Bangs Does Shanghai

I had no preconceived ideas about Shanghai. I hadn’t really thought about what it’d be like, I guess partly because I never imagined I’d be going there. Sometimes you don’t even want to dare to dream. But then all of a sudden, I found myself in Business Class on a Virgin Atlantic flight and it started to sink in that I really was going. We landed at 8am Shanghai time. A driver picked us up and even in the cold light of day, with the dull haze of pollution hanging over the city, there was the unmistakable buzz of the urban jungle – recognisable no matter where you are in the world. I couldn’t wait to dig in.

I was over there on a Nike trip, to run the Shanghai Half Marathon and as a representative of the mighty Run Dem Crew to meet similar crews that have set up in China and learn more about their running culture. Day one was peppered with meet and greets and though we were fresh off a 12 hour flight, trainers were still laced up and a quick 5K through the back alleys and broad streets of Shanghai at night was cranked out. Zipping past street food vendors, tempting aromas wafting up into your nostrils, bystanders looking utterly baffled by this pack of runners cruising through streets clearly never usually populated by our ilk.

A couple of days later, I was running 13.1 miles in the Shanghai Half Marathon. Check out more about that experience over on my Spikes & Heels site. Suffice to say, it was a great day, definitely one of the most fun and enjoyable races I’ve run. The energy of race day and post-run endorphins had me feeling fantastic but this time, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it ran deeper. I’m still trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together but it was more than a sense of achievement, some sort of shift took place with me and every day since, I’ve been feeling excited, positive and as though something kind of game changing is about to come my way.

With the half marathon done and dusted, we had a chance to explore the city. We walked down the bustling Nanjing Road, past hustlers peddling scarves, watches and fake handbags, into these huge, plush malls with decadent Louis, Prada and Dior stores. While I said earlier I had no preconceived ideas about Shanghai before landing, one thing that did surprise me was the money. This is a rich city. Extremely moneyed up. It’s a young work force and they are wealthy. The whole city is dripping with it. It’s safe to say they’re experiencing somewhat of an economic boom there right now and it sure is evident.

Having said that, right around the corner from some of these big plush malls, you’ll find a ‘fake market’, dealing solely in designer rips offs. Whatever you need; sunglasses, watches, handbags, coats – they have it there. And this isn’t some undercover Canal Street trader who rolls everything out on a piece of fabric on the ground, ready to take off at a moment’s notice. This is an actual market, dedicated to the sale of fake goods. We’d be told before we went in to not ask how much something is unless we actually intended to buy it. Having now had the experience, I would broaden this advice to: don’t open your mouth unless you intend to buy something. The mere sight of a foreign face sent the vendors loco – we were pulled every which way as we tried to navigate aisle upon aisle of fakery. We were taken into a back room of phoney handbag heaven. Walls slid back to reveal stacks of counterfeit Louis, Gucci, Coach, Prada, Dior and more. It was mesmerising. And just a block away, huge fancy boutiques sold the real thing.

The night before we left, a friend took us to a rooftop bar that sat high atop the city. Looking out over the cityscape, a neon skyline that stretched far as the eye could see, it was the perfect way to end an incredible week. It’s difficult to gauge the intricacies of a culture in a mere 6 days, but I connected with some wonderful people, had some great runs, soaked up a vibe and was part of a moment that, without meaning to sound hyperbolic, I’m pretty sure will change the course of my life in some way.

Thank you Shanghai. It was an amazing time.

Special thanks to Nike for putting together a wonderful trip.

We flew with Virgin Atlantic.

We stayed at The Peace Hotel.

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