All details are based on the 2021 Great Wall Marathon and the prices and dates should be used as a guide only. Please click on the "BECOME A PRIORITY CLIENT" button above to sign up, so that we will notify you as soon as further information becomes available. Alternatively, please pay a preliminary deposit and guarantee your place for next year.
PLEASE NOTE: The date is to be confirmed
The Great Wall Marathon is not just a race; it is a moment that will live with you forever! Nowhere else can a marathoner run over one of the world’s most famous landmarks, through picturesque villages and alongside China’s own rice fields.
Sounds like the marathon of a lifetime right? It is! Having run the Great Wall Marathon ourselves, we can highly recommend it. We can even do better than that, we can help you book a travel package that will save you money and give you peace of mind so you can concentrate on the marathon itself.
The course can be divided into two sections:
The first section, covering approximately 9 km, takes the runners up to, across and down the Great Wall of China. This part of the course is marked by steep ascents and descents of up to 10% and consists of thousands of steps. Runners are advised to run slowly going up and down the mountain, as well as to walk when passing the steepest parts of the Great Wall.
You will complete this section of the course twice.
The second section of the course, which takes the runners through picturesque villages and rice fields, is done on flat asphalt and gravel roads. All roads are in good condition and do not require special footwear. You should be aware that there is a long ascent when going towards the turning point. This ascent may seem easy compared to the road leading to the Great Wall section, but after running approximately 21km it may come as an unpleasant surprise.
Have you thought about extending your stay? Check out our amazing optional tours to make your holiday the trip of a lifetime.
The Great Wall Marathon was the best trip I have ever been on! I chose this trip as I read it was one of the hardest marathons in the world and it definitely lived up to the reputation. From the initial phone call to Travelling Fit who were super efficient and all details were laid out including all sightseeing tours. I liked that most meals and sightseeing included as it saves time and currency and knowing all is paid before leaving home. As well as the Travelling Fit staff we were looked after by 2 Chinese English speaking guides who always gave us great commentary on their homeland and always willing to help. Inspection of the 500 year old Great Wall was a highlight for me. Walking the 3.5km uneven steps, very narrow in places but the views spectacular. What made the trip so special was the friendship made for life, the support amongst us on to finish and the expertise of Travelling Fit to get us there safely and support us on this memorable journey. I would definitely recommend this trip of a lifetime as there is something for everyone.
Our tour has almost come to an end. It was wonderful meeting Travelling Fit on the ground! The whole marathon experience was incredible - beyond expectations! Everyone was so friendly and encouraging. Leo and Frank did a great job keeping us informed and together! We met so many fantastic people and made what I'm sure will be long term friendships as well as a life-time of memories.
I used the services of Travelling Fit to book my tour to the Great Wall Marathon in China. Right from the start, Travelling Fit were more than helpful with answering any questions I had about the itinerary options, right down to booking my flights and even calming my nerves prior to the event. Even though the trip was all about completing the Great Wall Marathon, i felt that the whole tour provided me the opportunity to capture so many amazing highlights of the country. The accommodation, mode of transport, restaurants for meals and optional tours offered were amazing. Great choices by Travelling Fit and the local guides. I am looking forward to my next adventure with Travelling Fit - I highly recommend the company from beginning to end. Thank you Travelling Fit for making my first real overseas experience so EPIC...
HELP, I've developed a serious problem in China during the Great Wall Half Marathon and there is no CURE. I've become addicted to Travelling Fit organised half marathons!!! Bring them on!!! Keep me posted! I'm spending your inheritance kids, haha!!
Thank you Travelling Fit team. Your inspirational in your attitude, friendliness and care. I appreciate that you make the supporters feel as valued as the runners and that you take the time to get to know everyone. You’re amazing people.
It was an absolute treat to not have to plan anything or worry about anything. Very efficient and well organised and coordinated. Just be wherever at whatever time....no thinking, just enjoy. Travelling Fit staff, you were so lovely, caring, friendly and fun.
The Great Wall Marathon was my second trip with Travelling Fit, Paris Marathon being my first in 2014. I cannot praise Travelling Fit enough prior and during our trip, all questions were answered quickly via email or the FB page and the FB page was a fabulous way to get to know others prior and share tips. The Travelling Fit staff in Beijing were always there ensuring all aspects and details were covered daily, our Beijing guides Leo and Frankie were extremely helpful and knew the answer to any questions we asked. I loved every aspect of my trip and will hopefully be able to book another with Travelling Fit in the near future.
Travelling Fit exceeded our expectations with The Great Wall Marathon tour. It was our first with Travelling Fit and we couldn't have been happier. We saw so much, experienced more of China than we could have alone, made some great friends and we conquered the wall! We are already looking forward to our next Travelling Fit Adventure!
The Great Wall Marathon was an amazing experience and I will cherish the memories for the rest of my life.
I would highly recommend any runner to use Travelling Fit when they consider doing an Overseas Marathon. The service from the Travelling Fit team from time of booking to when we were in China was remarkable and they were really helpful. Thank you for all your hard work and keep up the good work. I can't wait to do another trip later on.
All details are based on the 2021 Great Wall Marathon and the prices and dates should be used as a guide only. Please click on the "BECOME A PRIORITY CLIENT" button above to sign up, so that we will notify you as soon as further information becomes available. Alternatively, please pay a preliminary deposit and guarantee your place for next year.
PLEASE NOTE: The date is to be confirmed
Travelling Fit is a fully accredited travel agency which offers a full range of services to our clients. This enables us to book your flights and additional touring to help us assist you in creating your perfect holiday experience.
The entry fee for the Great Wall Marathon is incorporated into the price of the package you choose and cannot be purchased independently.
There are no qualifying times for the Great Wall Marathon.
The Great Wall Marathon starts at 7:30am (to be confirmed). Please note that those runners that are staying in Beijing will need to check with their tour leader as to specific wake up times in order to ensure that they do not miss their bus to the start.
The cut-off time is eight hours from the start of the last wave.
At 14:00 (6 hours after the last runner in wave 4 has crossed the start line) the gate leading to the wall (32km point) will be closed. Marathon runners who have not reached the gate at this time will not be allowed to finish.
At 16:00 (8 hours after the last runner in wave 4 has crossed the start line) the Great Wall Marathon ends.
Runners still on the route will be picked up by a race official car and taken to the finish area.
The Great Wall Marathon will be timed using BibTag technology to ensure that all finishers are accurately timed.
T-Shirts and Race information (including race numbers and your Great Wall personalised BibTag) will be handed out to you by your tour leader once you reach your hotel.
There are no official pace setters in this event.
There will be water stations at approximately every 4 kilometres along the route. Some stations will also serve energy drinks and bananas. All stations provide bottled water.
Marathon runners will be offered energy gel after 26km and 35km.
Personal Refreshments and Clothing
No personal drinks are able to be left out on the course
It is possible to deposit bags with personal items for use after the race. Luggage can be stored in the designated luggage area at the Yin and Yang Square.
Please mark your bag clearly with your name and bib number. To avoid unnecessary queuing on the morning of race day, please mark your luggage before entering Yin and Yang Square.
Although the luggage area is manned, depositing personal belongings in the area is entirely each runner’s responsibility and the Great Wall Marathon organisers are not responsible for loss or damage of personal belongings.
Transport to the Great Wall and from the Great wall is provided as part of your overall package.
There is no Expo as part of the Great Wall Marathon although there will be various stalls setup at the start/finish area to purchase merchandise.
Finishers T-shirts, Medals and Certificates
All competitors will receive the official race t-shirt. All finishers will receive a Medal as they cross the finish line and Certificates will be emailed to all competitors after the conclusion of the event.
The average May temperature in Beijing is between 16°C/61°F and 35°C/95° however the temperature out at the Great Wall will be cooler.
Light-coloured clothing, short-sleeve technical shirts are a good choice as sweat is not absorbed (like cotton), sun block is a must (use SPF30 or above), a running hat with visor is also advisable as it can help keep the sun out of your eyes.
Half Marathon run/walk
Great Wall MarathonThe Travelling Fit Team includes a Travel Agent who provided excellent research and comparative prices on flights to and from China, which made getting to and from the event a complete breeze. We ...
The Travelling Fit Team includes a Travel Agent who provided excellent research and comparative prices on flights to and from China, which made getting to and from the event a complete breeze. We were met at the airport and transfers to and from the hotel and all transfers within China were included. It couldn’t have been easier getting to and from the event.
I have done 13 similar events with Travelling Fit. Since my first event with them, I have been hooked! I always have so much fun on Travelling Fit’s tours! I have met many fellow travelling runners through previous Travelling Fit events and everyone who has ever done the Great Wall Marathon has always raved about it as being one of the best. It has been on my “bucket-list” for many years. I have always wanted to see the Great Wall of China and the chance to run on it as part of an international marathon event was the ultimate draw card.
The atmosphere was electric. There were runners from all over the world, and you really had to pinch yourself in order to believe that you were actually at the Great Wall of China, and about to run on it. The organisers of the event were amazing and so professional. It really was a slick production. The local Chinese community really get behind the event and there were marching bands playing and dancers in traditional Chinese costumes. It felt like an Opening Ceremony to a mini Olympic Games.
The race was one of the best, most fun adventures I have ever had. I was smiling and laughing the whole way (except for when it really hurt and I couldn’t!). The race starts and finishes on a public square in a fortress section of the Great Wall in a valley surrounded by high mountains. You can see the Great Wall snaking up the mountains on either side, which fills you with a sense of fear and trepidation for what you are about to undertake. The square creates a great arena full of spectators for starting and finishing the marathon.
Once you start running, you leave the square and have a moderate uphill section through a village for about 5 kilometers until you meet the high point of the wall and gain access. Once on the wall, it is the most amazing experience! Who cares about a good time, or trying to be competitive – just soak up the atmosphere, get your phone out and start taking selfies! Running on the wall was hard – there were lots of steps, both up and down and the quads were burning. But I didn’t care! I was running on the bloody Great Wall of China in a marathon and we had the whole place to ourselves and it was just AWESOME!
The section on the wall was about 4 kilometers and, despite it being tough with all of the stairs, it flew by like a dream as I was so excited and euphoric to be there. After the section on the wall, you head back through the square and off down the valley, and run a loop section through local Chinese villages and rural countryside for about 24 kilometers. This provided an incredible insight into daily Chinese life and a totally unique experience. There were hundreds of villagers and school children in bright, neat school uniforms lining the route and shouting, cheering and waving flags. Kids were waiting with their hands out for a “high five” with a ‘big nose” (what the local Chinese colloquially call Westerners), and local farmers cheerily tooted and waved as they drove past on their tractors and horse-drawn carts.
After the loop section of the marathon through the villages, you ran back through the square and back over the Great Wall in the opposite direction. This was where the fun started (not)! Going back over the wall was so much tougher the second time. Not only was it at the 34 kilometer mark, but there was so much more stair-climbing going up over the wall in the reverse direction. All you could do was to take it slowly, one foot in front of the other, and keep going at a snail’s pace until you got to the top. Once at the top, the last 5 kilometers were all downhill, and back into the square to finish with a fist-punch in the air.
I ran with my friend Kylie who is an amazing athlete, wife, mother and all-round inspiration. We had been planning to do the Great Wall Marathon together for a number of years, but had to wait until the timing was right due to other life commitments. We ran together and willed each other on during the tough moments of the race. I have also known a number of previous Travelling Fit clients (whom I am lucky enough to now count as life-long friends) who had run Great Wall Marathon before, and their amazing recollections of the race and personal stories of courage and determination inspired me to get to the start line and to finish.
Travelling Fit enable you to do some amazing runs in some of the most amazing destinations in the world. Their adventure marathons enable you to experience a country or destination in a way that only running can provide – feet on the ground, take it all in, and experience every square inch as you pound the earth running in some exotic location. And in an adventurous, social, fun way that makes it so much more enjoyable. Travelling Fit can also help you access all of the big city marathons, and help you chase your “6 World Major Marathons” if that is what you are after. Travelling Fit always provide a fun, adventure-filled, professional service with like-minded runners who show you the world via their runs, and enable you to meet many wonderful, long-term running friends along the way.
Great Wall MarathonI did Paris Marathon on my own - at that stage I had not heard of Travelling Fit but as I am from the UK and have done some Travel in Europe I was not worried booking this on my own. My friend ...
I did Paris Marathon on my own – at that stage I had not heard of Travelling Fit but as I am from the UK and have done some Travel in Europe I was not worried booking this on my own. My friend who I did China with did do Paris with Travelling Fit and said they were amazing so it was an easy choice.
The atmosphere at the Great Wall Marathon was just awesome and vibrant. Everybody was just so excited and pumped. Before we went inside and we were in what was the Market area and the band was playing Jingle Bells over and over it just melted my heart. I will always now hear that song and think of China. I was so excited at the start line as the Great Wall was a bucket list run for me that came real.
After doing the Inspection on the Thursday I was a little worried about making the cut off but I always wanted to enjoy every moment. This run for me was an experience, not about time but making that first 6 hour cut off. I was so excited when I set out and I loved every part of this run. Being on the Wall was one thing but running through the villages and seeing all the spectators that came out to see us and support us was just awesome and I loved seeing the, especially all the children.
Dave and I came back into Yinyang Square around 5 hours 10 so we were rapt with that as we were able to enjoy the first 35k and take it all in. Going back up the Wall was so exciting but also sad as we knew once we were done that was it. Once we got up the first steps I looked at my watch and said to my husband “we have just over 2.5 hours to do the last kms so we decided to take our time and enjoy being on the Wall” which is exactly what we did – we took photos and chatted to people and at one point just sat on top of the steps and just looked back to take in where we had just come from – it was just amazing.
The finish was just awesome; so much support from everybody and the guy that handed me my medal gave me the biggest hug and hugged me for ages didn’t let go till I let go of him. I was just so emotional! My entire experience was just amazing and I will and have been telling everybody to do this run with Travelling Fit as its just so well organised and just an amazing run.
I decided to start running in 2015 from zero running. My life previous consisted of Netball, Basketball, Squash and I was also competing in Wakeboarding. I hung up my wakeboard boots and went back to the Gym and I needed to be outside so decided to run. I decided that the Great Wall was going to be my first Marathon as you go from Zero Running to running on the Great Wall of China.
I met an amazing and inspiring lady called Sharon who I did China with and China happened to also be her bucket list. I have been running with Sharon since 2015 where I met her at City to Surf and she did not know me from a bar of soap, yet she stayed with me for the entire Half Marathon, giving up her own time to make sure I was OK. We have run together since.
China has always been on my Radar and then with a Sydney Marathon and a 70.3 and an IM in between China Wall became a reality and I was able to do this run with my best friend who is my Husband and my High School friend of 33 years and Sharon. I was so blessed to have done this run with these amazing souls and the run was just breathtaking.
I would not hesitate to do another event with Travelling Fit – you guys are AMAZING
Great Wall MarathonI landed in Beijing incredibly excited that I would soon be running on the Great Wall of China! The lead up to race day was amazing – The Travelling Fit group of 80 or so runners and ...
I landed in Beijing incredibly excited that I would soon be running on the Great Wall of China!
The lead up to race day was amazing – The Travelling Fit group of 80 or so runners and supporters made the trip so so special. There is something to be said about going to another country with a “bunch of strangers’ only to feel as though you’ve been on holiday with a bunch of friends by the end of it! We had great tours to Forbidden City and Tiananmen square, the Temple of Heaven, the Beijing Zoo and the Summer Palace.
I had a perception of Beijing and it was not what I expected at all. It’s a great city, so interesting with fascinating things to see everywhere!
At the course inspection which was a few days before race day, I suddenly realised what I was about to do and emotion washed over me. I was about to be on the Great Wall of China. It is so grand that you can’t help feeling empowered by it. We had the race briefing which only got me more excited, then took the leisurely drive up to the start of the Wall (knowing that on race day we would be running up this hill rather than being chauffeured in a bus). Course inspection was tough – it felt like the 4km on the wall seemed to take forever and the legs and breathing definitely were feeling it. Looking back on it, it did take forever – but stopping to take a hundred photos, selfies, doing handstands, chatting to others and basic shenanigans on the wall will do that!
Race day was completely different. I quite literally hit a wall out there – but in no way did I hit the wall.
I was doing the half marathon and took my time going up the hill – waving and high-fiving all the locals in the villages who had come out to cheer us on – making us feel like superstars. When I got to the section of the Wall I was on such a “running high” that I thought I must’ve taken a short cut as the wall did not seem as long or as tough as it did on inspection day – in fact I really didn’t want it to be over!! But it was time for the long-road section of the course and then through the back roads of the village – thank you to the great volunteers and course markings that showed us the way through this ‘in the middle of nowhere’ part of China. The looks on the local kids faces as they saw all these crazy runners come through was amazing, and their little hands held out ready to high five was something I won’t forget. The local supporters absolutely made this event!
This was a day that I can honestly say I had a smile on my face the entire time. I loved every minute of it! And then watching all the other Travelling Fit’ters cross that line with big smiles on their faces made it even better. It was that type of event!
Thank you not only for the race day smiles, but for showing me a fantastic side of China, complete with new friends and memories to last a lifetime.
Great Wall MarathonI had completed my 7th marathon and was ready to “up the ante” for my 8th. But, what one? My starting point was the Travelling Fit website. I had travelled with this company for five previous ...
I had completed my 7th marathon and was ready to “up the ante” for my 8th. But, what one? My starting point was the Travelling Fit website. I had travelled with this company for five previous events and have always found it to be professional in its approach, organized with the friendly staff and, above all, it knew the needs of runners. Once I had perused the events available, it was decided that the Great Wall Marathon would be the next challenge. After registering, my focus turned to the training that needed to be undertaken in an effort to succeed. Apart from the normal marathon training, 3 sessions a week were conducted on the slopes of Mt Coot-that in an attempt to mirror the undulating profile of the Great Wall Marathon. Was I ready? Only time would tell!
Soon my wife, Marlene, and I were jetting off to meet with our fellow travelers and runners in Beijing for this adventure marathon.
Having not visited China before, we decided on the 6-night package with the after-marathon extension to Tibet.
Prior to the marathon, we enjoyed some of the cultural and historical buildings of Beijing such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Beijing Zoo. One could not visit China without observing the giant panda! Traffic in Beijing was horrendous with pedestrians needing to be wary of becoming road kill with errant drivers disregarding traffic rules at will. Becoming aware of the quality of air in Beijing was part of our daily routine as a smog-like haze seems to be a permanent feature of this city of 23 million people.
By the time of the marathon, we had become friends with many of our fellow runners and supporters in our Travelling Fit group. As always, Mari-Mar was ever present with her smile and words of encouragement as well as her supreme organization.
The Great Wall Marathon takes place on the Huangyaguan Pass in rural China, a distance of approx 120km north-east of Beijing. Two days before the marathon, was Inspection Day. After leaving our hotel at 6:30a.m., we arrived some two and a half hours later. Over 2 000 runners and hundreds of supporters were crammed into Yin and Yang Square for the briefing which, incidentally, was given by an Aussie.
After the briefing, we were transported to the Great Wall itself. No amount of reading or perusing travel brochures prepares you for the historical and magnificent engineering wonder that stood before us. And to think, it’s stood the test of time for over 2 000 years.
It was compulsory for runners to walk/run the 3.5km section of the wall to appreciate the challenge of the 5 164 steps that would need to be traversed on Saturday. This also gave supporters the opportunity to walk this section of the course.
Having walked this small section of the course, all manner of thoughts was zig zagging through my mind. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? No backing out now!
The night before the marathon, I checked the route and course profile again. After the 7km mark, I wondered whether we’d need a parachute to get down the slope. After the 34km mark, will it be mountain climbing to make it back to the Great Wall as the profile showed an almost vertical ascent?
Finally, the big day arrived. After arising at 2:30a.m., dressing, checking and re-checking my gear, we assembled in the foyer where we collected our breakfast bag of goodies. We were good to go. At 3:30a.m. we were leaving Beijing behind; even at this hour, the traffic was building up. After a two-and-a-half-hour trip, we arrived at the old Huangyaguan fortress. It was just on 90 minutes to go before the start of the 19th Great Wall Marathon.
A local marching band entertained us playing Christmas Carols(in May) which made the whole thing seem almost surreal.
The haka was performed by the New Zealand contingent – over 140 in all.
We knew the start was getting closer when a number of aerobics instructors began with warm-up exercises.
The first wave started at precisely 7:30a.m. Soon, my wave was called to the Assembly Area and we were off hoping to finish the 42.2km course in 8 hours or under which was the official cut-off time.
The first part of the course followed an 8.5km loop back to Yin and Yang Square. The loop started off with a 1km flat section from the Square through Huangyaguan Village. It was along this section that we realised that runners and vehicles shared the same roads and streets. There were no barricades as in many other events.
The next 4km took us on a mostly ascending, meandering road that led us to the entrance to the Great Wall, passing villages along the way.
As we entered the Great Wall and took our first step, it dawned on us that we had 5 163 of these to go before we could say we had “conquered the Wall”. The challenge lay before us. No two steps were the same. They all varied in height with some wide and some very narrow, making it hard to find a good rhythm in climbing them. This section was challenging, as was expected, but the views and the sense of awe at this engineering marvel was invigorating.
After passing through Yin and Yang Square again, we headed towards the spectator-lined countryside. The route passed through villages where children and elders cheered enthusiastically. The section on the Wall may very well have been challenging, but the 24km or so through the countryside was far from flat. Two long hills with another 300m worth of climb was wickedly tucked in the middle of the course. This proved to be every bit as challenging as the humidity was high and the temperature soared into the thirties.
Aid stations were roughly 4km apart. They were well stocked with bottled water, bananas, energy drinks and gels. The rubbish bins, full of iced water with sponges, were very welcome. I used the iced water to splash onto my aching thighs.
Completing the 24km through the countryside, we returned to Yin and Yang Square. We collected an orange wristband to prove that we had completed the section on the Wall twice. Only 8.5km to go.
The most notorious and ‘feared’ part of the entire race is the “Goat Track”. This section of steps is roughly 700m long with up to an 800 gradient in places. I class it as ‘brutal’. Here, and along the Great Wall, I observed runners panting, gasping and cursing. Many were crawling up the steps; others were sitting catching their breath ready for that final effort to reach that finish line.
The final challenge lay in keeping up the pace as it was mostly downhill towards the finish line. The race finished where it started in Yin and Yang Square amidst hundreds of spectators, supporters and athletes cheering each finisher. A sigh of utter relief, yet with a huge smile, was there as my finisher’s medal was placed around my neck.There, at the finish line, was Marlene to congratulate me on completing the marathon. My time was 6h 15min.
After cheering the last of the Travelling Fit crew across the Finish Line, we embarked on the next bus back to the Great Wall Hotel.
The evening after the Marathon was the Gala Post-Marathon Dinner. It was being held at the China National Convention Centre. All runners and supporters were gathered in one large room – over 3 000 in total. There was a complimentary glass of champagne on arrival, a wide variety of food on the buffet and entertainment. It was a great night to celebrate and reflect on our success.
Sadly, it was soon time to say good-bye to our new-found friends as we went our separate ways – some to extend their stay; others to return to Australia. Ours was to travel to Tibet but that’s another story.
My thanks to Mari-Mar for being there when we needed her to be, for her encouragement and support and her liaison with the marathon organisers.
Great Wall MarathonSo finally the time came and the trip began, Team G&T (Grace Kendrick, Tania Goodwin and friends Simon Pearse & Ranelle Cliff) said goodbye to Perth and headed to Beijing. Beijing is an amazing ...
So finally the time came and the trip began, Team G&T (Grace Kendrick, Tania Goodwin and friends Simon Pearse & Ranelle Cliff) said goodbye to Perth and headed to Beijing. Beijing is an amazing city of a hustle and bustle, cars, buses, taxis, bikes and people with a smoggy air that shadows the sun.
A few days later saw the arrival of many other runners and the anticipation was building rapidly, what would our section of the wall be like, as steep as the pictures lead you to believe.
The day of the Great Wall preview tour was here, at 6:30 we climbed on board our bus and set off for 150km drive through to Tainjin and to part of the wall at Huangyaquan. What awaited us was one of the most awe inspiring sights that many of us had ever seen, a trail of wall rising and falling with the contours of the Chinese hills and countryside. Back onto the bus and a 5km steep dive up the hill (which we would be running up on the day) to the start of the 4km wall section.
This 4km section took us 1:30 hrs to walk and everyone was tried and starting to seriously worry about race day and just how difficult this course would be. Up and down uneven steps, down a goat track and small uneven paths with no real hand rails or barrier to save you from falling down the side of the mountain…exciting yes, scary definitely!
1800 people from 53 countries were to take part in this the 11th Great Wall Marathon. The idea for the Marathon was the brain child of some beer fuelled Danes in Copenhagen, from a small idea to a now global event! Some of the stories of dedication were simply humbling, 1 person raining funds was doing 52 marathons in 52 weeks, another lady had been given some serious health news by doctors with only a few months to live and was still determined to finish her marathon experience.
And so onto race day, a 02:30 wake-up call and a 03:30 bus departure to ensure we were all at the starting line on time. The bus was filled with nervous chatter and focused determination. Square would be the start and finish lines and was full of runners, stretching, making sure running belts, camelbaks were all full of water and other necessary fluids. Mass warm up aerobics and the starting gun for the first runners went off, we were next……….The starting line, hundreds of people and adrenaline pumping and we were finally running! First the 6km hill climb, all we wanted was to keep a steady pace to get up to the top to the start of the wall with enough energy to get us up and over the 2700+ steps. Slowly but surely we ran and jogged up the hill, over the wall and down a very steep goat track, back through the square and onto the 13km through the local villages. The locals were lining the streets and young and old had come out to cheer us on and high five us as we went past, it was this support and mass will power that got many of the runners through this gruelling race and is exactly that feeling and help that we hope Youth Focus will help others achieve.
The highlight was crossing the finishing line and receiving our medals, with the whole team finishing the race in under 3:15hrs which was itself under what we had hoped for.
Running the Great Wall Half MarathonJeff Meltzer, Karen Mason and Rachel Mason of Meltzer Mason Heath entered the Half Marathon event of this annual race. Billed as an adventure Marathon, where the course is at least 25% harder than...
Jeff Meltzer, Karen Mason and Rachel Mason of Meltzer Mason Heath entered the Half Marathon event of this annual race. Billed as an adventure Marathon, where the course is at least 25% harder than any other Marathon, times don’t matter and it’s all about the experience. It is a “tough, beautiful and definitely extraordinary experience. The 5164 steps of the Great Wall Marathon will put your physique to the test, and the breathtaking surroundings of Tianjin Province will compete with your tired muscles for attention. The Great Wall Marathon is the ideal way to combine an unusual running event with exploring one of the world’s most astonishing sights.”
It seemed like a good idea last November when we first had the notion that this would be a fun thing to do- climbing up a 5km mountain road, 2,582 steps up and down a 5km section of the Wall, gambolling through villages, soaking up the scenery and the atmosphere, not to mention the culture and the history. The reality, however, was completely different. In fact, it was so much better than we had anticipated.
Our journey began nearly six months ago, with some serious training. But had it prepared us for the big day? Endless runs up and down hills, numerous sessions on carpark staircases, and hours of pounding the pavements all in the wee hours of the morning. Would it all paid off?
May 15, 2010 dawns cold. It is 3.30am and we are heading out to Jixian, to “our part” of the Great Wall of China and the challenge we have taken on. The streets of Beijing are busy even at this time of the day and we watch the sun rise up from behind the mountains. It glows red, and two thoughts occur simultaneously: “where else can you look directly at the sun and not go blind?” and “what on earth have we got ourselves into?”. Two and a half hours later, the bus pulled into the carpark, and along with nearly 1800 other participants from 52 countries, we spilled from our bus, hopping up and down, almost bursting with nerves and excitement. We were greeted at the entrance to the race start area by a group of local villagers, decked out in traditional dress, dancing and playing music, and generally revving us up. We spent the next hour or so preparing ourselves for the start.
Finally, we assemble at the start line, and off we go. There was little of the usual pushing and shoving, and from the start we knew this was going to be something different. The first 5km was a hard slog up the mountain road, steep and hard going. This set the pace for the first half of the race, and we made it in reasonable time. Coming upon the entrance to the Wall we knew this was it – the main event, six months in the training, we were about to conquer or be conquered.
A difficult leg of the race, it was also the most thrilling and awe-inspiring. The fact that we were running along a structure built thousands of years ago, and was for the main part still wonderfully intact, was a very humbling experience. The view across the valley was stunning.
The morning mist had faded, there was no smog, just beautiful mountains (where you just knew that dragons lived). Still, the Wall tried its best to beat us. Two and a half thousand steps up and down. Not just normal steps. We’re talking steps with 30cm rises and 15cm widths, or vice versa. Goat trails, broken steps, sheer sided drops. This was no walk in the park, and it really was apparent why this is an adventure race, one where one’s personal bests don’t matter, and where a running time that is half as much again is considered normal.
Up steps, down steps, short flat-ish runs, through towers and down dirt goat trails, all too soon we had reached the end of the Wall section. We crossed through Yin Yang Square (the start/finish and half way area) and were cheered on by the watching crowd. Out of the Wall and onward to the villages. We had expected lush rice paddies, quaint houses, and perhaps the odd farm animal to be roaming around. Our romantic illusions were fairly quickly removed. For the main part, we ran along bumpy dirt tracks, with bare land either side. We had forgotten that China was just out of winter! We reached the village itself, and ran through the streets. With closely built mud houses, and drainage down the middle of the lanes, it was certainly a vastly different experience. The villagers lined the streets, and all wished us “Ni Hao”. Little children waved and were excited to run alongside for a bit. The people were so friendly, it made this tough leg a bit easier. It certainly lifted our hearts! Time was getting on, we were exhausted, dehydrated in the nearly 30 degree heat, but we were happy. We’d nearly made it, and look how far we’d come and what we had seen!
As we neared the finish line, we could hear the crowds, and we knew that this was it. Somehow, from somewhere, that last burst of adrenalin kicked in, and we found the reserves to finish strongly. In full on racing mode, we entered Yin Yang Square, heard our names over the PA, and burst across the finish line. Triumphant, exhausted, and thrilled. What an achievement, what an experience. And we got a medal.
As an adventure, running in the Great Wall Marathon was wonderful. It has become a part of our soul, and an experience we’ll never forget. After all the training, the gruelling day, would we do it again? In a heartbeat. Watch this space for next year’s bit of “adventure before dementia”!