Throwback to 2015.
12th edition of the Taipei 101 Vertical Walk/Run.
The Taipei 101 Vertical Run/Walk takes place every year, usually in early May. Registration opens about a month before the event, and sells out within a few days.
I signed up for the 2015 edition as soon as the online form was available, the process was pretty straightforward, with an English interface available. The fee back then was 800 TWD for an individual registration.
This is more of a fun than competitive event, unless you’re part of the professional group who races for performance, and a cold hard cash reward. One of them shared some interesting insights on her preparation, and Taipei 101 experience. In it, she alluded to some “monster steps”, which made me think of those huge irregular stone steps going up Elephant mountain 象山, 😱!
Though not in a competitive state of mind, I still wanted to make sure that I could clinch the 2046 stairs without feeling too miserable at the end. Walking up some stairs might not sound like a big deal, but I’m glad I forced myself to do a minimal of physical training.
On the day of the event, I passed by a few people slouched on the side of the stairs with pallid faces, trying to catch their breath. I could totally relate to their nauseous-looking state as it was exactly how I felt when I did my first stairs training at the Kaohsiung Main Library (KSML) 高雄市立圖書館總館.
I had chosen KSML and its eight flights of stairs as my training ground, repetitively going up to the roof top and back down until I’d reach the steps count. I always loved ending these sessions on the roof top garden which offered a soothing space to unwind the body and mind, all while appreciating the view of Kaohsiung city. (Last I checked, the emergency stairwell was no longer open to the public.)
The day before the event, I stopped by the sponsor tent, near Taipei 101, to pick-up my registration package. It drizzled almost non-stop that day, so I planned accordingly for it. The rainy-day agenda involved stocking up on carbs with some ramen for lunch at Sapporo Engine 札榥炎神, heading to Yu Chocolatier for dessert, getting my mophead a chop at Vis-a-Vis斐瑟, and strolling through the Tonghua/Linjiang night market 通化/臨江夜 before getting some take-out pizza from Zoca for dinner. Then, it was off to bed early as I had planned to show up bright and early the next day, despite my late scheduled starting time.
On D-Day, early I was, but bright the weather was not. The rain wasn’t threatening too much yet, but it was overcast and windy, a really moody weather.
Professional runners had the honors to go up first, then went the honorary guests like Taipei city mayor Ko Wen-je 柯文哲, and other foreign dignitaries. Their race was projected on a big screen, a mild entertainment for the waiting crowd.
All participants had to go through the Sharpened Romberg test, a first for me at a running event. It looked like an easy-peasy exercise but for some unfounded reasons, I suddenly got nervous as soon as I closed my eyes. The strong wind didn’t help to keep my balance, I was vacillating, and on the verge of tipping over, but thankfully they whistled to signal our release, phew!
I killed some time by walking through the sponsors area. They were handing out freebies like samples of mysterious energy drinks, ice cream (highly recommended before a race, right?), vitamins, etc… the perfect recipe for an indigestion.
The Adidas tent was running a more interesting challenge where you had to guess how long it’d take you to go up 101, the guesstimate was then written on a bracelet to wear around your wrist, and if your personal performance was close enough, a gift could be claimed after the event.
I was excited as my scheduled time approached, but the event was running late. I didn’t mind waiting a little, but each time the clouds were clearing off, the sun rays would violently hit, and was starting to wear me down. People were noticeably becoming antsy to get in the starting blocks as well. In the end, I started at least an hour later than expected, this sucked, but all the frustration went away off once I finally got ushered inside Taipei 101 and caught sight of the actual starting line.
Unlike what I expected, the stairwell was ventilated so it didn’t feel stuffy inside. Medical staff was present on different floors to insure safety for everyone (安全第一！), and also cheer us as we made our way up. Recharge stations were also available on some floors for a quick snack or water pit stop. (Not to recharge your mobile devices, eh.)
I cleared up the floors at a good pace, pearls of sweat rolling down my face. Past the 50th floor I was in the zone, this was fun, and I wished it’d go on forever, but here came the 88th floor where Taipei 101 visitors usually walk from to get to the outdoor observatory on the 91st floor.
I slowed down to enjoy these last moments, and especially to figure out a feeling of déjà vu. The colorful mural depicting famous tall towers of the world, and the rendition of the Eiffel Tower in particular sent me digging down memory lane… Of course! I had taken a picture next to it on my very first trip to Taiwan, and first visit to Taipei 101, such foolish times!
And so, amidst this whirlwind of memories, I made my way out to the finish line, right outside the exit door, where unbeknownst to me, a bunch of people were standing to cheer participants crossing the line, and a bunch of cameras, one of them taking the official arrival picture of each person, something I found out later on when receiving an email with a code to retrieve the certificate of achievement with the picture on it. So yeah, practice that move and smile as you’ll dash through the finish line.
I picked up a cup of water, started walking around the observatory, saw a line of people waiting to take a picture with some prop, and turned over to face the Taipei panorama. My mind was automatically zooming in on different corners of the city, unearthing memories accumulated over the years. It was strange to realize Taipei city was no longer so foreign to me, and that I had even grown some affinity for it.
Blindsided by the feelings of that moment, I got emo to the point of shedding some tears, which I did, internally. Haha. It was a weird intense sentimental moment. To change my mind, I switched my attention to the unfinished Taipei Dome eyesore. At the time, newspapers were reporting on its safety issues, and related woes. Some likened it to a toilet cover seat, and indeed, from my vantage point I concurred at the resemblance of it. I giggled in my corner, then walked around the observatory area one last time to take a few more pictures, before calling it a day.
We were escorted in groups to ride the elevator downstairs, once in the lobby hall, we could head towards the self-serve printing stations to get a copy of our certificate of accomplishment, and grab a bag of mostly useless swag. I then headed to the nearest exit, leading me to the food court level, teeming with famished souls, and so I hurriedly escaped my way out of this mad hungry house.
All in all, it was a cool experience, a nice way to get some exercise, to unexpectedly reflect on some forgotten special moments, and to create another unique memory of Taipei, Taiwan and I. 感恩。 💖