On Friday May 16th, Donna and two of my co-workers headed north to Beijing to participate in the Great Wall Marathon. I chose to run the ½ marathon while Jon and Steve ran the full. We left Changzhou just after lunch arriving in Beijing 5.5 hours later on the high speed train. By the time we got to our hotel, checked in, and had dinner it was pushing 10pm. The alarm woke me from a light sleep at 0300. Donna and I rolled out of bed, got dressed, and caught the 0330 bus. The section of the Great Wall on which the race was held is called Huangyaguan about 3 hours from Beijing. We arrived around 0630 to a cold wind but clear sky. It quickly started to warm up as the sun rose over the mountains. I estimated there were about 1,500 + runners for the three distances (marathon, ½ marathon, and fun run).
Jon (my co-worker who ran the full marathon) and I were in the last starting wave at 8am. Steve my other co-worker started in the third wave. The first 1km or so was relatively flat then we started a slow climb up a paved road until we reached the ridge line at which time we entered the section of the Great Wall. This part of the course was very steep in spots so it was mostly walking due congestion created by hundreds of runners and also a very narrow path. It was the most scenic part of the run and I really enjoyed the view and the cool breeze. Before long, we descended to the valley heading to a local village 5km away. The local people clapped for all the runners, kids were hi fiving, handing out bananas and water. After 3km around the village, we headed back to the starting area to finish the ½ marathon. Runners who chose the full marathon returned to climb the steep section of the wall we previously ran. I was glad I did not choose this distance because everyone was already tired before having to re-climb the wall for the final loop. My time, 3 hours and 25 minutes, finishing 479 out of 550+ participants. My goal was just to finish, but I wanted to run below 3 hours and 30 minutes which was roughly double the winning time.
My two co-workers completed the full marathon in just over 7 hours. Hot and tired, they crossed the finish line but happy to have completed a very difficult and demanding course. We had some celebratory beers before loading on the bus and heading back to Beijing. After a hot shower, I laid down in bed and we were done for the night. Donna ordered room service (my first time ever to have room service) and I greatly enjoyed my burger and fries. Then it was not long before I crashed for the night. On Sunday we were all sore but not as bad as I anticipated. Going up stairs was not too painful but going downstairs was so we used the escalators whenever possible as we messed around Beijing for the day. We caught the 5pm high speed train home. I was grateful to have the experience and complete the race.