Great Wall Marathon 2012: Flight, Airport Transfer, Cocktail Reception

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Introduction and Planning
Training Schedule
Flight, Airport Transfer, Cocktail Reception
Longest Day: Wall Walkthrough, Acrobatic Show
Tianamen Square, Forbidden Palace, and Yuanlong Silk Store
Race Day and Marathon Review
Birds Nest Stadium, Summer Palace, Beijing Zoo, Gala Dinner Race Celebration, Atmosphere Bar
Pickpockets at the Beijing Zoo
Beijing Hutong Rickshaw Tour, Temple of Heaven, Peking Duck Dinner, and Hooters
Flight home and trip summary

Flight:

So the flight on Air Canada was uneventful for the most part. Flew from the mini AC terminal from Boston to Toronto. When I got there, I discovered the fastest moving walkway (here is another post about it). I found the small line through customs that lets me connect to another international flight. I managed to get some lunch and used the airport’s free wifi to use facebook and surf the web. Free internet is awesome anywhere you go. As I didn’t have any elite status or fancy credit cards, I didn’t have lounge access. Back then, I just never knew what they were and didn’t miss it one bit.

Got a coach seat in the mini forward cabin, which was quiet.  Air Canada planes are nice with large screens and a USB port to charge your phone. The food was ok but the weirdest thing was that their snack was cup noodles. I hadn’t had it in a few years since college but it tasted fine. I just thought the logistics of serving cup noodles of a full coach cabin would be counter productive. Yes you save room (sort of) and effort to serve cup noodles, but you need a lot of hot water. I wasn’t sure if its better than other snack options like bread or a small sandwich.

Airport Transfer:

I managed to sleep part of the flight and landed in the early afternoon. I was still using my China visa I got for my earlier trip to Shanghai and got through customs and immigration. I walked out and found the sign for Marathon Tours. I have never met any of these people but stayed with the people holding the signs. They kept saying to wait for the shuttle to the hotel, but they didn’t say how long we had to wait. I later talked with others in the same group and I felt relieved to meet others who were part of the tour. It was also very refreshing to talk to other marathoners. I met a person who had finished all 7 continents already and ran in many prestigious races, such as in Berlin and Cuba. He has a long history with the owner of Marathon Tours.

Hotel (for 2012):

We were then corralled onto the shuttle and made our way to the Traders Hotel across the street from China World Trade Center.

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Scott was there to greet us and hand us our packets and other materials. Scott is our tour leader from Marathon Tours. I had exchanged about 30 emails before the marathon to send in the deposit, my flight details and arrange a roommate in Beijing. The three ladies that met us at the airport works for a local tour operator. Marathon Tours contracts them for the tours and handles most of the logistics of the tours while Scott overseas the entire trip and makes sure nothing goes wrong. There are also some before and after Beijing trips, and he handles the logistics between all of those trips, including airport transfers, flight arrangements, and those other tours as well. The responsibilities between the tour guides and Scott are not very clear as they often overlap. I definitely took the opportunities to talk to him about the race and previous race day conditions. The previous year in 2011, he ran the half marathon. He continued to that in 2012 and also for 2013 as well. This gives him enough time to finish the race, then tend to the other runners. He has done this marathon for at least a year if not two years before the trip in 2012 so he knew a lot about the trip.

Cocktail Reception:

The first night dinner was a good chance to meet the other runners and you quickly learn about everyone. Scott came around and sat at each of the 6 or 7 tables to introduce himself and field any questions about the tours, schedule, race, and other questions. He was definitely very approachable and made time to talk with everyone. Sometimes, its good to just sit next to him as you may learn a lot as he answer other people’s questions.

The dinner wasn’t so good for marathoners. It was a lot of fried foods and not much carbs at all. This was the theme of most of the meals there. The only night with a lot of carbs was the pasta dinner at the hotel the night before. I believe it was a little too late as you need to eat mostly carbs the entire week before. All the meals had a few large beers to share, which was nice. I am not sure if we could’ve asked for more beer but most of us wasn’t looking to get wasted a few days before a marathon.

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