China is always on my list of countries to visit and running a marathon on great wall is a bucket list item for me. I was able to accomplish both this year on April 21, 2019 by participating in the Jinshanling Great wall Marathon. This race is considered as one of the top 10 toughest marathons in the world due to its terrain and thousands of massive, steep, uneven steps. Jinshanling section of great wall is 10.5KM long with 5 passes, 67 towers and 3 beacon towers. It is located in the mountainous area in Luanping County, Hebei provice, 125KM northeast of Beijing.
My itenary included a 5 day stay in Shanghai and 6 day stay in Beijing. I made sure I had enough time to visit all popular sites in Shanghai and Beijing before the race and also enough time to adjust to the time difference and acclimatize before the race. China is a country with rich heritage and have enjoyed my visit to Chenghuang Temple, Yu Garden, Dapuqiao, Jade Buddha Temple, Financial District, Bund Area, Humble Administrator garden, Fengqiao, Tiger Hill, Longhua temple, Zhujiajiao in Shanghai and Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Jingshan Park, Beihai park, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Lama Temple, Birds Nest and Mao Memorial in Beijing.
All international participants are expected to attend an orientation session where organizers have provided all relevant information for the race and also participants can pickup their packets for the race. Also, there is a dinner event for race participants (for an additional price) which I did attend. Even though the food is not that great I got the opportunity to meet some participants and socialize with them. Race organizers also provide 4 day and 6 day tour packages as part of the race, which is good for those participants who are fond of those organized tours.
I did participate in the full marathon event, even though you can choose from 10K, 20K or 40K events. There is a time limit for each distance and the participants are expected to reach a checkpoint within a certain time. Those participants that cannot meet this requirement are pulled off the course and they get DNF status(Did not finish).Since the wall is 125KM away from the city, race organizers arrange bus pickup and drop off from the city center. Pickup is at 5:30am and drop off starts from 3:30pm.
Total course map involves running on the wall, running through the trails next to the wall, then back onto the wall (total of 13 miles), then we run through the local town and through the mountain trails before hitting the road again to the finish line. Wall area consists of varied terrain with steep steps (close to 20000) and uneven surfaces and also certain areas where the terrain is very bad due to deterioration. Preparation for this race will require intense stair climbing training, lot of core training and of course all the miles you have to log as a prep for any marathon.
My preparation involved multiple (3HR) stair climbing sessions (on stair master), 4 months of personal training sessions with my trainer specifically aimed for this run and multiple weekly long run sessions. My goal was to complete the race and I have completed it in 6HR 41 mins. Took me 4hrs to complete first 13 miles as you cannot run on the wall and also in lot of areas you have to wait for people in front of you to pass as only two persons can go at a time on that sections of the wall. It was a great experience to run on the wall. An experience I will cherish forever and also proud to be the only marathoner in my family and also to run a marathon on the Great Wall of china