Genghis Khan Grassland Extreme Marathon: Extreme for a Reason
    2012-07-04 11:38:26      Web Editor: Duan Xuelian
I personally came away from the Extreme Grassland Marathon with a complete newfound respect for what 42 kilometers is.

Runners head into the hills of Inner Mongolia. [Photo: Wang]

My running group friends and I loitered around the starting line. I curiously observed that hardly any of 290 runners was warming up or stretching. And then all of a sudden someone started counting down, and a gun went off.

I started out faster than I expected, carried by the momentum of the pack before I pragmatically stopped to retie my flapping shoelaces and again to pee in the bushes. The first kilometer was coming along swimmingly.

A friend showed up and we traded stories about oxygen deprivation before he got tired of me stopping to snap photos so often. That was okay; Michael was the leader of my running group and it was a given I'd never keep up with him over the long haul.

But my pace felt good. I was in the same groove as about five other runners and we unintentionally stuck together for the bulk of the race, powering up the hills before clodding down them. Every time we saw cows or sheep or horses, I would sprint ahead so I could take pictures of them with runners in the foreground. One woman later confessed she found this rather annoying. I was supposed to be racing, apparently.

Eventually, even the telephone poles disappeared from sight, and it was just us and the lilting wild grasses. Bright cumulous clouds speckled a sky much bluer than Beijing's. A few birds were seen, but many were heard, twittering away from the lush grasses. The wind in my ears was nothing less than hypnotic. I noted that the mp3 player bouncing in my pocket was unnecessary dead weight.

The meditative experience of being in nature combined with the adrenaline rush of competition is a curious combination, but when I was in it, it only felt like the state I was meant to be in.

At 27 kilometers, I felt great. The End was already in sight and I was quick to congratulate myself.

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