Please read the whole of this item. Richard Bazeley has completed a mammoth task running for Alzheimer’s Research UK and it is worth a read. He ran … and walked, a marathon at The Great Wall of China raising money for this wonderful charity in memory of his Nan and had no idea how much he would draw on memories of her to get through it. When you finish, if you feel you could donate just a few pounds, it would do a great deal for this great cause; a link to Richard’s Just Giving Page is at the end of the report he has sent through of his trip together with the link to a You Tube video which is well worth watching.
“After an overnight flight I checked into my Beijing hotel on 18th May and collected my race pack with the race T-shirt, bib number then did a bit of sight-seeing at Tiananmen Square. My first evening of dining out was interesting and as the menu options were quite unfamiliar I stuck to vegetables and rice for safety.
The 19th was a 03:30am checkout & breakfast where I learned it’s pretty hard to eat a fried egg with chopsticks. A couple of hours in a coach to The Great Wall where I bought a Chinese straw hat and we had a pre-race briefing in Yin & Yang Square before walking the Huangyaguan section of the Great Wall for a route inspection. The purpose was for you to realise the enormity of the challenge!
In the race you would pass over the wall just after 3 miles then again around 21 miles. There was a 6 hour cut off for the 2nd passing of the wall; if you felt you couldn’t make it there was the option to drop down to half marathon route. However I felt confident of making the cut off with a 3:03 marathon PB so stuck with it. Lunch that day was Subway sandwiches delivered out to the Wall. It was then back onto the coach back to Jixian area & checked into a different hotel.
The 20th was a either a free day, or you could take an excursion so I did that and went to the Qing Tombs, where the guide told us about the Qing dynasty of Emperors. Lunch was pre booked at a buffet restaurant and by now I braved some meat as it looked well cooked and it was delicious.
On the 21st, race, day, we arrived at 6am with the first wave of the race going off at 07:30 from Yin & Yang Square. Even then it was already pretty warm, sun cream and a running cap were all essential otherwise I feared exposure to the sun would become an issue in this race. You get about 1/2 a mile of flat then 3 miles uphill on roads. By the top of that I was hot, sweating and I knew this was going to be tough. We got onto the stairs up to the Wall and my run was immediately bought down to a walk. It’s really tough to get up those stairs but when you get onto the wall the views & scenery are spectacular. The steps are not all the same height so going down is difficult to get a rhythm going, if you negotiate a step badly and take your weight off too soon you’ll jar yourself, if you go too fast you risk falling, so it’s a slow stray process. Some parts are uneven surface with no proper steps, just random foot holds, especially on the goat path leading back to the square. It was hard but also amazing.
After the first passing of the wall you are on a long flat section of road which was a nice respite but then into rural unsurfaced paths, where I ended up being overtaken by a small herd of sheep, you don’t get that at the London Marathon!
Running through local villages was the most fun because local families were all out, kids were high fiving shouting ‘Jaio, Jaio’ which we were told loosely translates to ‘go go’. The local people were carrying on with their day as well with motorbikes passing us. After the villages there is a tough hilly section that went on for ages; I came to realise how much that first passing of the wall had taken out of me, I walked many kilometers here. It was painful, challenging, and needed lots of willpower and discipline to get through it.
I ate two bananas at one aid station just to get some energy back. Eventually I got back to the wall and I took one look at the really steep goat path to get back up there!! I was completely spent I honestly wondered how the heck I would be able to do this. It was mind over matter, using handrails to literally drag myself up with my arms as my legs were gone. I was doing two feet to one step at a time, stopping to rest here and there.
The whole point of running this was to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research and the whole experience was very emotional. At the toughest parts, I had to think of my Nan who suffered dementia & remind myself why I was doing it to help get me through it.
I struggled up and down the steps all the way; it was the hardest thing I have ever done, but a real pleasure pain experience because it was also incredible to be there and with each step I knew I was achieving something incredible.
When I got off the wall I took a moment to just appreciate what I’d achieved and take one last look at it before shuffle jogging/walking down the 3 miles of hill until I got to the Square. Walking downhill I know right? But it was all I could do at that stage.
Back at the Square there was music, cheering & the announcer was saying the names of all runners as they finished so it felt like a hero’s welcome and then it was done. The medal was hung around my neck and I immediately ate and drank everything they gave me … I don’t even know what it was!
It was a couple of hours coach journey back to Beijing and we all exchanged tales of our experience. With people from 70 countries at this race it was great to make friends – to meet diverse and new people.
The following day was a trip to Beijing Zoo to see Giant Panda, The Summer Palace where we had a boat ride and lunch followed by a visit to Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Park. That evening there was a gala dinner to celebrate the marathon where monks performed an explosive martial arts demonstration and I had a blast with new friends, then said my goodbyes.
On the 23rd, another early start at 5.30 but this time to the airport and after a final Green Tea latte I was out of there!!”
If you feel you could donate to the charity, Richard would be very grateful. The link is:
Copy and paste this link in you tube to see Richard’s race:
Great Wall Marathon 2016 China Vlog