1. Don’t train, but if you do–train on a StairMaster because that’s all it is.
2. Register for one distance below your typical capability. The majority of us didn’t finish the distance we registered for. The 1/2 WINNER took FOUR HOURS to finish. All of the legit runners were thinking the distances were more than a little off.
3. Get ready to wake up early. Race bus leaves from Beijing at 5am and then it’s a 2.5 hour bus ride.
4. The 1/2 mile uphill trek to the starting line does not factor into the race mileage.
5. Don’t expect the race to start on time. It was supposed to start at 8:00. It started at 8:45.
6. If the race organizers provide breakfast in the am (4am), be prepared for it to be very Chinese (noodles, banana, and a hot dog) and for there to only be enough for 1/2 of the participants.
7. Bring 30 rmb to buy a pre-race Nescafe at the Great Wall visitor’s center because there won’t be any coffee at said breakfast. (I know Nescafe typically costs 2rmb, but it’s a tourist trap and you’ll get a splitting headache if you don’t drink coffee at all).
8. Don’t tell your friend that you’ll stick together for the race…. because once it starts, you’ll get competitive and drop her in the first 15 min.
9. When you break from your friend, you can pretend your picking people off when really you’re just passing people going slower than your average pace anyways.
10. Watch out for the tourists. The race is held on a Wall section that’s not as popular, but there will still be lots of Chinese tourists there blankly watching you run (what are these crazy white people doing?). A few kids will give you high fives, but 75% won’t move out-of-the-way. Just gotta weave.
11. There are no markers along the route. Volunteers at each turning point will either tell you the correct way to go, send you in the wrong direction, contradict another volunteer’s instruction (better pick the longer option to make sure you get your distance in?), or say they don’t know which way you should go. I experienced two of the scenarios above and witnessed all of them occur several times.
12. The Great Wall’s not built to code. There will be times when all fours will be used to climb the steep, uneven stairs.
13. Race volunteers will offer you water along the way and yell, “Take it easy!”<-not normally what people yell during a race…I think they meant “Be careful!”
14. The race will go waaaay longer than planned, and you will be so hungry (not having expected the whole thing to be more climbing than running and being in the category of participants that didn’t get the provided breakfast). When you’re running and starving a couple hours in and ask a picnicking Chinese family for one tiny piece of their full loaf of bread—they won’t freaking give you one.
15. At the end of the race you will be given an un-refrigerated New Orleans Style Chicken Burger & apple pastries (huh?). But do not fear because there will also be a few boxes of Nature Valleys and Gatorades floating around.
16. Time yourself. Chips varied from being about 10-15 minutes off.
17. Realize that it’s China. Nothing ever goes as planned. Ever.
18. The view is amazing. You’ll shock yourself at how much of it you can actually get through. And it’s the Great Wall!