Saturday March 7th, “Elle Run with Your Style” was held in the XinDian district of New Taipei City. The top prize for the 21km runners in both men’s and women’s division was 10,000 NT, attracting much interest from runners, both local and foreign. The many participation gifts from Elle’s race sponsors may have also had a role to play in the big turnout for this event (camelback water bottle, Puma shirt, cosmetics, taxi vouchers etc). The race offered distances of 10km and 21km and a fun run of 7km. There were over 1000 finishers in the 21km category and more than 1300 finishers for the 10km.
The race was set to start on the riverside for all distances. Available on the website, was a simple map of all the routes and the roads or pathways associated. Being completely unfamiliar with Xindian and Bitan area, I expected all distances to follow the riverside paths and have little, to no elevation change. At just after 6:30 the horn blew and off we went. First down the riverside path heading south and then a sharp left uphill, on to the roadside, where we made another right hand turn, leaving the city, and the riverside park behind. We were on the way to Wulai and luckily at this time in the morning the roads were quite peaceful, allowing runners to take up a good portion of the right-side lane of the road.
Wulai is beautiful and mountainous, and the road leading from XinDian curves between the mountains and a river below, with the elevation weaving up and down, rising from 27m to 160m over the first 6km of the course. Although the elevation increase is relatively small compared with other hilly courses, it feels rather steep to someone expecting a breezy riverside run. My initial strategy was to run, saving enough energy to increase my pace, enthusiastically sprinting to the finish. This changed rather quickly as I plodded up the hills, racing down at every opportunity. The mental impact of poor planning took its toll, I often ran around the next bend expecting the riverside park to be in view and the course to flatten out but for the first 14km we rolled up and down the paved hills of Xindian.
Eventually, at kilometer 14 we reached the riverside, across from the start, and finish, of the race. Crossing the bridge the course then led runners up the river for a 6km loop before arriving at the end. The entire 6km loop was shared with the 10km runners and unfortunately the final 2.5km were shared with both the 10km and the 7km runners making the riverside paths extremely crowded. The remainder of the course was pleasantly flat as I had expected but somewhat anticlimactic dodging runners to the finish line.
The race packs were good value, including a variety of goods from the race’s sponsors. The shirt was seemingly good quality but unfortunately only offered in a bright pink color. I found the color, while rather vivid, to be acceptable, although I fear that the shirt for my male counterpart may find itself in the donation bin soon. Aid stations dotted the course at good intervals and were well stocked. Volunteers were helpful and friendly and the crowd at the finish line cheerfully greeted us upon arrival. Unfortunately I found the combination over capacity near the end of the race to be a major organizational setback. The riverside paths do not have the capacity to have 2000+ people at once, running various distances and speeds. We finished the 21km, overall in the top 50 of more than 1000 runners who finished this distance and we were constantly dodging people towards the finish. The occasional volunteer reminding slower runners to be cautious of those coming from behind would have been helpful. Overall the race was in a beautiful part of the city, that I don’t often find myself in, its a shame my experience was soured by the poor organization in the last few congested kilometers of the course.