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The Great Wall Marathon
May 19, 2018 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm CST
The Great Wall Marathon
5,164 steps into history!
Since its inception in 1999, the Great Wall Marathon has become revered as one of the world’s most challenging marathons.
Run the most demanding marathon of your life along one of mankind’s greatest monuments.
Since the inaugural Great Wall Marathon in 1999, the field has grown steadily to a sellout event with 2,500 runners from over 50 nations. The Great Wall Marathon event offers three distances: A marathon, half marathon and a 8.5km Fun Run.
The Great Wall Marathon is widely considered one of the world’s most challenging marathons.
Despite the arduous course on the iconic Great Wall of China, runners will be rewarded by its breathtaking surroundings and views. As the route leads participants through the lower valley and into the villages, onlookers will be cheering and the festive atmosphere is a real energy boost!
Clothing and weather
In May, spring is in its prime with sunny, blue skies and lush, green vegetation lining the Great Wall. In recent years, the weather during The Great Wall Marathon has been somewhat unpredictable, varying from a low of 16°C/61°F to a high of 35°C/95°F. On average, the temperature is around 25°C/77°F. Rain is unusual during the race, but can occur. Be prepared for high humidity.
Light-coloured clothing, short-sleeve technical shirts are a good choice as they do not absorb sweat (like cotton, which remains wet), sun block is a must (use SPF30 or above), a running hat with visor is also advisable as it can help keep the sun out of your eyes.
There are few ways to register for The Great Wall Marathon, depending on your place of residency.
If you are not a resident of China, you can purchase one of two holiday packages, which include race entry: the 6-day itinerary or the 7-day itinerary.
The same packages are available for spectators and provide entry to Race Day and Inspection Day, as well as other activities with the runners.
If you are a resident in China, you can purchase “race entry only” without the packages. You can also sign up through one of our partner travel agents.
Registration closes for the 2018 Great Wall Marathon on 19 April 2018. After this date, no new entries will be accepted.
We advise you, however, to book early to avoid disappointment. The 2017 event sold out well in advance of the regular registration period.
If you sign up after 19 March 2018, a late registration fee of 100 USD will be applied to each person on your booking. In addition, the full amount (ie. not just the deposit) must be paid immediately.
The Great Wall Marathon features three distances:
Full marathon – 42.195km/26.2mi
Half marathon – 21.1km/13.1mi
Fun Run – 8.5km/5.5mi – a non-competitive run also on the Great Wall
The cut off time is 8 hours. All runners with a net finishing time slower than 8 hours will receive a FNT (Finished No Time) on the result list.
At 14:00 (6 hours after the last runner in wave 4 has crossed the start line) the gate leading to the wall will be closed. Marathon runners who have not reached the gate at this time will not be allowed to finish.
At 16:00 (8 hours after the last runner in wave 4 has crossed the start line) the Great Wall Marathon ends.
Runners still on the route will be picked up by a race official car and taken to the finish area.
Full marathon runners must be at least 18 years old on race day.
Half marathon runners must be at least 16 years old.
Fun Run participants must be at least 12 years old on race day.
Fun Run participants under the age of 12 are also welcome as long as they are accompanied by a runner aged 16 or above.
Upon check-in at your hotel, you will receive a goodie bag containing your bib numbers, official race T-shirt, Runners’ Guide and tickets for inspection and race days and the gala dinner. If you don’t receive your goodie bag at check-in, it will be given to you on Inspection day. Local runners pick up their goodie bags at our Beijing office. Details will be provided upon registration.
Your bib number is a tool for race directors to tell hundreds of runners apart, made of a plastic-like material, which you pin on your body. It facilitates tracking individual progress and ensuring everyone’s safety. It also serves as a memento for you to remember this unique experience.
On race day, a team of Danish doctors and Chinese paramedics will provide medical assistance to runners in need. The medical team reserves the right to remove any runner who is deemed unable to complete the race. Please note that all decisions made by the medical team or race officials are final.
It is possible to deposit bags with personal items for use after the race. Luggage can be stored in the designated luggage area at the Yin and Yang Square. Please mark your bag clearly with your name and bib number. To avoid unnecessary queuing on the morning of race day, please mark your luggage before entering Yin and Yang Square.
Although the luggage area is manned, depositing personal belongings in the area is entirely each runner’s responsibility and the Great Wall Marathon organisers are not responsible for loss or damage of personal belongings.
The Great Wall Marathon starts from the Yin and Yang square in the old Huangyaguan fortress. Immediately reaching the Jinwei Highway the route leads south for 1km, before turning left on to the Changcheng Highway. You are now on the road leading to the Great Wall entrance and have a 4km uphill climb. After 5km you meet the first of many steps and the next 3km are run on the Great Wall of China itself, including 1km around the magnificent fortress walls. Just before the 7km mark you face a 700m long section with a steep descent on the infamous “Goat Track”.
Once you’ve rounded the fortress walls and passed the 8km mark you find yourself back at the Yin & Yang Square. Fun Run runners have now completed their race and head straight to the finish line in the centre of the square. Marathon and half marathon runners can take in some energy from the cheering spectators before heading south again following the river to the Duanzhuang village. At 13km the route crosses the river and the half marathon route now turns left to explore more of the village while the marathon route heads south towards the township of Xiaying.
At km 16 marathon runners exit Xiaying town and find themselves on the Maying Highway going east passing fields and farmland for 1.5km. Taking a sharp left turn towards the tiny Dongjiafen village, the route now heads north. The 20km mark is the beginning of a 6km long loop, passing through the village of Qingshanling. Exiting the loop section at the 26km mark, the next kilometre leads up to the Chedaoyu village with a steep ascent.
Back in Duanzhuang village the marathon route merges with the half marathon route again. Marathon runners have now passed the 29km mark while half marathon runners have 5km to the finish line. Crossing back over the river, runners follow the Jinwei Highway back north to the Yin and Yang Square. Entering the square, half marathon runners go straight for the finish line while marathon runners turn right and up the steps to face the Great Wall a second time!
*All marathon runners who have not reached the steps leading to the wall (34km) within 6 hours of the start will not be allowed to continue.
On the fortress’ north wall, marathon runners head east crossing the bridge leading to the “Goat Track”. At the foot of the hill, just before getting off the bridge, a wrist band is handed out as proof that the wall section has in fact been run twice. Runners now climb the 700m ascent before conquering the Great Wall from west to east. Once the steps have been passed the final 5km are downhill to the Yin and Yang Square and the finish line – congratulations, you have completed the Great Wall Marathon and 5,164 historic steps!
Rules and regulations
Nordic walking and trekking poles are not allowed.
Supplies on the route
There will be water stations at approximately every 4 kilometres along the route. Some stations will also serve energy drinks and bananas. All stations provide bottled water. Marathon runners will be offered energy gel after 26km and 35km.
The Great Wall Marathon is mainly run on asphalt roads in fair condition and no special footwear is required. (However, remember that high-performance clothes and footwear reduce your chances of getting blisters and calluses).
The wall section consists of steps of varying height, width and some steps are made of brick. Extra precaution should be taken when running this part. A few places on the wall section see no steps at all, but instead a ramp of rocks and concrete. These ramps can be slippery and extra attention must be paid to your footing! In some of the villages the surface is gravel and dirt roads.