It’s widely accepted as one of the world’s most gruelling courses - but nobody finishes the Great Wall Marathon without a smile. The achievement – regardless of finish time – is always a triumph and the medal is well earned.
This year runners faced a cold start, as icy winds whipped around YinYang Square in the old fort beside the Wall. No sooner did the sun creep down the hills to the ground than the temperature rose and just kept going, hitting close to 30degC in very short time and remaining hot for the rest of the day.
Most people run the marathon once but some have returned over its 16 years – including Dane Henrik Brandt, who hasn’t missed a year and walked the full distance this year in 7:13:19 nursing an injury that was due for an operation on his return home.
All up, 2225 finished their Great Wall Marathon, half marathon or 8km fun run – each crossing a section of the wall at least once and those in the full, crossing it twice – that’s 5164 steps in addition to the 5km run uphill at the start of the race and more steep hills further on the course.
Almost five years after two devastating earthquakes that changed the face of the city, Christchurch Airport Marathon has returned to the city centre for its 35th anniversary.
With a new race base at Christchurch's iconic Cathedral Square, runners tackled a flat, fast and spectator-friendly figure-8 course that took them on a scenic tour of quintessentially Christchurch landmarks. They ran round three sides of Hagley Park, followed the Avon River and passed by Canterbury Museum.
Everywhere earthquake effects were still visible. There was the ruined yet still magnificent Christchurch Cathedral at the Start-Finish area, the many carparks where buildings once stood and solid new buildings still under construction.
Runners started in fine but frosty weather, with temperatures barely over freezing, competing in the full or half marathon or 10km. Three further distances were offered in kids’ “mara’funs”.
Christchurch first-timers won the marathon; Australian-based Japanese runner Hiro Tanimoto took out the men’s race in 2:24:13, while Wellington’s Alice Mason won the women’s event, completing her first ever marathon in 2:45:43.
Race director Chris Cox said having the race back in the city centre had helped to boost entries back to pre-quake levels.