Before the race started – Me, Terrie, Andrea and Tiffany (all from the other big international school in Wuxi, TIS)
Over the next few days, I will post all the unpublished blog entries for the couple of months that China didn't want anyone contacting the outside world and before I discovered how to get around the system! Many of you have already read these, but some people missed them, so here they are!! Enjoy.
The start and finish area, in the Yin Yan Square, surrounded by the Wall.
Timing chips on our runners.
Well, 14 weeks of obsessive training and it was all over and done in a few hours! But, wow! What an amazing experience my first (yes, note, I will be back!) half marathon on the Great Wall was. It was quite an overwhelming experience to have the opportunity to run with so many other like-minded people in a stunning location, with the local Chinese villagers cheering you on. I felt quite emotional at times during the run, I couldn’t quite believe I was there.
Looking very happy at the start line!
Heading up the first section – 5km of solid uphill running. Why am I smiling?!
Friday afternoon/evening proved to be an eventful time as 7 of us made our way from Wuxi to the Huangyaguan section of the Wall, about 2 hours drive south west from Beijing. The driver was a little unfamiliar with the area, so we had many stops to call for directions – a little unsettling at 10pm at night in country China! We eventually arrived just after 11pm and walked to our hotel where the staff were surprised to hear that 4 of us would be sharing a twin room. They kindly provided us with extra blankets and we bunked down for a short and restless night of sleep. Sleeping on the floor (thankfully, I had been prepared and bought my sleeping bag!) was not an ideal situation before a big run, but I woke up at 5.30am feeling okay. After forcing down a breakfast of bananas and Powerade, we headed up the hill to the start line of the 10th Great Wall Marathon!
The first ‘bottleneck’ of the race – getting up onto the Wall.
On the Wall.
The race was broken into 3 main sections, each with its own set of challenges. The first 5km was solid uphill running and I had to put my competitive edge to the side and accept that I would be overtaken! I was determined to run the entire way, and I did – none of those wimpy walking breaks for me!! Once we reached the top of the hill, we all had to line up to actually get onto the Wall via a narrow set of stairs. The second section was on the Wall itself and proved to be the easiest part of the run for me. There were several bottle-neck periods along the Wall, where you had to wait to squeeze through the narrow sections. I walked up most of the steps, it was difficult to run because all the steps were different heights and widths, making it quite easy to fall or twist an ankle.
On the Wall.
Major laowai traffic jam!
After running down some steep and narrow goat paths, we came out on a flat part of the Wall, before running through the Start/Finish Square again and then onto the flat. The last 12 km were mostly on the flat, on a main road, through farm land and through the local villages. It was this section that I found most challenging because my legs were beginning to get really sore. Surprisingly, my heart and lungs felt fit and ready to go, but my legs were killing me! For the last 3 km, I managed to pick up the pace and finally, achieved my goal of running the race in 3 hours – my official time (which was changed yesterday) was 3 hours and 49 seconds!
The traffic jam behind me!
That’s where I was heading!
After the race was fantastic as well, the atmosphere of the crowd was so energetic and positive. Everyone milled around and cheered on people finishing the race and the marathon runners who came past the finish line and back up onto the Wall for another 2600 steps, as the commentator so kindly pointed out! When the marathon winner came through the finish line, there were huge cheers all around. The record for the marathon is 3 hours and 18 minutes – that is so fast to run 42 km of hills, steps and goat tracks!
So many ups and downs.
Heading down the hill.
The scenery surrounding us was so diverse, it was quite difficult to keep your eyes on the track at the same time as enjoying the beautiful panorama. The day provided perfect running weather – cool with a heavy fog. It got a little hotter towards the end of the run, but was it really couldn’t have been any better. However, the fog meant photography was not at its best. One of the best parts about the run was seeing the locals lined along the village streets cheering everyone on. All the children wanted to high five each runner and the elderly people were happily chanting ‘Ja Yao! Ja Yao!’ (Go! Go!).
Locals cheering the runners on.
All the Wuxi crew were happy with their performance, whether they were aiming for a particular time or simply wanting to finish the race. A couple of us celebrated with a beer before heading back to the hotel to shower and head back to Beijing for a night of celebrations. Stay tuned for the next installation of the running weekend in Beijing!
Through the local village.
In the village.
Through the farmland.
Children collecting the runners water bottles to recycle for a little money.
Women’s Half Marathon winners.
Tony and I representing EtonHouse and Australia!
Heather and I celebrate with a beer.
Wuxi women – me, Sharon, Tiffany, Terrie, Andrea and Heather.