Having now returned from China and some months on. I apologise for the late writing on this. I thought i would just update everybody on a few things.
After what seemed a very long flight and some initial confusion around finding our guide we were finally introduced to Beijing.
Beijing was shrouded in smog on our arrival and i soon learnt that this was the norm most days of the year. Skyscrapers reached a point where they just disappeared from view and the humidity made life a little intolerable at points.
As the mysteries of China began to reveal themselves i soon realised that with a social media ban my intended daily updates to Facebook and Twitter were simply never going to happen. It is somewhat strange as the locals can access under the watchful eye but visitors can’t or so I thought and by the time I had learnt that there was in fact a way around this it was simply too late.
Beijing Olympic Park
As part of the 3 day preparation leading up to the run on the Great Wall of China we made a visit to the Beijing Olympic stadium (Birds Nest). The Olympic flame stands outside the main stadium due to the sheer size and weight, weighing in at 50 tonnes the main stadium structure would never had withstood its weight.
The Beijing Games Mascot still seems a very popular place to have your photos taken and is still a major tourist attraction some years on from the Games and World Championships. In fact the stadium has been used for a multitude of events since the games and whilst on our visit, had been used for a concert some days before, hence we couldn’t run the track.
A chill out in the stadium was called for before moving on to a wander around the grounds of the stadium.
The grounds of the Beijing Olympic stadium are vast by comparison to the London Olympic Park and you can either walk it or hire a golf buggy type tourist ride which on reflection may be a good way of getting around this site if you are not in walking mode.
It was very apparent from my experience on this first trip out of our hotel that disabled people are never seen in public in China, which considering that they had already experienced the Paralympics in their own city kind of surprised me.
Maybe it was because I was using the running blade that I drew so much attention but then again I don’t think it was. Curious glances prompted camera’s coming out and when I think back now my legs must have been snapped more times in 4 days than ever before in my life and I definitely never saw anybody with a disability throughout the 4 days!
Tiananmen Square and the Purple Palace
A visit to Tiananmen Square and the Purple Palace or Forbidden City was an interesting insight to Chinese culture which spans many thousands of years and steeped in mysterious beliefs. To this day thousands of Chinese people come from all over the country to pay their respect and walk the palace grounds. The imperial palace was once the home to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties spanning from mid 1300s till 1911. It was believed that the Purple Star (Polaris) was the centre of heaven and the Heavenly Emperor lived the Purple Palace on earth. It was forbidden to enter the palace without the emperors permission hence it’s second name the forbidden city and why so many now visit to see what the importance of the palace was back in the day between 1300 and 1911.
The architecture of the buildings is something to be admired considering how long they have stood. Many of these buildings for as long as The great wall of China its self.
The route to the Square is guarded on all corners and a number of check points are in place which you negotiate with your guide, whilst Chinese people undergo checks and use different routes to the same place.
If you could remove the Square and go back a few thousand years the palace would have appeared huge but sadly is dwarfed by modern day government buildings immediately before it.
Back in down town main Beijing
Transport sees a variety of formats, sizes and descriptions but the ultimate for me was this 3 wheeled trike rickshaw (Harley Davidson in disguise) fitted out with tinted windows, sunroof and chrome trim panels. They are normally seen cruising at about 5MPH. I guess it offers a little more protection than your normal trike and definitely an all weather machine. The sightseeing tour was enjoyable whilst trying to find a local bank and again a good insight into modern daily life in Beijing.
The Great Wall of China
It is indeed great and it is, one of the greatest wonders of the world. It’s not true however that it can be seen from space! But taking that away from what you are about to see and experience will leave you in wonderment of how it was every accomplished.
The first glimpse of the wall as you travel may vary and yes smog partly obscures your view but when you finally arrive you are left in no uncertainty as to the sheer size of wall.
As you draw nearer the bigger it becomes. Watch towers and miles upon miles of wall roll over every mountain top for as far as the eye can see.
What you soon realise when you start your journey is that without any doubt there are millions of steps. I counted over 39,000 going up so if you can imagine that for miles along it’s borders there are literally millions. The only trouble is they aren’t flat. They move from left to right upwards backwards some small some large and your knees and ankles will know that they have travelled by the journeys end.
I was asked to make an inpromptu speach before the race which kind of caught me off guard but all of the competitors from around the world were kind enough to cheer at the end and talk before and after the run. Runners from around the world including Texas USA, the Netherlands, Germany, Philippines and Japan among others were there to test their steel against the wall.
We run for the glory of bling or do we? The Badaling section of the wall will remain in my thoughts for many years to come, that was without doubt the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Im glad i accepted the challenge and i never have regrets as that defeats the object of the challenge of proving it can be done. By the time i reached the bottom again i can honestly say i was in a great deal of pain but worth every minute on the wall. And i must say the bling was very nice too!
At one point along the wall I finally met a local man who asked about my limb as his father was an amputee and we chatted for a while about what I was doing, I learnt that his father’s limb was an Ottobock limb as is my daily limb and that his father had met with an accident which had caused great hardship in his family as he was at the time the only one working. It was nice to know that there were indeed amputees in China and to meet someone who would talk about disability. I say that because whilst on the Everest trek the year before there was no such thing.
Again I had a number of photos taken both on the way up and on the way down and some even gave the thumbs up gesture as we passed each other and the odd waves from the children too.
Konnichiwa I remembered from my early years learning martial arts, meaning good day in Japanese. This came in handy a few times when greeted by Japanese visitors, my mistake was some assumed I then could speak Japanese by return which unfortunately ended a conversation very quickly but always a bow as sign of respect given and received.
I won’t go into detail but by the time we reached our hotel it was time for a long bath and a soak till late evening before meeting up with our group and a final meal before our flights the following morning.
China is an amazing place, the people I met were really nice, helpful and friendly and the food was fabulous. Thanks to our guide Amy the lady on the left of the picture who acted as our guide and interpreter. It was nice to meet new friends from around the world too each on a mission to take on the Great Wall of China.
Would I do it again ? You bet I would!
Special Thanks to those who made this all possible.
Dorset Orthopaedic and Matt Hughes, my limb guru @DorsetOrtho @mat_dorsetortho
Ben and Micha AABjoinary
Richard Luddington @FASTClinic
David Lloyd sports centre
The Met Bar Baker Street
And last but not least Hayley Ginn @carbonmotionuk who was my coach for this challenge.
You all made raising £7000.00 for LimbPower @limbpower and equipped 2 people with sports limbs they wouldn’t have ordinarily have received. Let the games begin for those people.
So what’s next?
Circumnavigation of Great Britain and a 5000 mile handbike/walk and more but the more has is to be agreed. Watch the space……
Well I more than anyone am surprised and a Paralympic Games dream may now be next.