Great Wall Marathon 2012: Wall Walkthrough, Acrobatic Show

Introduction and Planning
Training Schedule
Flight, Airport Transfer, Cocktail Reception
Longest Day: Wall Walkthrough, Acrobatic Show
Tianamen Square, Forbidden Palace, and Yuanlong Silk Store
Race Day and Marathon Review
Birds Nest Stadium, Summer Palace, Beijing Zoo, Gala Dinner Race Celebration, Atmosphere Bar
Pickpockets at the Beijing Zoo
Beijing Hutong Rickshaw Tour, Temple of Heaven, Peking Duck Dinner, and Hooters
Flight home and trip summary

Wall Walkthrough

This day started early around 7am. Breakfast only started at 6:30 so we didn’t have much time to eat. It was about a 2 hour drive out to the wall so it was going to be a long day.

The part of the wall we were going to was called Huangyaguan.

We arrived at the wall with many of the other runners. The only way to get into this race is through a travel company. If you live in Beijing or locally, you can just register.

Below you see a picture of the gathering area with all the other buses. MarathonTours had three buses and there must have been a dozen or more travel companies. There were thousands of runners, about 2000 marathoners and more half marathoners, even more 10k and 5k runners. There were many people doing the full or half, but companions doing the shorter races.

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So everyone entered through the entrance of the fortress. This was a long section of the wall and at the base of the wall was a fortress housing soldiers and other military personnel. The main staging area was inside the fort. This serves as the starting and finishing line for the half and full marathon. I believe the 10k also starts here as well. The 5k starts on the other end of the wall.

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After a quick introduction and pep talk about statistics of the race, everyone was released so they could walk through the wall portion of the race. Everyone had a ride up to the other side of the wall, which was about 5k away from this staging and start area. However, it was about 200m in elevation above the start line, which makes for a long, difficult, first 5k of the half/full marathons. Everyone took note of the incline of the road and most of us got pretty worried. It was steep but manageable.

Just to clarify, the full marathoners would run the first 5km up to the other side of the wall (~200m higher in elevation from the start), then go through the wall (as seen in the below pictures) and come back to the staging/start area (~5.5 miles total), then run around through the neighboring towns, then back to the staging area (~21 miles total), up the wall and back down on the other side to make it the 26.2 miles. Half marathoners would only need to go up on the wall once and finish at the staging area after 13.1 miles. Some of the slower marathons like myself could see the half marathoners running the other way.

The 5k starts on the other end of the wall and run along the wall down to the staging area for the finish. I am not sure where the 10km start but they do run up to the wall and run along the wall.

I saw the map for the 2013 and they eliminated the 5k and 10k options in favor of a 7km fun run, which seems anything but. The course consists of running up the hill, along the wall and back down to the staging area for the finish. It is definitely a great workout but hope the runners get to enjoy the view.

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Below are some pictures along the wall. There are some big elevation drops and gains. The stairs were easier than the decline/inclines as I had better footing on the stairs.

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There were a series of towers along the wall. During the race, there are some water stations near the towers. I made for a great place to rest and cool off when you were on the wall. This wasn’t much of an issue on the first time through the wall, but the second time through the wall for the full marathoners.

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Below was the narrow goat path that completes the wall section. This was a common reason why runners would have to wait to get down the wall as its mostly single file. In 2012, both half and full marathoners start at the same time in three different waves. This made for a lot of runners going through the same area so I waited about 45 minutes to get through a short section of the wall. It was unfair that the half marathoners had the full 8 hours to finish the race. There were some who skipped the wall walkthrough but decided to hold up the other runners so they could take pictures. Everyone complained about the logistics problem this was causing and I hope they change it in following years where the full marathoners start 30 minutes or an hour earlier than the half marathoners to give the full runners a chance to clear the wall. There were some full marathoners who didn’t complete the race because they ran out of time.

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There were EMTs spread out on the course. However, there are some places on the wall with limited coverage. There were many other runners at all times on the course so it would be easy to ask for assistance. Another girl with MarathonTours couldn’t continue after climbing part of the wall the second time. Her husband carried her back down towards the start. They also happened to complete an Ironman just a month ago.

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So below you can see the fortress at the base of the wall. The wall has been modified to allow a river to run past but I am sure that wasn’t part of the original wall. On the way down you will have to run around the fortress to make it back down to the staging area. On the way up you will not have to for the full marathoners.

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The last picture below is of the climb down to the start area in the beginning of the race and the climb up on the second time of the wall.

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After walking back down to the staging area, a bag lunch was served and our group left about 2 hours after to make sure everyone got down the wall and ate lunch. Even this walkthrough was strenuous so it make sure everyone who is doing the walkthrough is fit enough to walk the entire length of it, which is about 5km.

It was a long drive back to Beijing. It took about 2.5 hours and we got about an hour to rest at the hotel before going to dinner. We were under a tight timeline since we had to finish dinner and then go to the Acrobatic show at 8pm and we got back to the hotel about 5pm.

The dinner was ok. The food was already picked out for us and was served with rice and beer and soda. The restaurant was around the block from the theater so we walked over to the show.

Acrobatic Show

The show is very similar to Cirque de Soliel or rather the other way around. It was a very good show that ended with motorcycles in a small spherical cage.

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Some of us fell asleep during the show. Most of us were exhausted from the day that we just couldn’t stay awake.

The show ended around 10:30pm and we got back to the hotel about 11pm. This made for a very long day. I saw the schedule for the 2013 marathon and the first day sounds the same so be prepared for a long first day in China. The other days get easier.

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