Morning run on the Bund

You spot them in the distance, like a millipede on speed.

Bobbing up and down, not necessarily all in-sync, this group of young police cadets with freshly shaven heads (clearly not military as their appearance and movements lacked that kind of razor-sharp precision you see in the army) stood out amidst the usual crowd on the Bund at 7am.

For one, they were running faster and in a forward direction. Did that statement sound weird? It shouldn’t at all.

Many older people, in addition to strolling or brisk walking normally, like to reverse their motions and walk backwards. Logically, they worked the muscles in a way not often used. Most importantly, many like to wave their warms up and down, back and forth, often clapping loudly as the move. An elderly lady mentioned to me that it released energy with each clap and stretches her arms. She was almost 85 and had a rosy glow. The entire time we had a conversation, she stared earnestly at me while clapping her hands non-stop, as if applauding me in advance for anything I had to say. Clearly only one of us was a little thrown off.

Yet it made me slightly nostalgic as we used to do these exercises in primary (or grade) school back in Singapore, conducted on-mass like a good Japanese corporation you see on television in the 1990s.

And then there are the creative ones. A man in a velour tracksuit was speed walking, his hips shaking like Beyonce while separately massaging two large marble balls in his hands, which old people like to use to keep up dexterity in their fingers.

Another gentleman who, while flying his kite, started stretching and dancing to the kite’s movement. A high-kick here, a leg-lift there – all in a day’s work. A few individuals were seen running in a work shirts and jeans, perhaps on their way to work? Hmm.

I followed the young men for a bit, jogging alongside them as I photographed, not a great move in hindsight. Any attempt at conversation was ignored, but it was inevitable that they started grinning at the spectacle of my clumsy coordination, what with the camera and all.

You see odd things in the morning on the Bund, but they merely add to the flavor of it all.

May 2010



  • Reply May 14, 2010

    Adam Daniel Mezei

    I saw a few of those old folks doing the reverse walking thing when I was down in Shanghai in November — I was kind of expecting it, because I’d read a bit about the phenomenon before I’d actually come down, but sharp of you to actually point this out. I love how fitness is a community endeavor, and there’s none of this sleeping in nonsense ::: hehe ::: amongst senior citizens.

    Another sort of off-base question is: how rigid is the discipline in the police academy as opposed to the PLA? If you look at how the soldiers march in such rigid formation along Chengdu Avenue in Beijing and in Tiananmen Square, one might be lead to believe that they’re a force to be reckoned with, though you describe a situation here which isn’t of the same ferocity, if we can refer to it as such.

    What do you think?

  • […] Crossposted on Shanghai Street Stories […]

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