The 5,000 plus steps of the Great Wall Marathon will certainly test your athletic abilities, endurance, and tenacity and when combining this unusual marathon with the beautiful scenery, it becomes one of the most amazing experiences of a lifetime.
A group of teacher friends from Yew Chung International School headed to Beijing in May, 2012 to take on the challenge of the Great Wall Marathon/Half/10K. The full marathon had over 5,000 steps to climb, some steps only a few inches in height, but other steps were almost knee high.
Climbing these knee high stairs tends to slow down even the best runners. I chose to only do half of those steps and registered for the Half Marathon. There were some pretty great ascents and descents no matter which course was chosen, but either way, we all headed straight uphill right out of the gate. Thank goodness I had visited Tulsa Runner when I was in Tulsa, because they had fitted me with the best shoes for gripping and traversing along this multi-terrained (if that is a word) marathon.
After we made it to the top, we began our route along the wall. It was an amazing sight. At first, I really wanted to have a decent time, considering I beat my 20 year old son the previous year when we ran the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma. However, when I reached my finish time from the Route 66 Marathon, and realized I had only gone about 6 miles, It became more of a social event and photography session instead.
Many times, lines were so long with people, we could not pass since the pathways were narrow and near the very steep edge of the wall. Many participants held onto the rope along side the wall in order to keep themselves steady as they went down the stairs of the Great Wall.
As we came to the end of our time on the wall, I found the decent of several hundred steps to be really tough on the knees, but the decent led to flat roads, which we hadn’t experienced yet, so it seemed like it must be leading to a good thing!
Along the flat, paved road is where we were able to pick up speed again, when we weren’t dodging in and out of traffic and obstacles on the road, but then we headed down a long dirt road where dust and dirt was flying off the shoes of the runners ahead of us, but before long we came to a water stop and a bucket of wet rags.
The challenge continued through Chinese farmlands and villages. There were some spectators along they way. The Chinese children would recognize the westerners and yell, “Hello” and then duck their heads and hide as we ran by, which was cute since that seemed to be the only English word they knew.
The village area was kind of tough. It was rocky, big rocks, little rocks, had some hills, and often times we were running on loose dirt, sticks and twigs. This was about 7 miles into the run and it is the area where my knee went one way, and my upper body went the other when I twisted on a down hill ramp.
I was in so much pain and I had at least 6 miles left. I must say, time didn’t matter now, except that I wished time would hurry up, because I wanted to be done! I did a lot of walking to the finish line. I wished along the way that I had a knee brace, or IT band or something to wrap around my leg to ease the pain.
I was able to find some “caution tape” along the route, so I tore some of that off to wrap around my leg hoping that would help get me
across the finish line. Later I found some rope and used that to tighten it up. It seemed to help a bit and I was able to run across the finish line. The Great Wall Marathon was an amazing and breathtaking (in more ways than one) experience.
Several of us are already considering trying again next year. I know that I will need to visit Tulsa Runner at 97th and Riverside to get a new pair of running shoes and begin training by running up the stairs of the World Financial Center and Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai. Though, that is another story in itself. In the meantime, I need to get running!