This was one of the greatest challenges as well as accomplishments of our lives! As we were in flight to China the earthquake hit the Sichuan Region which has now resulted in over 60,000 deaths with over 20,000 still missing. We thank God that we were not affected by this and keep those that lost family members and are still missing in our thoughts and prayers.
Two days before the marathon we did a trial run of the wall so that each runner had an idea of what they were getting into. This also gave them the opportunity to change to the 1/2 marathon if they wished. The trial run was very interesting and took us over 1 1/2 hours to walk approximately 1 1/2 miles on the wall. We definitely realized that we probably did not train as well as we should have on steps, but we were here and were going to run! There were many areas on the wall that were single file, steep and slippery. Very easy to lose your footing! I think the scariest part for us was the last 1/2 or so mile which was pretty much all single file and downhill. However, it wasn’t the downhill that freaked us out but rather the fact that when we returned after 21miles of running that we would have to climb back up that area. I would have to say that that was the scariest part for me and pretty much kept me up the entire night before figuring out how I was going to do this. I asked many of the other runners what their strategies were for this and most said…just praying and taking it easy!
We got up at about 3 am for a 3 hour bus ride to the wall. This was tough as the night before did not get much sleep as were too excited and scared for the marathon. When we got to the Race start area I felt very overwhelmed and very thankful that I had the opportunity to be one of the runners to compete in this race. The music playing was “we are ready” which made my heart pound and tears come to my eyes.
The first 3 miles of the race were completely uphill on an asphalt road! We took this easy with a race/walk pace as we knew that we needed to save our legs. After this we were on the wall. I am not sure of the exact number of steps but I think there are 2000 each way. It was definitely challenging first time over but we felt better than we thought we would upon first completion.
The next 18 miles would route us through villages where we received much needed support from the Chinese children and their families along the way. The terrain consisted of paved roads through small villages, dirt roads, and then rocky roads. At about mile 14 there was a huge uphill climb that we did not expect. The beauty of this was that after that we got to run downhill!! The rest of the way back to the wall was pretty much downhill with slight uphill’s here and there.
Again, the kids along the way made this event very special…they were there with high fives, yelling and screaming for us! It was just so cool!
Well we finally made it to mile 21 where we approached the wall for the final 5 miles! It was really amazing that the uphill climb that I had been so afraid of was really not that bad! I think the reason for this is that we had used so many different muscles throughout the day that not one specific muscle group was too strained. The biggest issue on the way back was catching my breath. I had to stop several times along the way. We had a good 3 hours to complete the marathon from here but actually accomplished this in less than 1 1/2 which included a 3 mile downhill run (the same hill we started with).
Rounding the corner into the Yin Yang Square was exhilarating! It brought tears to my eyes to know that we had just completed one of the toughest marathons we have ever been challenged with (besides Antarctica)!