Last Wednesday my school had our official “Track and Field” day. This is common required throughout China, starting in first grade until the first year of university. Students and teachers both compete in the usual track races like the 100, 4×100, 1600, etc. & usual field events like high jump, discus, long jump yeadddda. So my department asked if I would be able to participate in some events and I said sure sign me up. I have not done a track meet since our 5th grade track meet, and anyone who has played sports with me knows that running fast isn’t typically my strong suit so I was quite anxious to see how this would play out. Nevertheless, I “volunteered” to do the 100, 200, 4×100, 10×60 (yes 10 people, 60 meters) and 4×400 , so much running!
One thing that some of you may have gathered from my other posts is that the difference in China and in Seoul for me is that I am often the only foreigner in the area. I live in Hangzhou, which is quite a big city (3 million), but I live in the financial area outside of the city center called Binjiang, which is kinda like Bloomington in the twin cities. So foreigners are not very common. I have one other foreigner teacher in my school and no foreign students. What this means is that I showed up Wednesday morning ready to run and did not fully anticipate that there would be a crowd of well over 1000 students/teachers cheering in attendance and I am the only foreigner/white person in sight.
Whatever, I was ready to do this even if I had not run track in 10 years and haven’t really been exercising on a regular basis. So I was doing my stretching and running a bit to warm up in the side area when one of my fellow English teachers (he is Chinese) comes up to me and asks if I brought my “spikes”. I quickly realized/remembered that people run with track shoes that have spikes! However, I did not care too much and said no, I would be fine in my tennis shoes. So the races are going on and I am randomly talking to students I notice and not really noticing the time until one of my co-workers comes and gets me to get ready for our first race, the 10×60. Each team has 10 people (5 on one side, 5 on the other) running 60 meters each. The race is more for fun because it is not a long distance and almost all of the teachers participate. They put me as the last runner because since I am a foreigner I must be amazing at sports…….
The race starts and everyone is off. My team is quickly falling behind. The third person in our group dropped the baton and everyone is laughing. All the students are yelling Jia-Yo (literally means like fueled gasoline, like the gas pedal on the car, but in Chinese it means like “go go go”) and the atmosphere is getting intense. I see all of my students watching me and cheering. I am very excited/anxious as the 9th runners run towards me. Our team is still in last place (out of 10) but not by much so maybe I can salvage it. I take a baton and sprint but….. my foot completely slips. Before I know it I am suspended in midair trying desperately to get my hands down to stop my fall. I fall, adrenaline pumping hard, wave to the crowd and finish in last place.
Once after it is done I realize how ridiculous it must have looked. I am in last place, yet I completely wipe out so everyone can see. I have many messages from my students asking me if I was okay, thinking I was hurt or something. No kids, I just NAFed so hard. All my credibility is lost (literally one student messaged me and said something like, “don’t worry you are still really handsome”) and I had to pick up the pieces.
Luckily I still had four more races and did much better. In fact I got second in three of them! We got prize money as well so I ended up making around 50$ US dollars. Overall it was quite the Chinese experience. I got to see the competition and communism collectivism ideal at its finest because everyone was cheering for everyone. A very happy and fun affair. Minus the absolute klutz of a move, it was a great two days (and I did not have to teach) and a great bonding experience with some of my students and fellow teachers. I hope you enjoyed this post!
By the way, a student got a perfect picture of the fall in action……. Enjoy 😛