Either that, or I am dead. In that case, death feels a lot like life. Which is stupid because I always thought I’d be a lot skinnier in the afterlife. Or, at least, I always thought I’d be one of those people with visible ankles.
As you may recall from my last blog post, I signed up to run a 10K race – a 10K race which just so happened to be on top of the Great Wall.
You know, that big, huge wall thingie in the middle of China? The one that was built for the express purpose of keeping hoards of marauders out of the country? The one that’s so packed full of ridiculously steep steps that even the marauders who managed to scale the side of it would see the steps and be all like, “Forget this. Let’s go invade Uzbekistan or something.”
Yep, that’s the one.
Why I thought signing up to run a 10K on top of the Wall was a good idea I’m really not sure. I mean, I like running and everything. But I also really like my knees. And I was pretty sure my knees were no match for all those steps.
Even though I did buy myself this fancy new knee brace which, as you can tell, is very high-tech because it has a name with both letters and numbers in it. It’s kind of like a computer. For my knee.I thought about dropping out or just not showing up a few times.
Like when I arrived in Beijing and found out my hotel had a breakfast buffet with an omelet bar, piles of crispy bacon and cheese platters. Especially since going to the race meant I’d have to catch a shuttle bus at 3:30 AM on Saturday morning. Which meant I’d have to miss out on the buffet and my morning allotment of cheese for the day.
I mean, I’ve been all about challenging myself this year, but willfully missing out on cheese?
That’s not really like me.But I got on the bus anyway.
Because I may be a scaredy cat, but I always try to finish what I start. Usually, of course, this motto just applies to cake.
I can’t say I was feeling too optimistic when I boarded that bus. Partly because it was 3:30 in the morning. And it’s kind of impossible to feel optimistic about anything at that hour.
Plus, everyone who got on our bus was really thin and sporty-looking and wearing those little shorty runner-type shorts – the kind of shorts that only thin, sporty, runner-type people can wear as they’re the only type of people who don’t have to worry about their thighs rubbing together too much and starting some kind of fire.
I, on the other hand, require full thigh coverage. You know, because running is hard enough. I’d really rather not burst into flames while doing it.When the bus pulled into the race site around six, I was greeted by a rather festive crowd. Everyone looked excited about the day’s activity. And not like they wanted to run away screaming.
Most of the other runners were fellow foreigners like me. Probably because Chinese people have enough common sense not to sign up for something like this.
Luckily, though, not all my fellow runners were the thin, sporty-looking, shorty-short wearing types.
There were people of all shapes and sizes and ages and athletic abilities. And outfit choices. Including one rather portly gentleman in a panda costume.
This made me feel a bit better.
And a bit like I was back in Japan, where it was perfectly acceptable to show up to a race in a full-body furry costume.As my race didn’t start for another couple hours, I decided to fit in a little light reading.
I opened the pamphlet I had received a month or so ago with my race packet that I had never read. Mind you, I had tried to read it. But the few times I had tried, I would become so overwhelmed that I would start to hyperventilate and pass out a little.
I flipped to the page with the route map on it. And that’s how I discovered that only the first two kilometers or so of the 10K race would be on the Wall. The rest of the race would be on roads – roads built for walking and driving and running and not for keeping out marauding hoards.
This made me feel even better.
Or, at least, a little bit less like I was going to die.What the course map didn’t explain, though, was that the first part of those two kilometers was on a section of the Great Wall that didn’t actually look like a wall. Or really anything too great.
It looked more like the Not-So-Great Crumbly Ledge.
Sometimes, there would be a handrail or rope to grab on to.
But usually not.
And there really wasn’t much to separate you from the steep drop off the side of the Wall. Besides, you know, all the trees.By the time we made it to the section of the Wall that actually looked like the Great Wall, we were all like, “Ooo, look at those steps! Look how sturdy and even and un-crumbly they look. And there are walls to keep us from falling off! Walls! It’s practically like a luxury hotel room up in here!”
You know you’ve had it rough when this looks easy:
I spent most of my time on the Wall drudging along slowly.
The one time I attempted to run, I promptly fell into a drainage ditch. I took this as a sign that I should take it easy.
I stopped a lot to catch my breath and stare at the view.
I chatted with the other ladies around me – fellow Americans who were also living in China.
And I took a lot of pictures. Including lots of photos of me looking really red and sweaty.And then a weird thing happened.
I actually started to enjoy myself.
It started to feel like I was on a Sunday stroll with friends – well, a Sunday stroll that involved my having to stop every few minutes to cling to the side of a wall.After our two kilometers on the Wall ended, I found myself on a wide stretch of road.
And seeing as my knees were surprisingly still functioning at that point and road was mercifully going downhill, I pumped up the Katy Perry songs on my iPod and started to run.
The road wound through tiny villages, past chicken farms and mom and pop shops. Gaggles of villagers gathered at the side of the road to stare at the sweaty foreigners running down the side of the mountain.Over two hours after I started, I finally crossed the finish line.
I can’t say I broke any records. (Unless there’s some kind of record for sweating. Because I’m pretty sure I broke that record.)
But I did get a medal.
And I totally didn’t die.
I mean, I’m pretty sure there would be a lot more cake in the afterlife. And cheese platters. And I’d totally have ankles by now if I were dead, right?Do anything you totally thought was going to kill you lately? Tell me all about it!