Lunar New Year: 50 Students Ran a Tiger Route Around London

Tiger Run Lunar New Year 2022

As the Lunar New Year was drawing near, I began to think about the possibility of celebrating creatively. I love running and hope to encourage the community around me, especially during this period of a pandemic. I thought of connecting running with this festival as it’s not only the biggest festival in China, and one of the most important festivals shared by several East and Southeast Asian countries but is also celebrated by over 2 billion people worldwide.

I organised a 15K run around central London in the shape of a tiger. In Chinese culture, the tiger is brave, full of life, and embodies the spirit and drive to achieve and make progress. So I hope the tiger route helped everyone be as strong, vigorous, and healthy as a tiger for the new year!

Over 50 runners joined, many from mainland China, some from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Canada, the US, Europe, and Latin America. We started and finished the route at Chinatown, sharing our cultures, traditions when passing by the landmarks of London, including the Kings Cross Station, Euston Station, Regent’s Park, Soho, British Museum, Russell Square, and our SOAS Campus!

Some runners were very impressive as they had never run over 5 kilometres before this event and successfully finished the 15 kilometres Tiger Route on that day. What a breakthrough and a good start to 2022! What moved me the most was a gentleman who drove over 2 hours to London from the city he’s living in and then drove another 2 hours back after running. He has been busy working in the UK for many years and missed the feeling of celebrating the most important day with his family. I was very happy to see him proudly post the running pictures after we completed the route.

It wasn’t easy though. GPS Drawing in downtown London is challenging enough. It took me hours of planning to create the route, sometimes you’re fortunate to go through a very narrow alley, sometimes you’ll stop by a private place that doesn’t allow you to pass, sometimes you’ll have to change the plan as the road is closed for repairs or construction. I ran 5 times before the event to make myself familiar with the route. Yet one week before the event, I realized that at least 40 runners will be joining so it’s better to divide them into several groups for the least impact on transport. I then divided the runners into 4 groups with their pace and asked for help from several friends to lead different groups. I then had to train the team leaders familiar with the route by running with them several times again.

All the effort was worth it though as it ended up being like a running party for me. Friends from different corners of London gathered early Sunday morning; we ran and talked and laughed together when the sun rose then enjoyed delicious dishes with friends from different cultures of the world. It was a perfect Lunar New Year celebration for me to enjoy in the heart of London.

I’ll be planning another creative run route next year. I’ll be very proud to celebrate the festival, share my culture, connect to friends from different backgrounds, and meet the world, especially with more friends from SOAS in the next year!

Hailun Zhang is a student of MA International Studies and Diplomacy. Watch the run here

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