The
Great Wall
Marathon

Every step
is an original!

Marathon

Completed: 21 May 2016
The biggest challenge: 5,164 steps
The catchphrase: “Every step is an original!”

Even the craziest dream can come true. That’s what I found out when I stood at the start of one of the world’s toughest and most prestigious races.

The Great Wall Marathon involves running 42 kilometres and climbing a total of 5,164 steps, none of which are the same height. Some are the height of a brick, while others go up to knee level. Especially that part of the race was challenging for my tracker Lukáš as I had to feel every single step with my white cane.

The training paid off and the guide was not only able to make sure that I didn’t trip anywhere, but also to describe the visual beauty of the route, which is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Right from the start we were faced with a steep climb up the road. Then, when my feet first touched the Great Wall, I couldn’t believe it. At the same time, I felt awe. Slipping is a risk here, even for those who can see, and the narrowest part of the wall with its uneven surface, called the “goat path”, can accommodate one or two runners at most.

Throughout the race, we fought heat, fatigue, thirst, and ourselves; but there was nothing to do but run. Relief and shelter from the scorching sun was provided by the watchtowers and running through the villages below the wall was again made more interesting by the local people cheering us along the route.

The end of the marathon decided everything. The four-kilometre circuit with stairs that we had climbed at the start was waiting for us in the opposite direction. While many of the runners were already resting, we were still scrambling our way up, alternately grabbing railings and walls, but forging ahead. The final part of the course was downhill. “Last kilometre, finish!” I’ll never forget the thunderous cheers and the tremendous joy of having made it. It was something incredible. We crossed the finish line in a time of 5 hours 59 minutes 58 seconds.

The medal from China meant the most to me. However, I gradually realized that the experiences were much more valuable. Therefore, I decided to auction the medal, organize a lecture tour, and donate all the funds to the treatment of little Alešek who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. 

And how did a blind boy from Nový Telečkov get to run the Great Wall Marathon? I read in a magazine about Jitka Křížová, a runner who had completed the race. I approached her to listen to her story, and in the process dreamed about what it would be like… And then dismissed the thought again. A few months later, Jitka called me: “Ondra, I have an offer for you that can’t be refused.” This is proof that your dreams can come true in unexpected ways, so don’t give up on them!

I have published a book about the China Marathon, “The Great Wall through the Dark”, which you can find in my e-shop and on bookstore shelves.

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