Kendal Mountain Festival on Tour to

Ningbo in China - April 2016


Paul Scully rang me in February and asked if I could go to China, to Ningbo, in April to present the Bob Graham film at #KMFChina! I had to run it by Steve but of course the answer was "YES!!!!" Ben Abdelnoor had also been invited and to have him as company was a real plus. Ten days before flying I sent out an email saying "Great news, I've just received my passport in the post with my visa in it". Ben replied and said "Have I missed something? Was I supposed to get a visa?" So a few stressful days for Ben and a trip to Manchester but he got the visa in time. 

Everything was arranged and booked for us by a very competent team of Amanda Lu, Kanily and Simon. All we had to do was pack and fly. There were three races being held as well - a 42km, a 27km and an 8km. I opted for the 42km and Ben for the 27km. The race was half road/half trail with 1700m climb. Looking at photos I decided on wearing the new Inov-8 Road Claws as even the trails looked hard packed and dry.

The weather was also a consideration = warmer than UK at 15 to 23C but sometimes raining. I think I did well to get my suitcase to 17kg.

Date Weather Activity
Wed 13th April  UK warm 14C I met Ben at the airport but had already checked us in online. It was a good flight with a very short change in Frankfurt and I slept well to Shanghai. 
Thurs 14th April Muggy, cloudy and dusty 17C The flight arrived at 15.00. We were met by Amanda, Kanili and Simon with a mini bus so we slept a lot of the way to Ningbo; it was a slow journey. Stopping at services we had our first Chinese food - like chapatis filled with spicy or sweet filling. Yummy! Getting to the Golden Port Hotel at 5.45pm we were given 15 mins to change then dinner! The first meal and seated round a revolving round table. Dishes were brought out along with green tea which was refreshing. I avoided the odd looking seafood and went for reliable vegetables and pork. It was very nice. Off to bed in our spacious bedrooms overlooking the lively "old bund" area of Ningbo.
Friday 15th April Muggy, cloudy 14-17C Breakfast at 8am after a lovely long sleep. It was buffet style which was great. A huge choice of dishes. A lot of what we would call "lunch and dinner time" dishes eg noodles, rice, meat, veg then a variety of breads, eggs, sausages, bacon and fruit. Ben and I were then free to wander till lunchtime. We walked round the old bund, got thwarted by building works and returned to rest. Or rather try and get the internet to work properly. I found out that Google, Facebook and Twitter is blocked and I wanted to post news and upload photos about the festival. So I spent a few hours (via my IT brother Charlie in UK) sorting out a VPN and getting it all working. 

After lunch we spent the afternoon in the cinema with Amanda and Kanili making sure the films and sound worked. It was surreal seeing myself on a huge screen poster! We then had dinner with Mr Lu and Mr Chi in "Grandma's Kitchen" ; one of the best places we ate in.

Saturday 16th April Muggy, cloudy 14 -17C As Amanda and Kanili had to work we were free in the morning to go for a run. Having sprained my ankle on the Monday (11th) I had been massaging it and was keen to try it on a run. And also the shoes I had never run in! Ben and I plotted a route down one side of the river, cross over and run back - simple! It felt hard running and it was funny being "raced" by Chinese runners. We did about 3 miles, had to cross two rivers and ended up running on the road as there were building works going on. Then crossed another river and looked for the hotel. We re-crossed the river and ran about a bit. Everything looked the same - high rise buildings, bill boards, rivers and bridges. Funnily enough I had done what I always do with my gps - and that is marked the hotel on my iphone map! So getting it out - probably costing me 10 to use it - but it got us located and back to hotel! 

Lunch then film screening which was totally surreal. All of a sudden me and Ben were celebrities and everyone was queuing up to have their photos taken with us. Watching the other films especially Denali was lovely.

After the film was a dinner with dignitaries, race organisors and journalists in the boat restaurant that me and Ben had seen on our walk. It was very posh inside and lovely food. During the meal there was a huge storm and Mr Chi got a phonecall to say the race tents, finish gantry and banners had been destroyed so he had to leave to sort it all out. Once the storm passed the skies cleared and we could see the city skyscape and the moon even!

Sunday 17th April  Sunny, clear, warm 17 - 22C Race morning dawned early at 5.45am and grabbing breakfast at 6am there were a few runners in the hotel doing the same. My race started at 8am and Ben's at 8.15am. The journey was smooth and with a quick loo stop I was ushered to the front of the waiting runners which was slightly embarrassing but everyone took it well and allowed me to stand there for photos! Countdown then the air horn was blown and we were off! As it was already 18C I took the road steady but most runners set off sprinting passed me!! The dress code was also interesting; I even spied a pair of jeans! We did a few road loops then straight up a steep climb where I soon learnt that climbing (and descending) is not the locals strong point. So began a series of tussles as the steep climbs were interspersed by flat sections of tarmac. The 1st checkpoint was well stocked and I was pleased to see had bananas, oranges, Snickers, water and energy drink. Off again along a reservoir; all very pleasant in the shade. The km markers didn't tally with my watch (but I imagined it was my watch's inaccuracy which Ben later confirmed) but it was good to have the markers. I knew there were 3 big climbs in the 1st half then a section of flat then 3 more climbs. The climbs were great but slightly frustrating as on narrow paths and often up steps which made overtaking hard work. But I kept getting my phone out and taking photos which the other runners really liked and often posed for! I was eating more than usual, drinking lots and basically just taking it easy. It was lovely to be out in the countryside seeing the "real China" - nice villages with old houses. Some farm and paddy fields. Quite a few reservoirs and dams to cross. A pleasant breeze and not too hot. The marshalls were very friendly and I soon learnt that a thumbs up reassured them that I was ok. As I couldn't find any full results I had estimated I might take 5 hours and after two hours I was feeling stronger and started to pass many runners. I had no idea of my position but the field had thinned considerably which was really nice. There was less road than I imagined which was also nice although the road shoes were great on and off road. After CP9 at 28km we joined the back of the 27km route. Initially this was a wide uphill track which made passing runners and walkers easy but once it narrowed along a ridge top it was very hard to pass people easily. Without knowing the language I couldn't ask politely either but just couldn't walk all the way to the finish so did the best I could. After 35km I didn't see anyone running until I caught a local lady in my race. Once she spotted me she speeded up considerably. This was good though as she asked walkers to step aside for her and then they did for me too! It was too hot for racing though and once we hit the road she pulled away and I jogged along not really knowing how far it was to the finish so when I rounded a corner and saw the gantry I put in a spurt!! Amanda and Kanili had a finish tape for me to run through which was great fun if a little fraudulent!!!

I had finished 3rd Lady in a time of 4.37 hours. Ben had started his 27km race then ran from the back to the front to finish 7th overall. But I think he had tried very hard as he felt sick and had to lie down a lot. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing, watching the dancers and soaking up the atmosphere. Prize giving was surreal as I didn't understand it all but was handed a lovely plaque and a board with 2000 rmb on it (about 200). Then we had Q&A on stage and trundled off back to the hotel. Ben needed to sleep so at 6pm Amanda, Kanili, Simon, Mr Lu and Mr Chi and I went for a chill out meal. It was lovely to see them all relaxing, drinking lots of 2.5% beer, toasting one another, everybody and anything they could think of ! 

Monday 18th April Sunny again! Amanda, Kanili and Simon flew home in the morning so we said our goodbyes which made me feel sad as they were all such lovely people. In the afternoon Mr Lu was joined by Mr Tonson and Mr Song; they made an hilarious trio and were paragliding friends!! We visited two relaxing, quiet temples on the outskirts of Ningbo which was very enjoyable and gave us an insight into the history of China.
Tuesday 19th April Sunny again! As we were flying home at midnight we wanted a relaxing morning and asked to go shopping (which is usually not very relaxing at all). However Mr Lu once again excelled and led us round a local shopping area which was quiet and full of interesting shops. I bought lots of presents with my winnings and even a wall hanging for myself. 

After lunch we set off for Shanghai via the paragliding centre. A 300m conical hill stuck up out of a flat plain with excellent views. I think they had hoped to take us flying but unfortunately the wind was too strong. Being a skydiver (in my twenties) taking to the air is one thing I enjoy!!! But onwards we went to Shanghai and back to the UK on another excellent Lufthansa flight.

So that's my diary!! I had an excellent time and would love to visit China again. It was a once in a lifetime experience to be invited to present the Bob Graham film and to run a marathon while I was there was such a plus. Thank you to Paul Scully and Amanda Lu for organising. And to Kanili, Simon, Mr Lu and Mr Chi for making our visit so enjoyable; I couldn't have wished for better people to spend my holiday in the company of. Including Ben Abdelnoor of course!!

Ben has also written a very entertaining and descriptive piece which I totally agree with and think it complements mine completely - China 2016.odt

And a lots of photos - mine, Amanda's, Ben's and Mr Tonson's in the China Gallery