What marathon competition has 20,518 countable steps, 7,600 feet in elevation gain and constant exposure under the hot sun? It would be the Conquer the Wall Marathon held May 11, 2019, on the Great Wall of China. Bruce Robie, the 225th Air Defense Squadron Joint National Air Space Defense Planning Group/National Airspace Defense program manager, took on the challenge to “Conquer the Wall” and placed 10th overall.
Robie ranks this marathon as the most physical and mental endurance challenge that he’s ever accomplished. Even summiting Mount Rainier in 2016 or running a 52-mile ultra-run was not even close in comparison to this marathon, according to Robie.
The race is advertised as “an incredible experience wrought with adversity-whether that comes in the form of hot weather, the terrain underfoot, mental state, or training in preparation for the event. There are many marathons around the world that claim to be adventure marathons, yet so few live up to the title. The Conquer the Wall Marathon has no equal and is an event that separates the tourists from the adventurers."
Due to the challenging nature of this course, there were only 66 registered for the full marathon with another 150 who participated in the combined races that started simultaneously - 5K/10K/Half-marathon. By the end, only 19 registered runners (28%) of the original 66 finished the full marathon. Of the 45 who did not finish the full marathon, 33 completed the distance of a half-marathon, eight were able to complete 25K, three completed 30K and one completed 35K. There were two participants that did not finish.
Robie is an avid runner and running marathons is nothing new to him. He trained for nearly five months to get ready for this event due to its uniqueness.
"This year, my intense training regimen put me at cardio endurance and overall strength levels that enabled me to obtain the best holistic shape of my life,” Robie explained. “I required every bit of that state of fitness in order to Conquer the Wall. I chose to go to China as a competitor in one of the world’s toughest races, rather than a tourist looking to throw in a fun run. Train hard, go large or stay home. My training milestones were on point and I exceeded all my training goals leading up to this event.”
To put it all in perspective, two weeks after returning from China, Robie raced a local 50K (31-mile) race and finished in under five hours. The Conquer the Wall Marathon took him over 9.5 hours to complete “because of the constant climbing and steep, unsafe declines,” he explained.
In the end, Robie was rewarded with a 10th place finish overall. He placed 9th in the men’s category and 1st in the 50-59 age group. He was the oldest runner to finish the full marathon.
Not to rest on his laurels, Robie is out early in the morning training on McChord Field for his next race, the 93-mile Wonderland Trail. This race circumnavigates the 14,411 foot Mt. Rainier National Park. Robie will run the entire Wonderland Trail all the way around Mt. Rainier over the course of four days August 6-9, 2019.