Official race photo.
The moment one of my friends first asked if I would want to get on a plane, fly to Beijing, and run a half marathon on the Great Wall–which often makes the list of the world’s toughest races-, I knew that it was something that I had to do.
I was astounded that I was able to find round trip tickets from Seattle to Beijing for less than $700. Once the flights were purchased, the visa obtained, and the actual travel and running tour booked with Kathy Loper Events, it was time to get serious about training.
Earlier in the year, I had decided to get back into yoga but as a result, my running time had gotten cut. While I found that the breathing techniques I had learned on the yoga mat lead to a more enjoyable running experience, I had to cut down my yoga classes in exchange for more miles. The tag line for the race is “5164 steps into history” and as such, I added training on as stair machine at the gym to my elevated running regime.
By the time that I got to China in May, I was thankful that all of my training had paid off. Two days before the race all participants were taken to the race site where we were able to walk the section of the Wall that we would be racing on. This gave us a great opportunity to take photographs, figure out where bottle necks of runners were likely to occur, and take in the majesty and splendor of the surroundings, and soak up the awe that we would be on the Great Wall of China not once but twice in the span of three days. While it was somewhat intimidating to see the grade of the Wall and feel the humidity, I was grateful that I was able to take it all of without the anxiety that comes with race day morning.
Race day itself was filled with pomp and circumstance before we were able to take off. The first part of the race, where we were running up to the Wall, did have a significant amount of elevation gain. Being on the Wall was a magical as it had been two days before and there were numerous points in the race where I took a quick stop to take it all in (and lets be real, catch my breath). Another highlight of the race came after the section that was held on the Wall when runners raced through local villages. It became clear to me that this is an annual event that the citizens of these villages look forward to as there were plenty of people in the streets waving, cheering, and high-fiving us as we ran by. The children of the villages also came out to practice their English and give us flowers that they had picked as we passed by.
While we waited for all of the members of our group to cross the finish line there were box lunches, beer, and souvenirs to browse. It was a long ride back to Beijing, but knowing that I was getting to see one of my best friends who had flown in from Shanghai that afternoon kept my spirits high.
While I have never trained so hard for a single race, I will say that running the Great Wall Half Marathon was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I would highly recommend the race and was incredibly grateful to Kathy Loper Events for all of the logistical planning of my time in Beijing.
I can’t wait for my next adventure race with Albatros Adventure Martahons–who’s up for a race on Mt. Everest? 🙂