Today I went for a 7.5 mile run. Much of it involved weaving through slow moving and wide pedestrians who don’t feel the need to move out of your way even when you’re running straight toward them, some of it on a race track, some of it dodging cars.
My goal had been to go to Bowen Road Fitness Trail and get a truly long run in, maybe even 9 miles. I have heard that Bowen is a great place to run, no cars, a few joggers and walkers and tai-chi-ers. I read in a blog on Sassy HK that it ends in Happy Valley (the actual name of an area of town, Central, Soho, Kennedy Town, Wan Chai are a few others). I looked up the route on a map and set off.
According to my plan, I was to run past the Happy Valley Racetrack, and up to Stubbs road, which I would then follow until I hit an obvious looking jogging path.
I ran through Victoria Park and Causeway Bay, took an escalator to a footpath over a road, then ran past the racetrack and turned onto Queens Road, where Stubbs intersects. I discovered upon reaching Stubbs Road, that it is a rather busy thoroughfare that connects to the other side of the island by going over a mountain. Fine. Dandy.
I started running up the road. I further discovered that the sidewalks vary in width, from a normal size about 3 or 4 feet wide, to 6 inches wide, to nonexistent. These wobbly sidewalks, I may remind you, are inches away from cars going downhill at 30MPH. On one side of the road you are between a fence guarding you from rolling down hill and the cars; on the other side of the road you are shouldering the side of a vertical slope of the mountain, of course maintained to prevent rock slides. There would be no escape.
I found myself imagining what would happen if a truck was going just a little too fast, didn’t break early enough for a blind curve, me on a narrow sidewalk next to a wall of stone. The places with tiered walls made me more comfortable: I could just jump into a shrubbery and hope the crumple zone of the vehicle didn’t crumple me. Somehow, the sidewalk on the other side of the road always looked safer, no matter which side I was running on. One side had a guardrail for 100m, one had a railing, one side was 3 feet while mine was 3 inches.
You can only take so much of this sort of thing.
I ran about a mile on this road, without incident. I still hadn’t found the mythical Bowen Road. I passed a little housing development or school of some kind, and was going to continue running up in search for this strange location, when I came upon a place where the sidewalk was 0 inches wide. The road was next to the rising cliff.
I was on the right side of the street, when the road was also curving to the right. I could see the street would switch back ahead, but I could not see anything beyond the corner of the nonexistent sidewalk. I don’t know if it is only a 1 foot of sidewalk, or 100 meters of no sidewalk. I certainly did not have the courage to find out. I turned around and went straight back downhill.
Though because I had chosen that side to run on, I came to a new obstacle on my way down. I saw clearly a 20 meter stretch of cliff with no sidewalk, I would either cross the street or run in the street. I waited for some cars to pass, listened, waited for more to pass, appreciated my crossing the road training in middle school. At a break with little sound of oncoming cars, I bolted. I ran faster than I have run in months just to get through the sidewalkless trap. As I rolled back onto pavement, a tour bus passed me. I made it, and only one person saw the effort. Phew.
Thus, instead of exploring fabled trails, I returned to Happy Valley Racetrack. There I ran a couple of laps around the horse track, about 1400 meters around. There were no cars to dodge, no cliffs to cling to, and no fears of impending doom.
When I got home, I looked at the map and found I had been about half a mile from the entrance to Bowen Road. But I also planned a different route for the next time that avoids Stubbs as much as possible. I hope it is not equally perilous.
I may just continue to do Happy Valley and the mountain trails in the forest in my neighborhood. It seems easier and safer, both good things.