There are many things that qualify as “tough”. Jumping out of a plane, running at people trying to tackle you, university exams, but I think one excellent way to measure mental and physical toughness is by running a marathon. So I thought I would put this idea to the test. By signing up to the “hardest marathon in the world.”
The Great Wall Marathon is set outside Beijing, China, and involves runners running up and down mountains – and spending time running along one of the few man made structures you can see from space. The ancient Chinese also made every step a different size to make it harder for opposition armies…. and for future marathon runners. People all shapes and sizes gathered at 5am to attack the wall on a nice May morning. What laid ahead was 42km of torture.
My training was good with 2 weeks before running 30km out in Suzhou, China. I had been running stairs every morning for months in the 20 story apartment block. Physically I had felt prepared. Nutrition was fine and so was water intake. But a marathon is so much more than that. I can tell you now that it is such a mental battle. Demons of doubt are telling you to stop and give up. You find that your head is giving up long before your body does.
During the Marathon
I started cramping up at 31km, my body wasn’t ready for the sheer steepness and gruelling nature of the course. But I kept going. 32km mark was the last ascent of the wall, and it was like a war zone. Blood, bodies everywhere exhausted were literally willing their bodies up the steepest part of the course.
I finished the race in 6 hrs. However, I can laugh and conquer at anything now as I know what my body and mind are now capable of…
- Sign up early for discount rate
- Book your accommodation where the website says, busses leave only at those hotels at 3 am (it takes few hours to get out there)
- Get there 1 day before, because you wont sleep the night of the race (3 am wake up)
- Plan nutrition & stops (make sure to buy your power gels and energy drinks and place them at the stops you think you will need them – I did 15km & 28km – with nutrition, it’s better to have too much on the course than too little – power gels, fruits like bananas, energy drinks)
- Test your power gels in the weeks before – so many runners will get gels without trying them before, some react differently to your stomach – stomach ache, cramps, taste, etc
- Build up your volume of running gradually in training
- Include 1 long run a week
- Make sure your training includes stair running – the most neglected part is peoples ability to run down stairs – remember The Great Wall has uneven steps
- Enjoy the race