Each year, I organize an international trip to raise money for my charity, Climb For Kids. Typically, those trips have a goal of climbing some far off summit of a majestic mountain. This year I wanted to do something different. I wanted to climb, but not a mountain. For some weird reason, I had a desire to run the Great Wall Marathon in China. By now, I’m sure most of you are probably tired sick of posts about the event, however this event, just like events in past years, was incredibly special to me.
I started Climb For Kids in 2007 as a way to help other families who have to deal with fetal syndrome issues similar to the one that affected my own family. As most of you know, TTTS (twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome) was the root cause of my daughter Emma’s passing. Each year, more and more families struggle with the pain caused by this syndrome and these events are a great way to raise awareness about this disease. Money raised by each of these events goes directly to families who can’t afford the necessary treatment for TTTS and other fetal syndromes.
As the years since Emma’s death have passed, these events have taken on a more personal meaning for me. Each event provides an opportunity to physically demonstrate my love for my daughter that has passed as well as her incredible twin, Ella who is still with us. I carry the spirit of both girls with me as I try to accomplish something I really have no business attempting.
Now, I have completed two other marathons before, so I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. However, one look at the Wall told me that this was closer to mountain climbing than running. The location of this marathon was on the Huangyaguan portion of the wall in Jixian, which is unfortunately not visited by outsiders too often. This portion of the wall combs thru the mountainside with steep ladders and incredibly friendly people. The people of this area are quite poor, but will welcome you with huge smiles. The kids I met along the way reminded me of Ella and it brought me great strength.
The actual marathon route is only on the wall for about 7km, but the hills on the wall are leg killers. You start the race with a straight up 5K run to get to the top of the wall, then you follow the peaks and valleys of the wall all the way down to the fort. Once outside the fort, you are off for a nice 28K run thru wonderful villages, each with its own hilly peak. Then the runners return to the fort, to go back up the wall in the opposite direction (this is at 36km). The final stage up the wall turns everyone into zombies, but luckily my mountaineering skills were put to good use here. Slow, steady rest steps got me up the wall and down again – but my legs were on fire. It took every ounce of motivation from my past to get up the wall. It was quite reminesient of my Mont Blanc climb a few years back. I kept looking at my arms (seen above) to remind myself of the unsurmountable pain from a few years back and how the pain from this run is nothing compared to that.
As I finally finished the race, I was elated. I could barely move, but I had an amazing amount of fun for a event that caused so much physical pain.
I want to thank everyone who donated and helped us along the way. I have posted photos up on Flickr, and I may add more commentary to this event as the meaning sinks in over the next few days.