanghai meant so much more to me not only because of its location and authenticity, but because of the people that sat around me at the table. I didn’t mention it earlier, but I did not really know 7 out of the 11 KRC members outside of running.
Although it may have seemed to you like we have known each other for years because of the love and respect we express towards each other in real life, the truth is, we really got to know each other on a different level by spending meaningful time together in this foreign city. I loved that running brought us together and how we now have this special bond that will forever be etched in our hearts. These are the moments I’ll never forget with friends who treat me like family, all because we love to run.
The next stop after lunch was a visit to RUNHAI Lane. The words on the concrete steps leading up to the top of this space captured the essence of this venue – EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO RUN IS HERE – and it literally felt that way with all the combined knowledge and experiences shared by the different run crews in the room.
Each crew shared their ‘why’s’ for creating their run crew. From WRU Crew out of Uptown NY to Wayv Run Kollektiv in Berlin. The stories I was listening to were so fascinating and moving that it kept me glued to my seat thinking about all the questions I wanted to ask afterwards, where I even forgot to go up with my own run crew when it was KRC’s turn!
It was a reminder that we are more than just a run crew running the streets and racing marathons. These stories emphasized the importance of its existence and how it’s strengthening communities and human connections. They continue to exist because of the relationships that are formed, giving members a sense of belonging no matter their differences. I genuinely felt the sincerity and integrity of everyone who spoke and shared their origins and why this is all so important to them and their communities.
RUNHAI Lane is still in the works of being complete before it is officially open to the public. The concept, ideas and purpose of this space are truly special. A hub for runners around the world. Everything you would need to get started and the space open to the crews whenever they want. One can imagine what this place will be like once its complete. I know I cannot wait to return someday. KRC 12, are we doing Shanghai 2020?
After two more events and a dinner, you’d think we’d call it a night after three hours of sleep. Nope. We wanted to fulfill the last item of our Day 2 itinerary, which was Karaoke at Haoledi KTV in Joy City. To all the brave souls that went up to sing, I treasure you! A special shout-out to the ladies of AFE and Track Mafia for starting the fun by singing first! Within the first half hour of being in the karaoke room, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, wow, we’re really running the marathon in less than 36 hours. We talked amongst ourselves and realized how much fun we were having that we didn’t care too much about trying to PR on Sunday. Well, it actually worked out for one of us.
SATURDAY, 11/16 RUNHAI DAY 3
As Ozzie said, it’s one of those weekends where you can count the hours of sleep you get on two hands. You couldn’t tell by enthusiasm everyone brought to the runs. The early morning shake-out run was led by The One Crew. It was a warm and beautiful day, while we ran on the designated path along the river in the Pudong New District. After our run, we headed towards the Expo for packet pick up. There was so much hype and buzz inside the expo it was a bit overwhelming. It felt familiar, but still so different, if that even makes any sense. Nonetheless, it was a neat experience to see all the participants excited for their big race day.
After we picked up our bibs, we went on a local culture tour led by local run crew members. I spent the day with my new group, which was comprised of runners from different run crews. I was in a group with members of:
- • Athletics Far East (Tokyo)
- • Harbour Runners (Hong Kong)
- • Patta Running Team (Amsterdam)
- • Private Road Running Club (Seoul)
- • Wayv Run Kollektiv (Berlin)
My group was led by leaders Cecilia and Lu of The One Crew (Shanghai). They took us to lunch (thank you, Sylvia, for a legit breakdown of all the things we ate. I felt fully immersed ) at a local restaurant followed by a tour of the Rockbund Art Museum. Fun fact: Cecilia, our group leader used to work here.
After a quick trip to the Nike Shanghai House of Innovation, we all finally got some much needed rest.
SUNDAY, 11/17 RUNHAI DAY 4
Race Day is here. It’s the motherfuckin’ 2019 Shanghai International Marathon. I woke up after getting 8 hours of sleep. I finally felt caught up. Well, sort of. I jumped into a taxi leaving my hotel around 4:30am. We gathered for a briefing by Run Hai Host Tom at 4:45am and we were on the bus by 5:15am headed off to the starting line. It was dark and cold and there were so many runners all over the streets moving in all directions. After bag check we tried to figure out a way to sneak into an earlier corral. Security was tight.
The sun had already started to rise. We walked through the tall buildings to get to latest corral E. The crowd was getting louder and louder as the dubstep hype song was playing on the marathon speakers. I stood around observing and taking it all in as I stood in the corral with Carol, Mike, Chaz, Daniel, Duy, Iggy, Kevin, and Will. I had no clue where Gordon, Javier and Ozzie were at this point. Probably stuck on a train somewhere. 7:00am finally came and we were off.
One by one I lost sight of each KRC runner in the massive crowd. 42km later. The 12 of us finished.
Thank you, Nike Shanghai. We were definitely spoiled this past week. And the cheering squads at 9km and 38k were the cherry on top! Everything was rad!
Thank you to Carol, Chaz, Daniel, Gordon, Iggy, Javier, Kevin, Ozzie and Will for all the laughs we shared and the memories we made during this trip. From 2:47 to 6:55 finishes, I’ll never forget KRC 12 and the E-Team!
Last but not least, a million thanks to Duy, Mike and Koreatown Run Club for choosing me to take part in this once in a lifetime adventure. You guys created this platform where people are listening to you and listening to us. In the last three years, I’ve seen our family grow, shift and evolve in crazy ways and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent our community and be able to share what we’re all about with the rest of the world! NO ENEMY BUT TIME.
Until we meet again… Jia-yo!!
Words by Duy Nguyen and Jen Labrie
Photography by @paulsta @skaterbb @rkrkrk @3dk129
All of this! So beautifully written… 💞 You couldn’t have said it better. “Strengthening human connections”. I truly believe this is why KRC exists.