Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Great Wall Marathon

I heard of the Great Wall Marathon years ago, before I really did much running (here read: became addicted), and even then thought as though this sounded like an incredible experience. 

This has to be in my TOP 5 must do races.

Marathon Information:

The Great Wall Marathon features three distances: a full marathon - 42.195km/26.2mi, a half marathon - 21.1km/13.1mi and a 7.5km/4.6mi Fun Run.  All three distances start and finish at the Yin and Yang Square, at the fortress at the Huanyaguang section of the Great Wall, Tianjin province. The race will start in waves with intervals of ten minutes. You will be assigned to a wave based on the running time you provided on the entry form.

 The first section which covers approximately 9 kilometres takes runners to and over the Great Wall. This part of the course is marked by steep ascents and descents of up to 10% and consists of thousands of steps. Runners are advised to run slowly going up and down the mountain, as well as to walk when tackling the steepest parts of the Great Wall. Full marathoners will complete this section of the course twice, whereas half marathoners will only pass it once. The second section of the course, which takes runners through picturesque villages and rice fields, is run on flat asphalt and gravel roads. All roads are in good condition and do not require special footwear. Full marathoners should prepare for a long ascent at approximately 21 kilometres.

"The course is much tougher than traditional marathons with participants challenged by 5,164 stone steps and many steep ascents and descents"
Kilometre signs are placed at each kilometre along the route. The signs are colour coded according to the distance they represent. The signs will also indicate the equivalent distance in miles. Timing mats will be strategically placed on the route to ensure that all runners complete the distance they are registered for. There will be water stations at approximately every 4 kilometers along the route. Some stations will also serve energy drinks and bananas.

FREE massages at the finish - best idea ever!
The finish line for all distances is located at the centre of the Yin and Yang Square. All runners will receive a medal after crossing the finish line. Results will be posted at Yin and Yang Square during the race. Final results will be published here. Lunch will be served at the designated area. A limited number of cold showers are available in the neighboring courtyard of the Yin and Yang Square.  A massage service is available at the entrance of the Yin and Yang Square-Your entry ticket is valid for one free massage (Brilliant!).

It is actually not possible to compete in the Great Wall Marathon without signing up for a tour package.  Lots of marathon tour operators offer package deals that include race entry, accommodation, sightseeing tours and meals.  I am not promoting any company or travel offer, but in my extensive day dreaming research I have found tours that offer some pretty sweet experiences surrounding the marathon itself.  Here are some of the tour inclusions that I like the sound of:
  • Meals, hotel, transport to/from marathon SORTED
  • Registration pack waiting for you on arrival
  • Pre-race marathon route inspection (a couple of days before the race), usually includes a walk on the Great Wall!
  • Tours of Bejing (or freedom to explore)
  • Various package tours and 'experiences' in rural and suburban China
Fingers and running shoes crossed, that this is a run I get to do one day soon.

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