You might run a mile to see the Great Wall of China - but would you run twenty-six?
On 16th May, that’s exactly what a number of thrill-seeking distance runners will set out to achieve at the Great Wall Marathon 2015.
Considered one of the world’s most challenging marathons, the course winds for over 26 miles around and on top of the Great Wall itself.
Participants will enjoy spectacular views of both stunning landscape and historical architecture, although this hilly terrain is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
If you know anybody taking part in this year’s event, take advantage of cheap international calls to China with JustCall and wish them all the best!
To celebrate this unusual event, JustCall is investigating the history of the ancient wall - and it’s role in the wonderful and many-faceted history of China.
The Great Wall of China
Although fortifications of its kind had previously existed in China, the Great Wall can largely trace its origins back to the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.
Having overcome his enemies and created a united China for the first time, the Qin dynasty rebuilt and connected many of the walls that had existed previously, creating a much larger series of fortifications. These were designed to keep groups of nomads and steppe tribes - many of whom hailed from Mongolia to the north - out of Chinese territory.
These fortifications were gradually expanded and reconstructed by a series of different rulers, with the most prolific builders being the famous Ming dynasty. Unfortunately for the Ming - and contrary to popular belief - the Great Wall rarely kept invading armies out of China. The Ming dynasty found this out to its cost in 1644, when the Manchu army marched through the Shanhai Pass to conquer Beijing and begin Qing rule in China.
The Great Wall did however become a symbol of Chinese power in Eastern Asia, and made quite the impression upon the first Europeans to lay eyes upon it - with some exaggerated accounts claiming the wall to be so large it would be visible from the Moon, a misnomer that is still commonly believed today.
The Great Wall Marathon
The Great Wall Marathon itself begins in the Huangyaguan Fortress to the northeast of Beijing, winding around villages, goat tracks, and the wall itself over the duration of its 26.2 mile course. The weather is often extremely humid, and temperatures can reach around 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). With steep climbs and varying surfaces, this route tests even the most experienced of marathon runners - especially because it features 5,164 of the Great Wall’s historic steps!
At its highest point, the marathon reaches nearly 500 metres in altitude, and in such humidity it’s no surprise that a team of trained doctors are always on hand to help out any runner who gets into difficulty.
If that doesn’t discourage you though, then the date for the 2016 Great Wall Marathon is 21st May - and to help out, here are JustCall’s marathon tips for beginners:
Clothing is crucial: Many a marathon has been ruined by the wrong choice of clothing. Light fabrics that do not absorb sweat are the best way to stay comfortable and as cool as possible.
Stay hydrated: Drinking on the run replaces body fluids, carbohydrates, and electrolytes and is vital for your own safety.
Get some breakfast: Even if you’re not hungry, eating breakfast a couple of hours before setting off can be hugely important to a successful marathon. Toast and a banana is a particularly good way of fuelling your body for the task ahead.
Get in the zone: Whether it’s simply finishing the race or achieving a set time, have a goal and try to reach it. Dealing with mental fatigue can be as challenging as physical exhaustion during a race, so being mentally prepared and having a goal to aspire to ca be a huge boost.
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