I arrived in China in August 2014. I have always enjoyed running and wanted to continue this pursuit in China. Of course, air pollution is a very real problem but there are many apps that you can get on your smart phone to tell you how high the PM2.5 is. On the days when it is high, running with a mask is advisable. There are lots of different types of masks available and it might take trying a few different ones before you find a good one for running with.
If you like running with other people, the Beijing Hash House Harriers (www.hash.cn) is a friendly, international running club which has branches in many countries around the world. They run on Sundays and their trails last around an hour and a half but there are usually 1-2 drink-stops on route. For those not so keen on running, there is also a walkers trail. Though be warned this ‘running’ group also likes to have a few beers both en route and afterwards over dinner. A monthly group, the Boxer Hash, will also organize buses to take runners outside of Beijing and into the mountains for running trails which are ideal if you prefer off-road, trail running. Alternatively, there is also Hey Running (www.heyrobics.com/heyrunning-sessions) which has groups running in various locations and on different days.
If you are living in ‘The Shan’, I’d recommend going for a run around the Laoshan Bike Park, running through the trees, it’s easy to forget you are in built up area and from the viewing tower there are great views of the mountains. If you prefer running in regular parks, although many parks charge an entry fee, you can usually buy an annual pass. My pass for the Chaoyang Park only cost 80 kuai for the year.
One big tip I can give you is, before leaving home pack your running shoes. Buying branded running shoes here in Beijing is significantly more expensive than back home. You can buy knock-offs at the market and although they look nice enough, performance wise they are rubbish. If you do end up in Beijing, without running shoes, there are a number of Decathlon stores around the city which have good products at prices similar to those back home.