Martin Nexo, founder of RunnersHai loves running. His enthusiasm is infectious. Theoretically!
SmSh previously profiled RunnersHai, a Shanghai-based running club that organizes non-traditional races in places like organic farms and islands. To get involved with those you should check that piece out for more info. But what about solo missions? What are some interesting routes to run in Shanghai for the aspiring runner?
We caught up with Nexo again to find out his top trails, from both sides of The Bund, to Zhongshan Park, to a hidden gem in the 'burbs. These running routes provide sweet escapes from the city without ever really leaving the city, and opportunities to run in Shanghai without fretting about the little things like getting creamed by a car. I know because I, an aspiring jogger myself, checked them all out.
Read on for four great trails and two ways to run them: the pro's and the plebe's path.
Note: An earlier version (ish) of this article appeared right here. We figured with the ever-changing construction and green areas in Shanghai, it would be a good idea to redo it.
A Traffic Free Riverside Run
Location: West Bund Near Middle Longhua Station
This trail on the West Bund is well-known, but it's a good one. The trail starts just a short walk from Middle Longhua Station, off Line 7.
Martin: West Bund offers routes that are seeing an increase in popularity these days. Not only because running is becoming popular in China, or because the West Bund area is getting more densely populated, but mostly due to the efforts made by the government to upgrade the riverside parks. Over the past years the traffic free park by the West Bund has grown from 3K to about 5K, which makes it possible to get up to around 10K in a single loop. Furthermore, the expansion plans are extensive, so within the coming years this area will provide Shanghai's first actual 15 - 20K track of traffic-free running. Great news for all of us!
Me: This one's a great starter trail, and easily tailored to fit your workout. The track follows the Huangpu river and there're lots of boats, trees, and skateboarders to look at which keeps things interesting. I started my run around 2pm on a Tuesday, so the park was relatively empty. The synthetic running track led a clear path and was quite pleasant on my grandma knees. My expedition was cut short because the bridge from the riverfront trail to Nanyuan Park was blocked off. So I doubled back, in all running 5.75K. Like I said, great starter trail.
Amateur tip: Don’t run with your metro card in your hand cause it’s bound to fall out of your sweaty palms and it will not still be there when you retrace your steps
The Classic City Center Running Route
Location: Zhongshan Park Station to East Nanjing Road Station
The Classic starts right off the Zhongshan Park (Lines 2, 3, and 4) stop and feels like two runs wrapped into one. You get a nice start in the shade of the park and end in solitude by the Suzhou Creek.
Martin: Many of the people living in Puxi are within reach of Suzhou Creek. The river passes through Putuo, Changning, Jing'an, (what used to be) Zhabei, Huangpu, and other districts as well, so there are no excuses for not finding your regular route along this great strip of water. The river itself is not exactly a Monet painting, but what makes it great is that it cuts across roads, which minimizes traffic crossing your path. The route featured here starts at the Zhongshan Park, but the fact is that a bit of exploration will show that all parts of the river has accessible routes.
Me: I set out to run The Classic on a Saturday morning, and though it was drizzling, Zhongshan Park was still crowded. Be prepared to dodge couples, walkers, and dancers if you're running on the weekend. I left the park through Exit 2, which leads right to East China University of Political Science and Law. I ran through the campus, then across a bridge to the other side of the Suzhou Creek. The road next to the river was completely empty and I ran that path till I felt good and ready to stop (which was at a little under 6K, thank you) and found the nearest metro on Changshou Road.
The Long Haul
Location: Oriental Sports Center Station to Yuanshen Stadium
The Long Haul takes you to the Pudong side of the Bund and offers streets with light traffic, river views, and parks. You can start at either stadium; both have a metro stop close by. Yes, that's a very grey, very daunting looking picture. Such is the rainy, dingy realities of Shanghai living. If you've read this far though, we'll assume you've made your peace with it.
Martin: Most runners are not aware that downtown offers stretches of long, relatively traffic-free running. Besides the classic routes at Suzhou Creek and the option of looping Century Park till your target has been reached, a great option is to run the Pudong side of the Bund. You will be passing a mix of undeveloped streets, riverside parks and majestic industrial structures from a time long passed. The area is in constant change, so keep an open mind to loop into the new parks that are being made along this route.
Me: I did this one backwards and started at Yuanshen Stadium. And yeah, The Long Hual was pretty long — so I didn’t make it to the Oriental Sport Center Station. I got off the metro at Yuanshen Stadium and walked about 15 minutes towards the Huangpu River. There was a lot of construction going on blocking the riverfront, so I switched between a street with light traffic and the river path. I ended my run near the Pearl Tower and hopped on Line 2 at Lujiazui. I rarely get out to this side of The Bund so it was a bit of an adventure. No regrets.
The Summit Run
Location: Sheshan Station
The Summit Run is further out than the others, you can get there by taking Line 9 to Sheshan Station. Here you can enjoy greenery, distant mountains, and theme parks. Totally worth the long ride.
Martin: Sheshan is a hidden gem that most runners in Shanghai don't know about. However, it features some of the best stretches of pavement and paths that the city has to offer. The first 5K are regular road running, while traffic is limited. After that, follows 2K of tranquil roads shaded by beautiful trees, and small streams next to the route. Finally the hill rises in front and a 1K-uphill journey starts. This will bring you up an 8-degree ascent towards the top. If one summit didn't provide the sore muscles that you were looking for, then simply loop back and smash that hill again. Doing four times up and down the hill, followed by a return to the Sheshan Metro Station will sum up to a half marathon.
Me: Yeah so, after looking back on my track record thus far, I decided to modify this route before I began. I opted for a loop around the park so I could get straight to the greenery, and avoid the serious hills. This run with its green trees, bright purple flowers, and butterflies was quite idyllic. In the distance I could see the outlines of mountains and the roller coasters of amusement parks. It had a very "I'm not in Shanghai anymore" feel which was nice. So though it's a decently long ride away, I say download a podcast and make the trek on the weekend.
Totally worth it for the butterflies.
Happy running, Shanghai.