The Story of The Great Wall Marathon
The story of The Great Wall Marathon began in 1998 when the founder of Albatros Travel, Søren Rasmussen, conceived a vision for The Great Wall Marathon while brainstorming new travel opportunities.
Although the idea of arranging a marathon on the Great Wall of China initially seemed too exclusive and unrealistic, Søren took on the challenge and flew to China to visit different sections of the wall with Thomas Thomsen, then Chairman of the Danish Athletics Association, and sports journalist Peter Fredberg – both avid runners. With the help of a local partner, Mr. Guo Feng, founder of Beijing’s Culturestone Event, the team from Albatros Travel identified a section of the wall that immediately felt ideal.
The Huangyaguan Great Wall – a section that winds through dramatic and lush scenery in the Tianjin Province –offered the possibility to see numerous small villages, which would enrich the view for the runners and infuse the race with some rare authenticity.
Without prior experience in organizing adventure marathons, there were more questions than answers regarding the organization of a race on the Great Wall of China. Safety had to be the first priority and a tremendous network of doctors, nurses, radio technicians, timekeepers and all-around volunteers – many of whom were former elite runners – was quickly established to set up the boundaries for the very first Great Wall Marathon.
A year after envisioning this crazy running event, Søren, Thomas and Peter joined 350 runners from Denmark at the entrance to the Great Wall of China in Huangyaguan. The runners were ready to loosen up and set their focus on the Great Wall of China. Some hours after the start signal, 292 Finishers successfully conquered the grueling marathon course!
In 2000, the race became international with runners from 8 countries. Now 20 years later, the original Great Wall Marathon sells out annually with 2,500 runners from more than 65 countries.
Although quite a bit of time has passed and The Great Wall Marathon has grown considerably, not much has changed… The course still dares runners of all experience levels and ages come to push their limits. The positive energy of like-minded running spirits continues to be one-of-a-kind. The organizational authority remains dedicated to preserving a personal, friendly atmosphere where an exceptional experience is the first priority.
To read the full story of The Great Wall Marathon by owner and founder, Søren Rasmussen, click here
The Creation of Albatros Adventure Marathons
The initial success of The Great Wall Marathon led to the creation of a new organizing authority, Albatros Adventure Marathons, which set out to unite international runners through challenges hosted in locations of exceptional natural beauty and historical significance.
During the past two decades, Albatros Adventure Marathons has planned and organized 10 different running travel events around the world – this equates to a total of over 70 events! Today, our collection includes five major, internationally-recognized marathon events, each of which are held annually: The Great Wall Marathon, The Big Five Marathon, The Petra Desert Marathon, The Polar Circle Marathon and The Bagan Temple Marathon. Similarly, new adventures are always on the horizon!