My Shanghai is an Urban Family series where we ask a Shanghai-based somebody to tell us about their life.
That moment when you hear about someone's life and become inspired to do more, is the feeling you get from Harriet Gaywood. This unassuming mom of two exudes motivation. She has lived in Shanghai for 23 years: building a career, nurturing a family and creating a fulfilling existence. Whether she's pushing her limits training for an ultra-marathon or giving her time to a program around the city, the term 'My Shanghai' could not be more apt. You can regularly see her instructing a FitFam class or at a Cub Scouts activity in her role as Den Leader. Then, in what 'spare time' Gaywood has, she volunteers with a few Shanghai-based charities.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what brought you to Shanghai?
I originally came to Shanghai in 1995 on a scholarship program to study Chinese music at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. After I completed my Master's research, I wanted to stay here and improve my Chinese as I was fascinated by the city. So, I walked down Huaihai Lu and knocked on doors until I found a job. First, I worked in marketing, and then I moved into public relations where I've been ever since. Along the way, I have received more career-related degrees, and I currently work as a consultant for BlueFocus – China's largest communications agency.
You have a strong focus on fitness too, what does your current training program include?
Yes, that's true. I lead early morning FitFam workouts at least four times a week at diferent locations around town. This includes 'HIIT' at Jingan Workers Stadium and Lujiazui GreenSpace, along with 'Balance & Bands' at Naked Hub Taixing Lu and RunnersHub. These shared workout blasts set me up for the day, and I enjoy the communal energy. However, when it comes to running, I prefer to go it alone. I set my alarm for 4.45am and enjoy running through Shanghai's streets early in the morning. Arriving at The Bund to see the sunrise is always a great reward. I love running along Suzhou Creek during the week, and on weekends I go for longer runs, which circuit around a sizable part of Puxi.
Can you tell me about your most visually-stunning race?
In 2018, I completed two 100-kilometer ultramarathons in very diferent terrains. In July, I joined the Columbia Chongli Ultra-Marathon in the mountains near Zhangjiakou. The views afer the climbs were incredible: wildflowers and silver birch trees at the tops of the hills during sunrise. I also completed the Jiuquan Gobi Ultra-Marathon in September. This course was across the desert. It is a fantastic feeling to run towards the horizon and watch the light change on the dunes throughout the day.
What motivates you to maintain this high fitness level?
I believe that keeping fit and staying healthy is something we owe ourselves and those around us. I have spent most of my career working very long hours, and fighting fatigue has always been my biggest challenge. Keeping fit helps me tolerate the demands of my day job, and I enjoy running and working out with my kids.
I believe that keeping fit and staying healthy is something we owe ourselves and those around us.
Can you tell us about some of the programs around Shanghai that you are involved with?
I am a Den Leader for Cub Scout Webelos, where we follow the Boy Scouts of America program. I started the Den, which is part of a larger pack (Dens of all ages), just over three years ago when my son was 6 years old. I enjoy bringing the program alive and making it relevant to life in Shanghai. The boys love camping and anything related to the outdoors, and we also participate in community-based activities.
For FitFam, in addition to leading workouts, I also support the overall operation to ensure we ofer an enjoyable program day in, day out. Each week, we run 50 workouts around town. Behind the scenes, there is a lot of planning and scheduling to maintain our commitment to ofering free and consistent access to quality fitness.
I am also the current President-Elect for Fresh Start Rotary. This is a global organization with 1.2 million members, which focuses on humanitarian action. The club has various active projects including Save Kids Lives, which promotes the use of child seat carriers in cars and trains new mothers on how to install and use them. There are 18,500 child fatalities in trafc accidents in China each year, of which 80 percent would be preventable with the use of seat belts.
If I have a spare couple of hours, I volunteer for charities and social enterprises such as Shanghai Young Bakers (shanghaiyoungbakers.com). I do simple tasks like lending a hand at their stalls during weekend markets.
Can you tell us about the Sunday Pipsqueaks class with FitFam?
Although initially intended to give mothers a break on weekends, 'Papas & Pipsqueaks' is really for everybody. It is for parents with kids under 6 who want to work out while playing with their child. It difers from regular FitFam HIIT workouts by integrating more games so that the kids can be involved – but parents still get a good workout too!
What activities do you and your family enjoy?
I like weekends to be as unstructured as possible. During the week my family is busy with school and work. I believe that kids need space to think and explore. If we are in Shanghai, then a weekend will ofen include time with friends, visiting art galleries and sometimes completing 5-kilometer family races. We also try to escape to the countryside when we can. The high-speed trains make it possible to escape the city and reconnect with nature. I love the convenience of living in a big city, but nothing beats a hike and the hospitality of a local restaurant in the countryside.
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[All images via Harriet Gaywood ]
For more My Shanghai series, click here.