Dealing with digging deep
Preparing for a running adventure can be an awesome journey.
And it’s a lot of fun to run and travel the world and meet like minded people.
But running for hours implies digging deep, maybe even thinking of giving up, no matter how experienced and well prepared you are. So how to deal with that?
Learn from these runners of all levels, and their adventure of the Conquer the Wall Marathon.
They share their journey including training, travel and race day experience, nutrition and gear.
Useful tips and insights for everyone who wants to run an adventure marathon, with or without stairs!
Also great training tips and advice from the race organizers:
Running on the Great Wall of China
The Conquer the Wall Marathon is the longest running international marathon on the Great Wall of China. A locally organized event held annually in May, offering a full selection of runs including a full marathon (42.2k), half marathon (21.1k), 10k and 5k distances.
There are many marathons around the world that claim to be adventure marathons, yet so few live up to the title.
The Conquer the Wall Marathon has no equal and is an event that separates the tourists from the adventurers.
It will test you like no other race.
So why do something crazy like that?
Getting out of our comfort zone makes us feel alive.
There’s no better way to boost our energy and confidence than by discovering that you’re capable of so much more than you thought possible.
David Fletcher, a sports psychologist at Loughborough University, says: “Intrinsically we have a desire to progress and advance. These records, be it Everest, the four-minute mile, putting a man on the moon, give us an indication of that advancement. It is something very fundamental to us as human beings.”
That’s all great, but how to deal with that if you’re in the middle of the race, when you feel overheated, exhausted, when our gut’s on a strike and you feel you can’t go any further?
How to prepare for the unknown
When you’re training for a destination race, a lot of things come into play.
The unknown of the terrain, climate, time zone, language and culture is what makes it an adventure.
Not really knowing what to expect can be exciting. But feeling out of control can cause serious stress.
As preparation for the Conquer the Wall Marathon, I checked the course and elevation profile and watched several videos. I had spent hours on running stairs and flat trails, strength training and I had run several ultra races.
On race day my legs were ready for 20.000 stairs, my mind was ready to endure 10 hours on my feet.
But the few miles on a so-called “flat trail; road shoes will do fine” were terrifying for a flatlander like me. I was sliding all over the steep trails of loose rock and gravel, trying to hold on trees, totally lacking control.
Why was I doing this again?
“This course is a monster, different heights of steps, uneven steps, loose rock and gravel, trees and bushes.
But the most important thing to remember is that you are out on the Great Wall of China.
Most will never see sections of Great Wall that you’ll run on,
most people are only seeing restored sections of the Great Wall,
you’ll be running in sections that are in complete ruins.”
Casey, Race organizer Conquer the Wall Marathon
Focus on what matters
After preparing for months for what might be a once in a lifetime experience, it can be very confronting to discover your mental limits and our physical potential.
“There are only so many times when we can be on our absolute best and hit a lifetime PR, so dealing with the ups and downs of sport and learning how to stay level headed is a huge lesson to be learned. Dealing with failure is one of the most difficult life lessons you can learn, but with running, fortunately or unfortunately, we have plenty of opportunities to do so,” says Steve Magness, coach and author of The Science of Running.
When I fell, and slowed down too much to make it to the next station before the next time cut-off, I could have felt like a failure. But my goal was to enjoy this unique experience from start to finish, so I decided to make and learn the most of it. I took my time to enjoy the incredible view, take pictures, talk with other runners, volunteers and spectators. And although I completed “only” 33K, I was super excited. After all, it was all good training:-)
Getting the best out of you
80% of your endurance is determined by your mental strength. “Perceived effort is essentially the body’s resistance to the mind’s will. The fitter an athlete becomes, the less resistance the body puts up. Therefore increased physical capacity is always felt,” explains Matt Fitzgerald in his book “How bad do you want it?”
Cristian was an occasional runner when he started training for his very first race. Four months later he Conquered the Wall and finished in 10th position!
“I needed to lose weight to race in the perfect condition and I have done it … I have lost about 5kg in 3 months.
I have tried to do everything possible, to run this marathon race at my best.
I feel strong after this result! I decided to run a 50k ultra in June and next year I’ll try to run the 50k Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) around the “white mountain” in the French Alps,” Cristian says. Check out his story and all other inspirational runners.
What motivates you when the going get’s tough?!
Kristupas, one of the participants of the Conquer the Wall Marathon 2017, says:
“I think social causes are an extra motivation to finish the race.
But the idea that I need to create all the campaign myself, all fundraising, it’s hard work, very hard work.
So that discouraged me for four months, to take any action.
A week before the marathon, Kristupas heard that a six-year-old child of a good friend has a very rare syndrome, where his eyes, ears and other organs are not developing. A lot of surgery is needed, which is expensive.
He thought that raising funds for the boy with their race could help, and he was right. Although he started raising money only a week before the race, the funding was successful.
And although his legs were cramping 15K into the race, his motivation kept him going and he managed to complete the race within the strict time limits.
“When it’s personal it’s a different thing: you’re more motivated right?!”, he says.
Check out his story and how you can support him and his cause.
Adventure is just around the corner:-)
As an adventure runner, I bet you love to dig deep. I don’t wanna spoil your party and take out the challenge:-)
But I can help you save precious time, and take the guessing out of your preparation!
Time that you could spend on going out there and run some trails, instead of searching for inspiring adventures, training, advice, support or motivation. Here’s how:
Find your Aventure!
>> Uncover your most favorite running adventures around the globe >>
Also published on Medium.