I remember the farewell dinner we had after completing the Run of the Great wall of China. A group of individuals plucked from every walk of life, but now a cohesive team was there, we had been together for 5 months and we had been through a journey of a lifetime. Each person was given a chance to stand up and relate what the journey had meant to them. As each person stood up, silence fell on the room, we knew that this was going to be a massive revelation in each person’s life to date. There were such personal recollections of the journey, what it had meant to that individual left us all fighting back the tears. Every story was life changing and heart wrenching. William Lindsay (who had travelled most of the wall some 23 years prior) was responsible in putting the Chinese logistics side of the run together for us, stood up and shared his feelings on his journey along the wall and how it had changed his life, ending with a statement as he looked over to me and smiled.
“For the rest of your life, the Great Wall will always be part of you and is going to draw you back again and again ”
In the back of my mind there has been this quiet yearning to return that has grown stronger over the past few months, I think it’s been because of the magnitude of the India run that lies ahead of me, I have needed to draw some mental strength as the time has drawn closer. Then, out of the blue I received an invite to do a presentation in China from Harry De Wit the chairman of Covidien Asia. It seemed as if this was all scripted.
Flying into Beijing, there was this strange emotional feeling that overcame me. I just sat and stared out of the planes window as the familiar landscape began to rush into my mind – It was as if I had been dropped back into the run again. Then came the weirdest experience. 2 days later I joined a few members from the conference on an excursion to the wall. For years I have been dreaming of this special reunion with the wall, I could not wait. As we drove, I quietly suppressed the excitement and just stared out of the window as the city flashed past and then finally we were into the countryside, in the distance, mountains slowly climbed up out of the fields and disappeared into the haze.
The drive took about 1hour, to the area of Mutianyu. Here was a few kilometres of beautiful rehabilitated Ming wall. I got out of the car and stared up at the wall. My mind seemed to be wisped away, for a split second I was a bit overcome and confused as the journey seemed to rush back to me, as I looked up the wall it was more disbelief than anything else, I was back here, this is were it all began.
I left the group and climbed on ahead, up and up I went winding into the hills with the wall – the tourist bit ended and there was a fence that said “No Entry. Wild Wall”. I climbed through and onto the broken wall. I began to run, on into the valley, tears were now streaming down my cheeks, I was screaming inside, on I pushed, eventually I was forced to stop, the wall had crumbled away, letting out a shout of absolute exhilaration, I sat down on a pile of broken bricks, staring down the valley, I could not believe where I was and what was happening. I just felt this incredible energy flow into my body – I knew at that moment, I have the mental strength for India.