|average height is 738 meters|
|all eleven of us before the race|
We were up and about at 2:30 am on the day of the race (a Saturday) and in the bus at 3:30 to take us to Huangyaguan in Tianjin province, about two hours away from Beijing. Huangyaguan Wall is not as popular as Badaling, the portion closest to Beijing, but it is the best restored section and the most scenic. Huangyaguan (Yellow Cliff Pass) lies on a steep mountain ridge and got its name from the surrounding yellowish hills and rocks. Its average altitude is over 700 m and it stretches 42 km long with 66 watchtowers. The wall was built during the Nothern Qi Dynasty (550-557 AD) and repaired with bricks during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
It was cold at 9 degrees Centigrade when we arrived at 6ish—and foggy! We could only see a faint outline of the wall against the mountains. We walked down to Bagua Castle to the square to assemble. There were booths set up to collect bags and personal belongings; and onstage, perky aerobics instructors warmed up the crowd. Around 7am, Chinese officials in suits gave opening remarks (in Chinese - duh) and immediately after that was the gun start and we were off!
|Qi Jiguang at the entrance|
This is the famous Taipingzhai section. The path felt like a roller coaster with the steps getting steeper and steeper as it wound up through the mountains. At this point I was climbing up the steps, whose height varied from the normal step up to thigh height and the width varied from wide to narrow. There was a portion of the wall where the path changed from bricks to narrow gravel lanes, the gridlock was because we had to slow down and hang on to ropes. That or fall down the crag. In hindsight, I should have brought my trail shoes instead of runners—it could have helped make up for the fact that I wasn’t prepared for such a grueling course.
|narrow portion of the Taipingzhai section|
|rocky terrain in the village|
The path changed from asphalt on the main road and then gravel and dust. Again it was an up and down path, making me long for my trail shoes. The farmers would stop and watch and the villagers would cheer on.
|very very steep descent|
|all taped up running with Tze Yann Tan from Singapore|
I must congratulate the organizers for a well run event - well-placed visible distance markers for the different races (black for 42 km, red for 21 and green for 10); water stations every 5 km including up the mountain top; sports drinks, bananas and sponges every 10 km; gigantic baguette sandwiches with bananas, dessert and drinks at the end of the race. And, to top it all off, a free 20-minute massage before boarding the bus back to the hotel. Another warning - there are no portalets in China. I may just go back to do the full marathon or maybe opt for an equally challenging course, Athens in 2011?
|great viw of Bnlagang Mountain, the race area covers 18 watch towers|