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  Decaf   07 Dec 2017  Runversation: The babu who ran the Great Wall marathon

Runversation: The babu who ran the Great Wall marathon

Published : Dec 7, 2017, 2:54 am IST
Updated : Dec 7, 2017, 2:54 am IST

Vijay Mantri, an IAS officer now, says running gave him a sense of freedom as a student.

Vijay Mantri returned to running after a long gap, which he says is a meditative experience.
 Vijay Mantri returned to running after a long gap, which he says is a meditative experience.

For many people, running a marathon is a bucket list accomplishment. Amongst running communities, there are rare breeds who aren’t so much concerned with the distance they run — it’s more about where they run, who they meet and the memories they make along the way. For adventurous runners, there are dozens of epic races and routes around the world to simultaneously treat the running bug and satisfy wanderlust.

He Who Has Never Been to the Great Wall Is Not a True Man is an old Chinese saying. Ask a random sampling of people about their bucket list destinations, and virtually all of them will mention the Great Wall of China, probably near or at the top. Built more than two millennia ago to keep invaders out of the country, its main function today, ironically, seems to be to inspire people to visit China. While many come just to marvel at this astonishing feat of ancient engineering, others see the wall as a challenge to be conquered.


He was an avid runner during his childhood. Later, education and work replaced his passion for running. Vijay Mantri is now an IAS officer working for the government of India. “Running gave me a sense of freedom during those days,” says Vijay. “Due to work commitments there was a long pause and I again started running couple of years back. Running is a sport where you are with yourself throughout the run. I never feel bored while running. In fact, after I run about 15-20 km, my mind becomes meditative. It has also helped me learn the art of patience which is so necessary for success in all aspects of life. Both mind and body have unfathomable depths and we experience it when we do endurance runs.”


One of the world’s most difficult marathons, The Great Wall Marathon, gives athletes the opportunity to run through one of the most iconic monuments in history. Participants pass over thousands of stone steps and cross stunning landscapes and scenery which makes for a truly unforgettable experience. Vijay is one of the few Indians (and even from running communities across the globe) to have savoured this epic running adventure.

On his experience of running the Great Wall of China marathon, he says, “This is the toughest marathon I have run so far. The route contained more than 10,000 steps with an altitude gain of 3,000 metres. It was more like Great Wall Climbing. Certain portions of the wall slope at more than 45 degrees and require use of hands as well. But the beautiful scenery all around keeps you going.  It challenges you physically and mentally. It is one of those experiences that you will tell stories about for the rest of your life. It was a privilege to soak in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”


Just a few thousands have ever run the marathon on the Great Wall, beginning in 1999.

Run where few have ventured. Run in the breathtaking splendour of majestic locales and create your own journey through time. Make the very best of the limited time any of us have on this amazing planet.

The writer can be reached at

Tags: great wall of china, vijay mantri