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.