The Great Wall Marathon and its 5,164 steps might just be the most historically significant race location in the world.
Taking place on the third Saturday in May, this marathon isn’t just a test of physical strength, it’s an adventure along one of the world’s most astonishing ancient wonders.
Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a passionate traveller seeking a unique challenge, this event promises an unforgettable experience.
If you’re thinking about tackling this famous race, keep reading to learn everything you need to know.
Overview of the Great Wall Marathon
May 18 2024
Registration Cut Of Date
18 April 2024
Required Qualifying Time
Great Wall Marathon Cost
The entry fee for the Great Wall Marathon is incorporated into the price of the travel package you choose and cannot be purchased independently.
Starting from $2,595 per runner, check out our Great Wall Marathon travel packages to learn more about prices.
Race types and distances
Great Wall Marathon elevation gain
The two most substantial elevation gains during the Great Wall Marathon are both around 243 metres and occur during the first 7 km of the race and around for around 700 metres at the 36 km mark. Marathon runners also experience an elevation gain of around 200 metres from the 16 km – 23 km mark and around a 50-metre elevation gain during between the 27 km – 28 km portion of the race.
Check out the graph below for more information about the elevation gain and loss throughout the race for marathon, half-marathon and fun run.
Great Wall Marathon route
Great Wall Marathon Map
Check out the map below to see the route for the marathon, half marathon and fun run.
Stage 1: Great Wall ascent and the infamous “Goat Track”
No matter what race type you choose, all runners complete the same 8.5km to start the race.
Commencing at Yin and Yang Square within the ancient Huangyaguan fortress.
Participants commence the race along Jinwei Highway, travelling south for the first kilometre.
The route then takes a turn onto Changcheng Highway, leading runners into a challenging 4 km ascent towards the entrance of the Great Wall. This uphill path tests endurance early in the race.
Upon reaching the 5 km mark, the course transforms as runners meet the iconic steps of the Great Wall. A captivating 3 km stretch on the wall itself includes a loop around the fortress walls, offering breathtaking views and a glimpse into China’s rich history.
The course then introduces a dramatic change at the 7 km point with the ‘Goat Track’, a 700 m steep descent back towards Yin and Yang Square.
After rounding the fortress walls at the 8 km point, fun runners end their race in Yin and Yang Square while the half marathon and full marathon runners continue south towards Duanzhuang village.
Stage 2: Enjoy the scenes towards Duanzhuang village
The next 4.5 km follows a picturesque route along the river towards Duanzhuang village. This stretch offers a scenic run, with views of the river and surrounding landscapes. It’s a chance for participants to appreciate the rural tranquillity of the region.
As they approach the 13km mark, the course takes the runners across the river. This is where the half-marathon runners and full-marathon runners route splits into 2.
Half-marathon runners turn left to complete a 4 km loop through Duanzhuang village while full marathon runners continue south towards Xiaying.
Stage 3: Test yourself through the Chinese countryside
After the split at 13 km, marathon runners head south to Xiaying, transitioning from village energy to the tranquillity of the countryside.
At 16 km, the route exits Xiaying, leading east on Maying Highway towards Dongjiafen village. The landscape is dotted with traditional homes and local farms, providing a rich cultural experience.
As runners arrive at the 20 km mark, they commence a 6 km loop passing through the village of Qingshanling. This steep section is challenging, however, it offers a deeper insight into the local community and their way of life.
Exiting the loop at 26 km, runners face a challenging climb up to Chedaoyu village, testing endurance and strength. Once at the village, a steep descent begins back towards Duanzhuang village. Both the full-marathon and half-marathon participants reunite just before the village at the 29 km and 16 km marks respectively.
Stage 4: Great Wall – Round 2
Once the half marathon and full marathon routes reunite, the runners cross a bridge back to Jinwei Highway. From there, they begin to run back towards Yin and Yang Square.
This is where half-marathon runners finish their race and head straight for the square. For marathon runners however, they turn right and begin to mentally prepare navigating the great wall portion of the run once more.
This time in reverse, runners start by ascending the ultra-steep ‘Goat Track’, before descending 5km down the Great Wall towards Yin and Yang Square where their finish line finally awaits.
Water stations are positioned approximately every 4 kilometres throughout the race. Along with water, select stations will also offer energy drinks and bananas. Each station supplies bottled water for runners.
For marathon runners, energy gels will be available at the 26km and 35km marks.
Preparing for the marathon
There are a variety of training and nutrition preparation strategies you can use to best prepare for the Great Wall Marathon. Some of these include:
Hill Training: Incorporate hill runs into your training regime. The Great Wall Marathon includes significant elevation changes.
Step Training: Regularly train on stairs or steep inclines. This will prepare you for the thousands of steps on the course.
Cross-Training: Engage in activities like cycling or swimming to improve overall fitness without over-stressing your running muscles.
Strength Training: Focus on leg strength and core stability. Exercises like squats, lunges, and planks are beneficial.
Practice with Gear: Train in the gear you plan to race in, especially your running shoes, to ensure comfort and prevent blisters.
Hydration Strategy: Learn to hydrate effectively during long runs. This is crucial for race day, considering the marathon’s length and climate.
Nutrition Plan: Experiment with different energy gels and foods during training to find what works best for you.
By following these training tips, you’ll be better prepared to tackle the unique challenges of the Great Wall Marathon.
For experienced runners, you might already have everything on the following list. For new runners however, we recommend the following for the Great Wall Marathon:
- Running shoes suitable for uneven terrain
- Lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing
- Sun protection (hat, sunglasses and sunscreen)
- Hydration pack or belt
- Energy gels or snacks
- Blister-preventing socks and blister plasters
- Personal first aid kit
- GPS watch or tracker
Registration & Logistics:
How to Register
The registration process for the Great Wall Marathon is straightforward however you need to register through an approved travel partner. A reputable travel partner like Traveling Fit can help you find a travel package that suits your budget and needs.
We offer 2 exclusive and 2 budget travel packages for the Great Wall Marathon.
- Exclusive Package 1 – Great Wall Marathon – 6 Days/5 Nights – Beijing
- Exclusive Package 2 – Great Wall Marathon – 7 Days/6 Nights – Beijing
- Budget Package 1 – Great Wall Marathon – 6 Days/5 Nights – Jixian & Beijing
- Budget Package 2 – Great Wall Marathon – 7 Days/6 Nights – Beijing
Budget Packages 1 and 2 are NOT hosted by Travelling Fit but by local representatives with no dedicated Australian representation.
The Travelling Fit Exclusive Packages on the other hand, are organised by Travelling Fit, meaning we have more control of what goes on whilst in Beijing. It also gives you, the client, the opportunity to travel with other like-minded Australians travelling with us as part of a unique group.
For personalised Travelling Fit fully hosted tours (recommended) please refer to the Exclusive Travelling Fit Packages.