Running Routes in Xi’an, China
Located at the end of the infamous Silk Road, Xi’an has thousands of years of history that can keep any history buff occupied for weeks in what was once the greatest city in China. For the rest of us normal tourists, once you have explored the Muslim quarter , the two towers and the terracotta warriors you will probably be ready to move on to one of the other cities in China or be looking for something else to occupy you other than the huge shopping malls that litter the city. That’s where knowing a few running routes may come in handy!
As the Chinese aren’t famed for their running prowess, it can be quite a challenge to find a decent running route within the city, as a lack of open green parks and high pollution levels in summer can limit your choices to only a few spots other than highways and roads.
Running Route 1 – Xi’an City Walls
Xi’an prides itself on being one of the only settlements in China to still have its 700 year old city walls intact. In fact, more damage has been done to the walls in the past 100 years than the previous 600 as Communist activists besieged the city and destroyed its north guardhouse in 1936. Luckily, the walkway was left untouched.
The walls stretch for 16km in a rectangular manner that sees you finish where you began if you decide to run the complete circuit. Entry onto the wall is at any of the four main gate houses; each gatehouse being roughly in the middle of each section of the wall (north, south, east, west facing). Entry will cost around 200Yuan (about£4 or $6) but there are numerous special offers for students and on public holidays that can make it cheaper. If you aren’t entitled to a concessions then out of date student cards and official looking id or membership cards can sometimes deceive the ticket officer into giving you half price entry, but this doesn’t work every time.
Running the wall
The width of the wall is much larger than most people expect, and at around 8metres is one of the widest walls in China. The distances involved whilst running along the wall can be deceptive, as the flatness and straightness of the wall will mislead you into thinking that distant objects are much closer than they actually are. Each long side of the wall is about 5km and each short side about 3km so remember this and plan your pace and route accordingly without relying on landmarks as markers
The surface of the wall walkway has quite hefty camber, tilting downwards from the outermost edge to the inner most at varying levels of steepness on different sections of the wall. Running along a route with this kind of camber can put excess strain on your legs and hips and so is best avoided and you should instead run along either the innermost edge or outermost edge of the walkway as this is where the camber flattens off.
Transport back to the start of your run
Bikes are available for hire at the main gatehouses but using them entails a hefty deposit so if you become tired and need a lift back to your starting point then the best bet is to jump on one of the many golf buggies that cart lazy tourists around the structure.
There are small shops every few kilometres along the wall that sell water and soft drinks at slightly inflated prices, so if the weather does heat up you can always supplement your water from the stalls as you run past them. Another option is to fill your water bottle from the toilets dotted along the walls but as always, drinking the tap water in foreign countries is not recommended unless you are a local.
As already mentioned, there are free to use toilets dotted along the walls should the need arise whilst you are running.
Best time to run in Xi’an
As is always the same with any popular tourist destination, you want to try and run early in the morning before the wall becomes crowded. You will often see various locals using the wall for all kinds of sport such as badminton and yoga and the wall also attracts a large number of grumpy old men and women who will definitely not move out of your way when you run towards them (whether they see you or not).
The wall is by far the most popular place to run with westerners in the city and you will bump into the same faces if you run this route regularly.
Running Route Two – Xi’an City Wall Moat
A free version of the above Xi’an city wall run but with no need to pay the entry fee. A moat surrounds the city wall with an accompanying path that can be used for running if the wall becomes too congested or you want to escape the sun.
The path has numerous steps sections that allow access to the most from the various gatehouses and roads that cross it, which can be used to great effect as a hill reps session for strengthening leg muscles and improving running endurance.
As the moat circles the city walls it is slightly longer than the wall route, and also gives you the option of running down any of the roads the cut across the moat if you want to add some diversity to your route.
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