Going Back to China, China, China… To Get My $$ And The Great Wall Marathon

Living in China for years and being paid in RMB can be a pain. It is even more of a pain when you move out of China and want to take money with you. I am not talking thousands here (well in RMB I am) but in USD it is not ridiculous by any means.

To get what I earned those last few months,  I had to return to China. Good thing we did something crazy last year and signed up for the Great Wall Marathon I have done nothing sporty in the 4.5 years I been in China but hey this is a good idea! I am full of them. The 7th hardest marathon in the world, well at least 1/2 of it.  The timing worked well as the tax documents, one of the 5 pieces of paper I need to produce to even be considered to take my money out take 3 months to get to you. I left in January so they were ready in April. Perfect timing. The Marathon was meant to be!

It took me 2 days to get my money out. The Chinese Banks don’t like you to take money out of China so will tell you everything to prevent you from taking it out. I think they try to wear you down and hope you will just give up. I had to do this for 2 days, play their games and finally I got my money and ran! Ran the Great Wall Marathon! Well more of a hike/run/walk of the Great Wall, farms, construction, and neighboring village.  It was awesome!

The Adventure to Beijing

After a 4 hour flight delay to Beijing, how I miss traveling in China. When the airlines and airspace is owned by the same entity, you are bound for ridiculousness. Glad to see it hasn’t improved any since I left. We finally made it to Beijing and had a 3 hour car ride to the race site, in the dark now because of the flight delay, driving along a windy, mountain road. It was nice to open our eyes when the car finally stopped at the hotel.


Maybe should have kept our eyes closed. It looked like something out of a horror move, a little Chinese Horror Story Asylum like, on the grounds it even had what I swear was an incinerator. It could have also been a brothel. They had some interesting art in the room.

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It had a bed which in some places are called a board and my favorite the bathroom where you can shower and use the toilet all in one. I never like this as once you shower, any time you go into the bathroom you can either fall down, because the tile is all wet or you just make a mess because the floor is wet. How many people just give up trying to use the toilet and just go? Hmm… I didn’t bring shower shoes so don’t want to think about that.


Only 1 night and not even a night because it is that late at this point and COLD. It is Cold up on the Great Wall and daylight couldn’t come fast enough.


Isn’t that lovely.. isn’t that an incinerator?


The sign of the place we are staying at during the day


The front


Day time view of the hotel


The incinerator

Race Start Time 8AM!

One thing the race has going for it, in addition to being a clear day in Beijing with a blue sky is that the race start is 8am. Seriously, 8am none of this 5am get in your corral BS at other races, 8am. Although I was ready to go at 5am, up and out of the hotel. The hotel was also a 3 minute walk from the start. The price you pay to be close.


There it is the Great Wall!

What Is That Line?

OK the hotel is not that bad after all because in 3 minutes I can be back in my room and use the bathroom and not have to wait in this line! That is a long wait for a squatter!


The Band Played Christmas Music!

There was a band providing pre-race entertainment and motivation with Christmas tunes. OMG! I just loved it. Nothing gets you psyched to run a marathon like Rudolph and Jingle Bells. YESS! This is the greatest race ever!


The Start of the Race or As I Call It, a Chipped/Timed Hike

This is not a typical marathon/race. It is what I a chipped/timed hike. It is not about time at all, it is about finishing. We had 8 hours to finish before they cut you off. They say what your normal time is for a race, double it. I am proud to say I was less than my doubled time!


Everyone starts (half and full) by heading up, up a road and onto the Wall. You really can’t start running at this point unless you want to hurt or take yourself out early. So we walked and enjoyed the blue sky and worked on my 1st sunburn in 4.5 years of living in China. I didn’t think to put sunscreen on, why would it have been sunny? It is China?!? I was thinking doing this much breathing of polluted air was the equivalent of smoking 64 packs of cigarettes in one day and shorten my life span even more.   Silly me. Always have sunscreen.


The Wall- 5,164 Steps Into History  

Very soon, you arrive at the wall. You really can’t run it, there are a lot of steps and stairs. It is also pretty slick and dangerous in some spots.


That’s my call me shaka, presenting the Aloha State now, wearing my flowers


When you wonder which way to go on the wall, follow the directions of the volunteers, better to follow the signs with arrows that match your bib.


Volunteers working hard!

His hand gestures were helpful!

His hand gestures were helpful!

Hiking along the wall was just amazing! It was a beautiful day.  There were times there was congestion in narrow parts and uneven, and difficult. An odd thing experienced, my phone was sticky and I couldn’t figure out why.. until I realized, it was gel packs. EEWW! They were all over the railings, yuck and gross and I hate gel! I did like talking to the volunteers giving out the gels and asking in Chinese if they were delicious? A proud moment of my years of living in China, I can ask if something is delicious.

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The race folks did a nice job of having lots of water stops along the way.

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The Village, Via The Road, The Coming Soon Road and The Lettuce Fields

After you come off the wall you run along the road to get to a village. Yes, you can run at this point! The road is not closed… it is still open so you are running with traffic. Like running of the bulls, China style. Only fearful a few times. Cars would pull over as you were running, folks would take photos of you. It was a little nuts.  Before you get to the village, you go through a future highway under construction and through some farmers fields. Just in case you think you aren’t going the right way, there are signs!

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Finally you get to the quaint village where the locals are just checking out what is going on. Some collecting water bottles and the most fun were the kids! The kids would cheer you on, give high fives, say hello, offer candy, they were super sweet. If to do it again, I would bring candy to give to them! if I was a kid.. I would probably have moved the directional signs and got the runners going the wrong way. Good thing they didn’t.

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Yup a chicken checking out the racers too!

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The Finish!


We did it! It was amazing! So much fun. We finished much quicker than we thought and felt super after. Like really super. Strange as I never felt this way with other 1/2s I have done and those I trained for. I felt broke down in the past and a squat toilet would have killed me.  After the Wall, I could still walk and I used a squatter!  So weird! I credit our “training” through spinning and my weekend hiking in Hawaii and our attitude of we have nothing to prove, just to finish. That is the attitude from now on! I would do an adventure marathon again, it was so fun. I am thinking Bagan… who is with me? The running bug is back!  I will do my 1st full marathon in Hawaii. The HNL Marathon. Medals & malasadas?! I am a sucker for malasadas but it will be hard to beat Jingle Bells.


You might be wondering what is different between the Full Marathon (26.2 miles), Half Marathon (13.1 miles), and the Fun Run (5.5 miles). They all go up the wall first! There is nothing Fun about that Fun Run, it is the hardest part of the whole course. They go up the wall and done. The half goes up the wall and through the village. The Full goes up the wall, through the village, does an extended village run (to get more distance in) and since you are not there yet, goes back up the wall on the return. No thank you. Once was enough and I applaud those folks who did it. You are CRAZY and incredible, jiayou!