After my third marathon in 2009, I decided that I wouldn’t do any more of them. Marathons, I thought, are long, boring, expensive, and for me require too much of a focus on long-distance endurance at the expense of other aspects of fitness. Despite all this great reasoning, though, I thought the idea of running an international race on a section of the Great Wall to be too cool to pass up. And after finding out both that the ridiculously high entry price was the same for all distances, and that my little sister would of course be coming from Hunan Province to run all 26.2, I decided I might as well get the most out of my money and my pride and do the whole thing.
That was last fall. Now, after a busy spring semester with too few miles and a long week of travel with way too many, this thing was finally going to happen.
Coming from Chengde, we puzzled everybody on the train to Beijing by gathering up our belongings on the approach to Xinglongxian (‘Thriving County’), a stop in the mountains with not much around, and little evident reason for two foreigners and their baby to disembark. We had to show our tickets and explain our purpose to the attendant before she decided that it wasn’t her problem if we were trying to get ourselves lost and stuck somewhere.