A half marathon on the Great Wall of China!

I’m sitting in a dark hotel room in Beijing, it’s 3am in the morning and I’m wondering how on earth I ended up here. It had been easy to be cocky a year ago when it was still fun to trail run in the lush English forests. It had not seemed such a bad idea then, when I was still running three times a week. Shortly after we moved to Hong Kong. I really tried to keep the running up but the heat and the air quality made it increasingly difficult. And now here I am in a dark room, the bus to Badaling is leaving in half an hour where we are running 21 kilometers on the Great Wall of China.

It doesn’t sound that much really. I’m exited, I can do this, I tell myself… We look down on the dark lobby floor at what must be our breakfast. Spicy ham and mayo McDonalds burgers… Another cardboard box with hard boiled eggs. I take two and put in my back pack. We sleep on the bus and arrive in a freezing Badaling. The race starts at 8 o’clock. It’s steep with a 1250 meters elevation gain. My friend from England who has flown all the way here to race is suddenly and surprisingly struck by vertigo. My husband has overtaken me form the start. He is going to prove me wrong and do this insane race in under four hours. I told him he couldn’t, that it wasn’t possible. That’s his motivation. I continue on my own. It’s beautiful. And so steep… I try to run where it’s flat enough but I mostly walk. After 5k the route leads off the wall and through the future Olympic village. My feet are hurting but I have forgotten my paracetamol…I trip over and fall head first into the grit. Hands and knees are burning and bleeding but the burning is good, it takes the focus off the feet. I continue, hoping the turn around point will come soon. It feels like it never arrives. Another 5k on tarmac dodging reversing trucks and stairing building workers. Everyone finds it hard, even the proper runners who have been training it seems. It’s starting to get hot. We are back on the wall again, climbing the really steep bit back up to the top. It’s steep, so steep. I want to sit down but know if I stop I might not get up again. At the highest point it’s only about 3k left. My knees just say stop. I can’t move. It’s excruciatingly painful. I try not to cry. How am I going to get down? I can not continue walking. I see two Russian ladies that I had spoken to a little bit earlier and I ask them if they have any pain relief.

-I have medjizinj! says one of them and takes of her back pack. What kind of medicin does she have there in her camel pack? I’m in such pain and am prepared to take whatever she’s got as long as I will be able to get down and complete this race. She opens her back pack. –Tejk it, tejk wat you vant!  Oh, what shall I choose?! There are things in her back pack that would make me fly down the wall. Shall I? To my relief I spot something that looks like Russian Panadol.  Yez, yez! Tejk dem all! I pop two of them in my mouth and try to walk again but I can not continue walking normally. Like some sort of clown I start experimenting with different ways of walking. Feet weed apart, straight knees. Feet inwards. Outwatwards, feet both turned to the left, both to the right. Backwards. Big zag… Finally I find  that walking sideways with legs overlapping each other works best, hurts the least. I skip-walk sideways the rest of the way. I hear some non running tourists whisper to each other: – Why is she walking like that? – It’s probably some faster running technique, they say. I ignore them.

My husband is there, waiting for me at the finish line. He ran like a gazelle to prove me wrong and made it under 4 hours whilst I take my time, 5:45 hours to be precise and arrive at the finish line like a hobbling cow with thistles in her hoofs…

I learned two things; firstly – never tell my husband what he can or cannot do. Secondly: that long races are not for me! It’s too painful…



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