The one you can see from outer space–yep, we ran on it!
2550 steps, 3.5 km, as part of a half (or full, if you’re insane) marathon.
Along with about 2500 other people.
Race day started with a 3 am wake up call, then the 3:30 am bus ride out to the access point on the Great Wall.
Thanks Coach K for your wealth of tips…I brought my coffee travel mug and sipped it at the right time to load up.
We arrived at Yin-Yang Square and warmed up with the masses, visited the portapotties set up (with timers on the door to shame you into being quick) and arranged our gear: headband, electrolyte gels, and the all important Norwegian Flag.
It was incidentally Norway’s 200th anniversary of Constitution Day this same day.
Thanks to the flag I met a dozen or so fellow Norwegians milling about, enjoying the day in a most unique way.
Even some Danes cheered me on.
The race was in 5 start waves ten minutes apart, and we settled ourselves comfortably at the back of Wave 2 after watching the professionals take off in the first wave.
One of our medical colleagues was running as well so we cheered him on.
The course was first 5k uphill on a little road leading to the main entrance to the Wall, then about 200 steps hiking up to the Wall itself, and then off we ran.
Somehow my muscle memory kicked in and I had no difficulties with the steps, and left MeiMei behind.
For a bit.
As we passed the highest point on the Wall and began the uneven descent, suddenly a jet-propelled yellow fury swept by me and I never saw her again until the finish line.
After the Wall, the course led out through the town, down country roads and into a typical village with kids giving us high 5’s and handing out water bottles.
We went down alleys, over bridges, up a steep trail through a fruit orchard, then looped back towards the start/finish area.
A tent over a ditch was set up as a porta-potty, but I had already found an outhouse by a little restaurant earlier.
Keep on running, see people from later start waves making their way towards the village.
Eat a banana and more gel to make it the last 4-5k.
The full-marathon runners had a longer loop, and topped off their marathon with another reverse trek back up the Wall to see if they had what it took at the end.
The guy who got 2nd place for the full marathon was on our bus driving back to Beijing, and said it’s the first time he seriously thought he wouldn’t make it to the finish line.
As for me, 3 hrs and 22 minutes after the gun, I crossed the finish line.
It was my personal best, since it’s my first half marathon ever.
And fantastic, awesome, exhilarating, every moment of the way.