Love letter from Lijiang

Posted on May 2, 2012


I remember my last Action Asia event in Nepal last November, when I wrote a post about the trials and tales just to get to the start line.  Action Asia Lijiang was no different! Another race, another country, another set of trails but the challenge to reach these incredible unspoilt corners of the world remain same.

I had a night to rest after flying into HK from DXB then the morning after, a taxi / MTR / limo later we arrived over the Chinese border at the airport in Shenzhen. Around seven hours (yes SEVEN HOURS) later we finally bordered the plane to Kunming and from there, boarded again to Lijiang. We arrived late, falling into bed gone midnight with only a few hours to sleep before rising again for the onward journey to the race start. Brutal …

but … as is always the case, the best things come to those who wait and Lijiang is definitely worth the wait.  In the heart of Shangri-la, Yunnan Province which sits on the far west of China near Tibet, this is countryside at it’s finest, where every face has a story to tell, where you could quite happily just roam the streets forever without a hint of weariness.


Day 1 started at 2,800m so from the very first click, you could feel your lungs fighting to absorb the thin air … it’s like running with a sock in your mouth for anyone not acquainted with altitude.  For the next six hours or so, I was just full throttle up and down majestic mountains, awesome ascents and demon descents. The countryside was stunning with wide open plateaus, dense pine needle forests, windy dirt trails and quaint villages where life just seems to stand still and the villagers were all out, less to cheer us on and more in wonder at what the hell we were doing! It was a magical day and we finished it, sitting around the super cool Sean’s Guest House … eating, chatting and laughing, eating chatting and laughing.


Day 2 was the same again.  I started with my problematic Achilles tendonitis strapped up so tightly I could barely move so a few clicks in, out came the scissors from my pack and after setting myself free, I could run like Forrest once more. A top up of Vitamin I also helped ease the throbbing pain. Day 2 was longer but less technical and with less elevation so we all finished in similar times to the day before.

Again, another avo and evening ensued of fabulous company from old and new friends. I love the people you meet at events like these … a melting pot of nationalities, career choices, backgrounds, ages and stages … all bound by a shared love of personal adventure, physical challenge and for making the most of our days.

I was rooming with my dear friend Rachel aka Skippy … I adore her … funny, smart, kind and inspiring. And the best bit?  She’s about to trade in her life in the corporate world for one of adventure, running and writing … a HK equivalent of fit chick Tori. I imagine, if we find ourselves living in the same city at any time soon, we might just be a winning combo. (Keep your eyes peeled on that front btw!)


Day 3 was the final stretch … a gradual incline to 3,200m then a steep decline through a tough and technical pine needle forest. My legs were screaming at the start but once I got going, I got into my flow and felt I could run forever. We finished at the side of a gorgeous lake and I could see in the distance, the few runners ahead of me already stretching their limbs, sipping beers and sharing their tales of the day.  We lunched, we drank, awards were awarded and photos were captured. We then boarded the buses back to Lijiang for hot showers and rest before doing our best to clear the wine cellar at the Banyan Tree bar.

With our capacity to share and access information and the sheer amount we all travel, few places leave us surprised or remain a secret. Lijiang however, is an exception, with the old town being possibly the most charming place I have yet to discover.  A true treasure.

The entire event was fabulous from start to finish … logistics, organisation, route markings, accommodation … Action Asia’s reigning king, Mike Maddess is pretty brilliant at what he does. As for the location of this event, my initial expectation of endless rice paddies was fast replaced with mammoth mountains, deep blue lakes, dense forests, quaint villages, dramatic ridges with sheer drops to one side and snow-capped peaks to the other. Spectacular!

Yesterday morning over breakfast, before going our separate ways, we talked, four of us about what next?  All of us are at a bit of a crossroads in our lives … exciting chapters await while others come to a close. And we all agreed that it’s trips like these, physical challenges in awe-inspiring places that are the perfect backdrop to point us in the right direction and help us choose which trail to take.

So here’s to those trails … wherever they may take us … let them let us to truly SHINE! x

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