Whether you’re training for your first half or are a hardened multi-marathon veteran, the Great Wall Marathon is a next level experience. The race starts and ends in a fortress, winds through six small villages and consists of 5,164 steps.
At first, this may sound like an outrageous prospect, but hear me out.
Held 120km/75mi outside of Beijing in Tianjin Province, the race is far from the pollution and chaos of Beijing. Starting and ending in Huangyaguan fortress, vistas and views abound on this epic route. 2,500 runners from over 50 nations participated in 2016, and 766 finished the Marathon within its eight hour time limit.
Generally considered one of the most difficult marathons in the world, it’s more of an endurance challenge than a fast paced run. If you happen to know your marathon time, add roughly two hours, plus or minus thirty minutes, dependent on how quickly you climb the steps at mile 21 (34km)…or crawl (totally acceptable). Historically, the winners of the race have clocked in between 3:09 and 4:11, averaging 3:34 since its inauguration in 1999.
If you’re contemplating this testament to human endurance (i.e. a marathon), you’ve likely looked into registering for one. Currently, most major marathons in the United States carry a hefty registration fee ($175, $180 and $295US for Los Angeles, Boston and New York, respectively). Assuming you don’t live in the immediate area, you’ll also be covering travel, food and hotel expenses. It adds up.
The race entry fee for the Great Wall Marathon? A whopping $1,350US; however, this includes all hotels, food, and transportation for 5 days in China, as well as several tours. Based on a loose apples-to-apples comparison for a 5-day marathon trip in the U.S., it’s comparable…..and you get to run on the Great Wall of China!
Bottom line: the difference in cost is flights. Round-trip to Beijing can be anywhere from $550-1200, depending on your point of origin. Whereas, most domestic round-trip flights to major cities average $200-400.
That said, while the race takes you to Tianjin Province for two days, you also have to opportunity to visit Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and Beijing, as well as other parts of China (or Korea, Tahiti or Fiji if you book a flight on Korean Air, Air Tahiti or Fiji Airways and take advantage of their free stopovers). Oh…and you’ll visit an amazing, non-touristy part of the Great Wall AND run a race on it. All for the slight increase in the price of flights, not bad!
While we don’t normally subscribe to tours or tour packages, the logistic simplicity of this race package completely justifies it. The only thing you’re responsible for are flights and ensuring you have a visa to enter China. You can search for flights on Google Flights, and he Chinese Visa process is relatively straight forward.
So, why not make it happen and take a trip to China to run on one of the seven wonders of the modern world!