I did it! I ran 21km and completed The Great Wall (half) Marathon! With seven kilometres of stairs there was a lot of walking as well. Particularly one steep section that was more rocks cemented together than actual stairs.
I feel so gratified by this achievement, the result of more than just one days hard work. I have been training for months. Building up from struggling to run more than 10 minutes to being able to finish a half marathon.
How did I do this? I had help from a couple of apps, Zen Labs Fitness C25K and 13.1 and Headspace, the support of family and friends, and finding my mental strength (see my previous post on finding my strength).
I have to admit that this strength left me for a big part of the race. All that was going through my mind was “#*@! what the #*@! was I thinking? I’m a #*@! idiot for thinking this was a #*@! good idea.” (#*@! – insert expletives here.) However, I remembered the advice from Headspace’s meditation and pushed these thoughts out and instead focused on a time when I had been training and enjoyed running. It worked! Suddenly I felt free, it became easier to run. Similarly not feeling I had to run the whole time really helped. Drawing from my training with the 13.1 app I knew it would be more achievable if I allowed myself one minute walking then running for as long as I could.
So, what was it like? I compare it to childbirth. People tell you how hard it is but until you experience it for yourself, you don’t really understand what it is like.
- The worst bit – the stairs, of course. Climbing a million stairs to reach the top and see you have a billion more to go really messes with your mind.
- The best bit – the amazing views from the top of the stairs. When you have to stop to catch your breath it really helps to be able to look at the stunning scenery. And running through the villages with the locals cheering you on.
- The funniest bit – having to stop running to allow a farmer to herd his flock of sheep across your path.
When I finished the race I was relieved it was over. As I crossed the finish line I vowed never to do it again. However by the morning I was texting my family telling them that we were ALL going to do it next year, my 9 year old son included.
Inspired by two of my friends who completed the marathon (one was the first female to finish, the other completing her first marathon just 20 minutes before the eight hour cut off time), I am seriously contemplating setting my sights on the full marathon. All 42.1 km of it, including tackling the 7 km of stairs twice!