I seem to have a habit of finding ways to overcome jet lag that involve strenuous activity. After today, I may have to rethink that strategy. Then again, the feeling of jet lag hasn’t even remotely entered my head, mostly because I’ve been too busy coping with other feelings.
The feeling that I came close to fainting on the Wall and risked toppling over into the abyss of Tianjin Province.
The feeling of chafing in places I didn’t know could chafe.
The feeling of being so tired I’m not even hungry or thirsty any more.
Let’s back up: I figured I could do a 10K, no problem. I mean, I used to run five miles all the time, and 10K is not that much longer than that. So I signed up for the Great Wall Marathon (10K version) with Bob, while Joanna opted for the half-marathon (“She’s a bad ass,” said Blake. And he should know.)
When we got to Huangyaguan, where the race was held, I amused myself by scoffing at all the rather, well, large individuals who had signed up to do the half-marathon and the 10K. “Next year, I’m going to do the half-marathon,” I told Bob. I started making snide remarks about the physical attributes of those strolling around in tight shorts and even tighter shirts.
This is a pattern, isn’t it? I get all full of myself only to get a comeuppance that matches the level of my pride. So today’s reward was my 10K race on the Great Wall.
I still love the Great Wall, but I’m not sure it loves me back. We started the race with a fun dash through a nearby village, where children waved and older people smiled – being entertained by the odd antics of laowai is kind of a national pastime.
Then we hit the Wall. Immediately we were faced with steps, so high and so steep that I had to do a long reach with my legs to get up to the next step. And that went on for about 4 K of climbing up and up and up. According to the website of the marathon it’s 5,164 steps. That’s about 5,000 steps too many, most of them up, if that makes any sense at all.
Anyway, I got a couple hundred steps in and felt as if I was going to faint. This happened more than once. It didn’t help that the air quality all day toggled between “very unhealthy” and “hazardous,” meaning that the beautiful vista of mountains traced by Wall was harder to see and the air had a taste.
Here’s where Bob became a hero: He grabbed my hand and pulled me for most of the rest of the 10K. I kept telling him to go on without me, but he didn’t, which almost makes up for the fact that he initially refused to buy me a beer at the end of the race, citing the almost-fainting as a reason beer might not be the best for me at that moment. Geesh. (For the record, I got my beer.)
Anyway, after the 5,164 steps, there were a few kilometers of flat, paved downhill, which we ran. I don’t have my score yet, but I think I came in first in the category of 5-foot-tall, female, 55-year-old two-time-cancer-survivor who is just off a 14-hour flight from Dulles to Beijing.