In our latest Q&A we changed up the tempo to a city digitally eons ahead, but barely visible to the running crew hype, until now. #WERUNBEIJING
Up until a year ago runs and routes in Beijing happened without any discernible context. Crews were mostly incoherent, Guerilla running was unheard of, and runners darted around engulfed in isolation. Considering China’s digital advancements on the globe and their populace, their impact on social media was strikingly inferior. Sure, Facebook is forbidden, andYou Tube’s a Taboo but we wanted to learn why running was seen in a negative light in China, ‘a vigorous, painful chore’ with little social media impact for it’s size.
Parallel lines of the city were about to be remapped by 5 locals in a fight to work with and against digital China. “We hope the joint effort between the running crews and Nike could inspire the new generation of Nike athletes in China. If you have a body you are an athlete”. England Cheng Nike China. In collaboration with Nike China #WERUNBEIJING comes up close to two Beijing running crews by the names of Go Girls and Hey Dash.
Following this summer’s NYC celebrations for a decade deep in the #BRIDGETHEGAP movement, it seemed appropriate to tick one off our burning to do list and go East, far far East. With all the recent bad press that Beijing’s pollution crisis has had, making London’s Fog look like someone burnt the bacon. We held our tongues in place and took this rare opportunity to exchange our architecture for some of Bejijngs finest fog, an ancient Forbidden City and a fair few futuro skyscrapers.
We wanted to find the crews, understand how they emerge and pace the unpaceable city. Beijing shares its size with Belgium yet it’s population strikes almost double with 21.5 million living in this tightening knot. Sure the growth has brought economic benefits but with this density has come, great walls of traffic human and mechanical. Albeit a navigational nightmare, it’s no wonder why running isn’t a priority dipping lows of sub 20 in winter and 40ish in the unquenchable summer. Running on a wheel, ventilated by AC is far too common here. he smog obscures buildings that are just a mile away. This trip gave us a renewed appreciated for the Wests clean air.
For runners in the West, or anyone that cried for help being tied to a spinny chair, lacing up your sneakers to step the city is never laborious. Seeing and meeting fellow freedom fighters along the way can be social. Get ready to change up that Tempo if you come to Beijing. This is not a vacation to find yourself, find freedom, or any of the other Zen garden Oolong dreams you had on the 14 hour flight. This is about the crews of Beijing who train for 26 mile global marathons, mapping their city out to find routes that visually distract them and inspire them to run against the elements that they were born into. The pollution can be like smoking a cigarette while running a marathon in a subway queue of suits, we just wouldn’t do it. But they would and they do and it’s inspiring. They want to build their crews and popularise running.
A crew run is an experience you can only get if you’ve got a ticket. Many instarunners are desperately trying to gain a sense of legacy and gain followers. These crews legitimately and modestly claim their own distinction and respect transforming the mindset and radically increasing the tempo of the people of Beijing for a healthy life, exploring the city and breaking down great walls and taking breath, coming up for air from the subway. There’s an element of integrity here.
Straight back from our crew led Forbidden City Run and armed with the latest gadgets, QR codes for every potential meet up, and most importantly a dose of matcha treats we Q and A’d the crews. The interview accompanies a short video shot in Beijing.
Two crews, one city. Far Eastside come flex. You got this Beijing.
UNDO: Please introduce yourself.
Crews: Hey Dash and Go Girls.
UNDO: So what’s the story with your running crews. How did it start?
Meng Li: Hey Dash only started last summer. We all met at the Nike Beijing store run then Nike China held a race called Battle of the Districts in Beijing. It was a fast race of 4km and our crew won.
UNDO: Good work! So we know since forming you have run almost everyday, what is there to love about moving through Beijing?
Yuhao Su: Beijing is old, and has so much history. When we run in the city, we can feel culture and our country.
UNDO: We’ve been here for 2 weeks and haven’t seen any runners outside of the crew runs and suits running for the subway. Where are the runners?
Weija Wang: There are two tracks at the Olympic Park, people train there to get away from the traffic. We plan clear routes in the dusk and pace short runs through the city most days. We also train in the gym and see a Nike Training Club coach twice a week.
UNDO: Do you want to make your crew bigger and popularise running in Beijing?
Meng Li: Yeah. Hey Dash is focusing on the youngers in Beijing. Especially the university students with our campus runs. It has grown from 15 to 300 runners. In China the students always think running is for athletes or like an exam, a test, a punishment. They say it’s boring and difficult.They don’t see it like this, how we see it. A lifestyle. We want to show people in Beijing that running is fun and inspire Chinese people to share our lifestyle.
UNDO: How will you guys inspire people?
Meng Li: We always run at night, with flash packs, neon lighting, fluro markers, and very loud electronic music. The night run seems like a party. Students have finished their studies. It’s free time and they can wear some hype clothes like him (points at Yuhao Su).
UNDO: With talk of Tech Packs and hype garms, how does Nike find the crews to follow and support? Is it through social media or through actual races?
Meng Li: We have all been running the weekly Nike store runs for a year. The running movement in China is small right now so they got to know the core team well and we were bold at expressing our need to get more people running- they supported that from the start. Nike thought our activity on social media was relevant. We can’t access Facebook in China so we use Microblog.
UNDO: Is that how you track your running? Can you put your runs on Microblog?
Meng Li: We can post our Nike Plus record and automatically share on the Microblog. We push the information through platforms like Microblog and We Chat, we can send an invitation QR Code- everywhere in Beijing. Our followers can find out where and when we run. If people want to run together, they will come. Another way is that we enter the university and host the Campus Run, and we tell them that every saturday night we host the run club and welcome everyone to run with us.
UNDO: We know that air pollution quality is a huge, ongoing contender for runners in Beijing but what’s your limit? Like when do you not run?
Weija Wang: My daily routine is wake up, have a coffee, cross my fingers and check my APQ app. Go Girls has our own number, if the APQ is above this number, we will not run.
UNDO: How do you feel when the pollution is bad?
Meng Li: Not good, sometimes it hurts my eyes. I think mentally I always feel worse when I go to another city and run, for example recently for Washington DC Half, the air was so clean and clear. But when the weather and APQ is great, I just want to run and never stop.
UNDO: Do the crews run all year round?
Weija Wang: Yeah always. Last winter we held activities and races to beat the weather.
UNDO: You’re all wearing t-shirt with #NikeFree on them. What is Run Free to you?
Yuhao Su: So I think you can run everywhere, every time, at night. Anytime, anywhere. We run with anything. We can run all together or just on our own. It’s about freedom and running with your friends. And making new friends.
Weija Wang: I think Run Free to me is empty my brain. It just feels so good. So after work or if something bad happens everything goes.
Meng Li: Run Free is to enjoy yourself. Immerse myself. I think when I’m running, there is nothing on my mind. Sometimes it will even bring me so many great ideas. So I love that.
Qinjie Zhou: Running is different from other sports like football, basketball or something. With running there are no rules, no set areas, no white lines to follow. No limits.You can run anywhere. You can run the whole way round the world.
Writer: Tilly Stasiuk