Despite the arduous course on the iconic Great Wall of China, runners will be rewarded by the breathtaking surroundings and views. As the route leads participants through the lower valley and into the villages, onlookers will be cheering and the festive atmosphere is a real energy boost! Find out more about the race below.
Clothing and weather
The weather in May is hot and humid with temperatures reaching highs of around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). Light-coloured clothing, short-sleeve technical shirts are a good choice as sweat is not absorbed (like cotton), sun block is a must (use SPF30 or above), a running hat with visor is also advisable as it can help keep the sun out of your eyes.
For information on the route, start and finish lines, drinks stations and other course-related information, look at the course map.
The cut off time is 8 hours. All runners with a net finishing time slower than 8 hours will receive a FNT (Finished No Time) on the result list.
At 14:00 (6 hours after the last runner in wave 4 has crossed the start line) the gate leading to the wall will be closed. Marathon runners who have not reached the gate at this time will not be allowed to finish.
At 16:00 (8 hours after the last runner in wave 4 has crossed the start line) the Great Wall Marathon ends.
Runners still on the route will be picked up by a race official car and taken to the finish area.
The Great Wall Marathon takes place on the third Saturday in May every year. The next Great Wall Marathon will take place on 21 May 2016. The 2017 edition will take place on 20 May.
The Great Wall Marathon features three distances: a full marathon - 42.195km/26.2mi, a half marathon - 21.1km/13.1mi and a 8.5km/5.5mi Fun Run - a non-competitive run on the wall.
Full marathon runners must be minimum 18 years old on race day. Half marathon runners must be at least 16 years old. Fun Run participants must be at least 12 years old on race day. Fun Run participants under the age of 12 are also welcome as long as they are accompanied by a runner aged 16 or above.
Upon check-in at your hotel, you will receive a goodie bag containing your bib numbers, official race T-shirt, Runners' Guide and tickets for inspection and race days and the gala dinner. If you don't receive your goodie bag at check-in, it will be given to you on Inspection day. Local runners pick up their goodie bags at our Beijing office. Details will be provided upon registration.
A guide book containing important information about Inspection Day and Race Day will be available for all participants. The guide book also contains useful information about your stay in China. Download the Runners' Guide here. Runners will also receive a hard copy version of the guide book in their goodie bags.
On race day, a team of Danish doctors and Chinese paramedics will provide medical assistance to runners in need. The medical team reserves the right to remove any runner who is deemed unable to complete the race. Please note that all decisions made by the medical team or race officials are final.
It is possible to deposit bags with personal items for use after the race. Luggage can be stored in the designated luggage area at the Yin and Yang Square. Please mark your bag clearly with your name and bib number. To avoid unnecessary queuing on the morning of race day, please mark your luggage before entering Yin and Yang Square. Although the luggage area is manned, depositing personal belongings in the area is entirely each runner’s responsibility and the Great Wall Marathon organisers are not responsible for loss or damage of personal belongings.
Finisher photos and other race images will be available after the race.
The race officials reserve the right to change the course and other aspects of the race without advance notice. Please note that all decisions made by the race officials and/or medical team are final.
In order to sign up for the Great Wall Marathon, participants can purchase one of two marathon and holiday packages: the 6-day itinerary or the 7-day itinerary. Non China residents, register for the Great Wall Marathon marathon and holiday package. If you are a resident in China, you can purchase the race entry only without the packages. You can also sign up through one of our partner travel agents.
The deadline for 2016 registration is 21 March 2016. However, the 2015 event sold out well in advance so we advise you to book early to avoid disappointment. If you sign up after 21 March 2016, a late registration fee will apply.
Please note that if you book after 1 March 2016, the full amount (ie. not just the deposit) is payable immediately.
The Great Wall Marathon starts from the Yin and Yang square in the old Huangyaguan fortress. Immediately reaching the Jinwei Highway the route leads south for 1km, before turning left on to the Changcheng Highway. You are now on the road leading to the Great Wall entrance and have a 4km uphill climb. After 5km you meet the first of many steps and the next 3km are run on the Great Wall of China itself, including 1km around the magnificent fortress walls. Just before the 7km mark you face a 700m long section with a steep descent on the infamous “Goat Track”.
Once you’ve rounded the fortress walls and passed the 8km mark you find yourself back at the Yin & Yang Square. Fun Run runners have now completed their race and head straight to the finish line in the centre of the square. Marathon and half marathon runners can take in some energy from the spectators before heading south again following the river to the Duanzhuang village. At 13km the route crosses the river and the half marathon route now turns left to explore more of the village while the marathon route heads south towards the township of Xiaying.
At km 16 marathon runners exit Xiaying town and find themselves on the Maying Highway going east passing fields and farmland for 1.5km. Taking a sharp left turn towards the tiny Dongjiafen village, the route now heads north. The 20km mark is the beginning of a 6km long loop, passing through the village of Qingshanling. Exiting the loop section at the 26km mark, the next kilometre leads up to the Chedaoyu village with a steep ascent.
Back in Duanzhuang village the marathon route merges with the half marathon route again. Marathon runners have now passed the 29km mark while half marathon runners have 5km to the finish line. Crossing back over the river, runners follow the Jinwei Highway back north to the Yin and Yang Square. Entering the square half marathon runners go straight for the finish line while marathon runners turn right and up the steps to face the Great Wall a second time! All marathon runners who have not reached the steps leading to the wall (34km) within 6 hours of the start will not be allowed to continue.
On the fortress’ north wall, marathon runners head east crossing the bridge leading to the “Goat Track”. At the foot of the hill, just before getting off the bridge, a wrist band is handed out as proof that the wall section has in fact been run twice. Runners now climb the 700m ascent before conquering the Great Wall from west to east. Once the steps have been passed the final 5km are downhill to the Yin and Yang Square and the finish line – congratulations, you have completed the Great Wall Marathon and 5,164 historic steps!
Kilometre signs are placed at each kilometre along the route. The signs are colour coded according to the distance they represent. The signs will also indicate the equivalent distance in miles. Timing mats will be strategically placed on the route to ensure that all runners complete the distance they are registered for. There will be water stations at approximately every 4 kilometres along the route. Some stations will also serve energy drinks and bananas and provide wet sponges. Personal supplies can be deposited at selected drinks stations.
For more information, have a look at the course map.
While running on the Great Wall, please make way for faster runners and keep to the right. Please note that the route is not closed off for traffic. Although traffic is not heavy, take care when running on main roads and look out for vehicles.
Rules and regulations
Nordic walking and trekking poles are not allowed.
All three distances start and finish at the Yin and Yang Square, at the fortress at the Huanyaguang section of the Great Wall, Tianjin province. The race will start in waves with intervals of ten minutes. You will be assigned to a wave based on the running time you provided on the entry form. You must start in the wave to which you have been assigned. Runners who are assigned to separate waves but want to start together may do so by going to the wave corresponding to the higher number. Fun Run participants will start in the last wave. Final details about number of waves and start times will be announced in the runner's guidebook that will be handed out upon arrival in Beijing.
The finish line for all distances is located at the centre of the Yin and Yang Square. All runners will receive a medal after crossing the finish line. Results will be posted at Yin and Yang Square during the race. Final results will be published here. Lunch will be served at the designated area. A limited number of cold showers are available in the neighbouring courtyard of the Yin and Yang Square. Please bring your own towel if you want to shower before heading back to Beijing. A massage service is available at the entrance of the Yin and Yang Square. Your entry ticket is valid for one free massage. Coaches back to Beijing will depart from the bus parking lot from 12:00-16:30. The coaches will only leave when full.
You will receive your bib numbers in the race goodie bag. All runners will receive two bib numbers and both must be worn during the race. The large bib must be attached to the front of your body and the small one is for your back. The bib numbers are colour coded according to the distance you are running. Full marathon bibs are black. Red is for the half marathon distance and the Fun Run bibs are green. Please do not bend or fold the bibs as the timing chip inside may break. Marathon and half marathon bibs are also marked with a wave number. On race day, please go to the start wave corresponding to the wave number on your bib.
Supplies on the route
There will be water stations at approximately every 4 kilometres along the route. Some stations will also serve energy drinks and bananas. All stations provide bottled water. Marathon runners will be offered energy gel after 26km and 35km.
The Great Wall Marathon is mainly run on asphalt roads in fair condition and no special footwear is required. The wall section consists of steps of varying height, width and some steps are made of brick. Extra precaution should be taken when running this part. A few places on the wall section see no steps at all, but instead a ramp of rocks and concrete. These ramps can be slippery and extra attention must be paid to your footing! In some of the villages the surface is gravel and dirt roads.
Time taking and results
Final details about start times will be announced in the runner's guidebook that you will receive upon arrival in Beijing. The Great Wall Marathon is timed with a bib chip timing system. The cut-off time is eight hours from the start of the last wave. Further more, full marathon runners have a six hour cut-off at kilometre 32 where runners re-enter the Great Wall section of the course. All runners still on the course after eight hours will be picked up and driven to the finish line. Results will be posted at Yin and Yang Square during the race. Final results will be published on this website.