China Adventures: Pre-Race
This past May, my friend Jessica and I took a trip to Beijing to run the Great Wall Marathon. The race is put on by Albatros Adventure Marathons and is considered one of the toughest marathons in the world. To run the marathon you have to purchase a six or seven day package that includes hotels, meals, transportation and optional excursions along with the race registration. We chose to go with the six day package.
We departed Seoul May 17th on a two-hour, non-stop flight to Beijing. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a member of Albatros Travel and taken to our hotel.
After checking into our hotel we had the rest of the afternoon to explore on our own. We walked a few blocks over to a shopping area and grabbed some lunch before catching a taxi to the Temple of Heaven. The Emperors of the Qing and Ming dynasties would visit the temple grounds and pray to Heaven for a good harvest. The complex was constructed in the early 1400’s but wasn’t given the name Temple of Heaven until the 16th century. The area is now a 267-hectare park full of beautiful architecture and stunning landscapes.
After spending a couple of hours exploring the Temple of Heaven grounds, we grabbed a bite to eat for dinner and called it an early night.
We woke up early the next morning and grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel before catching our bus to the Great Wall. The portion of the wall that we were going to be running on was about a 4 hour drive from Beijing. We made one stop along the way to use the restroom (squatty potty) and grab snacks.
Once we arrived at the race site we were able to walk the 3.5km of the Huangyaguan section of the wall that we would soon be running (crawling) on race day.
After seeing what the wall was like and confirming our thoughts that we were indeed crazy for signing up for the race, we were taken to Jixian to check into a new hotel for the next few nights. We had a buffet dinner at a nearby hotel with the other runners before calling it another early night.
The next morning we woke up early for our first excursion. We made a quick stop at a market before heading to the Qing Tombs.
The Qing Tombs are located in Zunhua and house five of China’s emperors, 15 empresses as well as 136 concubines. The area stretches over 31 square miles so we walked A LOT in the HOT, HOT weather. It was neat to see but walking that much in the heat a day before the biggest race of our lives was not good for my nerves.
After the excursion we went back to our hotel and took a quick nap. I had been feeling ill before even leaving Seoul so I decided to stay in that night and order room service instead of going to the group dinner. I don’t regret my decision at all and was happy to get some extra sleep before the big day.
Our race was such a big event that I wrote about it in a second post. Click here to check it out!