Mexican Luis and his adventures running around Shanghai and China

Wang Haoling
Mexican Luis said he had done 100 marathons in 19 countries beginning in the year 2000, but he hopes to run in 50 more countries yet.
Wang Haoling

Holin’s words:

Before I met Luis, I knew he had taken part in a lot of marathons. Then he brought a pile of medals to show me and I was really shocked.

“These are just some of them,” Luis said. He has taken part in 100 marathons starting from the year of 2000, and he's not finished yet.

Most people experience different cities by travelling, while Luis enjoys them through running. “I've run in 19 countries, I want to do about 50 countries more," he said with a smile. "That's my objective!"

Marathon running is an important hobby for Luis, or maybe more of a way of life. But what made Luis most proud is his two Shanghai-born children. He smiled even bigger and said: “I came here with my wife and now we have a family here. That's something I would love to remember about Shanghai.”

Luis was recommended to me for this column by his shy Mexican wife. "He's more suitable than me," she told me. You're both great!

Mexican Luis and his adventures running around Shanghai and China
Holin Wang / SHINE

Name: Luis Vieyra
Nationality: Mexican
Job: Operations Manager in the auto industry
Years in Shanghai: 13

Holin: Wow, it has been 13 years. Do you still remember the moment your first came to Shanghai? 

Luis: It was the year of 2004. It was a special weekend here because it was the first time the Formula One race happened in Shanghai. It was a very nice time. 

Holin: So you came to Shanghai just for the race, not for a living at first?

Luis: No, I came for a living. I was helping a Mexican company. It was doing business in China. It was a very nice opportunity.

And the marathon was later in November, and I came in October, but my first weekend was the Formula One race. I just wanted to see that race.

Holin: So why did you decide to come to Shanghai to live?

Luis: When I was studying in university, I was always very interested in knowing more about China and about how fast it's growing, so I also wanted to experience that. So that's one of the main reasons we chose to come here, and then I found a company that was looking for representatives. So, I joined that company.

Holin: You said “we,” did your wife come with you from the beginning?

Luis: Yes, my wife also came. The first year we were visiting a lot of places in China, traveling the Asia-Pacific region.

Four years later, my daughter was born here in Shanghai. I have two kids, a daughter and a boy. Both of them were born here in Shanghai, so Shanghai will always be special for us.

Holin: When you first came to Shanghai, did you ever imagine you would be here for such a long time?

Luis: No, never. I thought it was gonna be three or four years here at first. 

Holin: What kept you here?

Luis: Because I was working with a company, and then that job finished. But then I found another one… So now I’m in my third job, and China is always open to receiving talent from abroad.

I work in the automotive industry and there is more growth, cars and opportunities here, and I am happy to see many more vehicles in China.

Holin: One thing I’m very interested in is your marathon. You said you have done 100 marathons. Can you tell me more?

Luis: So far, I have done 100 marathon races. 

In China, there are about 59 races in 29 different cities. The city I have run the most is Shanghai — 11 times.

My favorite marathon in the world is the Great Wall Marathon. That's very tough but it's also very special because it's a unique experience. It's a 42-kilometer marathon. Sometimes you run on the wall, sometimes on the road. I have run that marathon seven times already. I like it very much.

Holin: What’s impressed you most during your time in Shanghai?

Luis: When we came, there was only Jinmao Tower. Now, they have built the other two tall ones. That's very impressive.

In Shanghai, I like running in the morning, especially running to the Bund, and then I can have the chance to see the sun rise from Pudong.

Holin: Every day?

Luis: Not every day, but at least five times a month.

Holin: How early will you get up?

Luis: It depends on the season. In summer, it is very early; in winter, it is very late. I would leave at 5am recently. I live in Changning District, and I run to the Bund. It's like 12 kilometers. And then I take a taxi back.

Holin: When did you start to run marathons?

Luis: I started doing marathon in my hometown Mexico City 17 years ago, in 2000.

Holin: What was the occasion for you to begin that?

Luis: I always liked doing exercise and sports. In university, I did baseball and American football. When my university finished, I continued running.

A marathon is a very good opportunity to improve yourself. It's a tough race but when you finish, you feel accomplishment. It keeps me motivated, and I can do many things. I like the feeling of running a marathon. Everybody is having a tough time. Everybody suffers but in the end, all the finishers they are so happy and they share that joy with their families.

I think in China, what I have seen before, there were very few races 13 years ago. Now there are a lot. I like very much that in China people like this kind of experience. I am very impressed how China does the races these years, and they have a lot of sponsors, great organizations. Even though it's a new race, they will have a lot of people joining in. They will make sure the organization is good and most of the time they do it very nicely.

Now a lot of people want to join in so the marathon can't take everybody. They have to do a lottery now.

Holin: Will you face that difficulty to sign up?

Luis: For foreigners, it's a lot easier to join in. Sometimes they invited me to go and race, like races in Inner Mongolia, in Gansu Province, and in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region because they want to have foreigners in their races, so I have been very lucky. 

Mexican Luis and his adventures running around Shanghai and China
Holin Wang / SHINE

Holin: How do you spend your weekends in Shanghai?

Luis: I will run, of course. And then I will also go with my family to many nice restaurants. We like places like Ding Tai Feng, Element Fresh and so on. We also go to Yuyuan Garden and we like it very much. We buy a lot of things there.

My wife and I like theater very much. We also like dance shows. They opened a new Dance International Center close to our place in Gubei, so we have been there several times. We like it very much. 

I think infrastructure is something that amazes me the most here, and also the transportation, the trains... It's a very exciting place to live.

Holin: Which route do you like best for running?

Luis: Fuxing Road… the part from Fuxing Road to the Bund.

I always run from my home at Changning Road, then I go Yuyuan Road to Jiangsu Road, and then I take Huashan Road, then Fuxing Road. Then I go a little bit northern from Ruijin No.2 Road to Nanjing Road E., and then the Bund... And then from the Bund I go to Yuyuan Garden.

Holin: When you first did the whole marathon, how long did you take?

Luis: My first marathon was four hours and a half. Now I do three hours and four minutes. Now I am faster.

Holin: Your feeling towards doing a marathon must have changed, right?

Luis: Every Marathon is different. The cities are different, like the one on the Great Wall which is very special. The last one in Ningxia was very different. A lot of people wore very nice costumes. Every time I enjoy it, because I would see the city in a very interesting way. I think every race is great.

But every time is tough, especially when you are running the last kilometer, but I know I will finish it and I will be very happy. Somehow I train my brain to resist. I finish and I want to do it again.

Holin: Which place in Shanghai do you like best? Why? 

Luis: Sunrise on the Bund is my favorite. I would watch the sunrise close to the Suzhou Creek and then I also like the sunset from the other side.

I also like Zhujiajiao. I think it's a very special place. The watertown is very beautiful.

I also like Tianzifang and Xintiandi. I like Taikang Road, especially the gallery. Tianzifang is very nice, with shops and restaurants. I like Xintiandi also because of the restaurants. We like Shanghai Fashion Week — we go every time. In the year 2010 during the World Expo, a group of Mexican people came and we did a great fashion show and now they do Shanghai Fashion Week in Xintiandi, every time with more shows and more nice brands... I think that's improving very much.

Holin: What do you love about Shanghai?

Luis: What strikes me the most is how fast it's getting better. In other countries, the changes are very slow, but in Shanghai it's very fast. Everything is fast.

The nightlife of course... there are a lot of things to enjoy. The quality of life is very good for foreigners. There are so many shows, so many restaurants. Having a dinner on the Bund is very special. The restaurants are very beautiful. Also in the other side in Lujiazui, there are also a lot of options.

It's also very safe compared to my hometown Mexico City. Shanghai is great. In the 13 years we have lived here, we have never known about any accident to our friends. I think that's very unique; because in many cities, you would have problems. But here, never, never a problem, never a robbery, nothing...

Holin: Now the opposite question, do you have something you hate here? 

Luis: Most people would mention the pollution. Also my country has pollution. It's not only in China, so I would say only the pollution. 

Holin: Compared to your country, are there any shortages in Shanghai? 

Luis: There are more Mexican restaurants now, so that's good. And my family is there... that's one thing. They do come here sometimes and they buy a lot of stuff here.

The best Mexican restaurant I could recommend is Pistolera, which is on Hengshan Rd, close to Xujiahui.

Holin: Do you have any impressive memory during your life?

Luis: My kids being born here is really special. I came here with my wife and now we have a family here. That's something I would love to remember about Shanghai.

Also for my work, China offers very good opportunities. You have chances to do your own things. The market is growing. For my career, it has been wonderful. In other countries, the markets are already developed. For me, I see the Chinese are very willing to learn. They do very fast. Asia is very different from my part of the world, so having the chance to live here and to see how different it is is very nice. Every Asian country is different. In Latin America, it's very similar. I like that. Every time we have the chance to travel, we learn many new things.

What does Luis want to say to himself in the future? Have a look! Luis is sending a message to himself 10 years from now!

Shot by Wang Haoling and Zheng Qiong. Edited by Zhong Youyang and Zhou Shengjie. Special thanks to Andy Boreham.
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