8 Marathon Trails in China


After several months working on logistics I can now say more about the 8 marathon trails in China. Not that I was hiding anything; it just takes a huge amount of time to set-up logistics in China in parallel of training, photography, web-design and much more behind the scene :).

Departure Date

The 8 runs are spread hundreds to thousands of miles away across China. Transportation by train and other logistics  implied a duration of one month. The weather statistics implied a departure for either spring or autumn. Some other external constrains fixed a departure early October. So I am flying to Beijing on the 26th of September.

Among millions of Chinese

When all the constrains don’t go in the same directions, you have to live with it. Anybody who knows a little about China, knows that you should not plan any travelling on the first week of October as it is the Chinese National holiday, for one week. Millions of Chinese go visiting their family. As I could not avoid it, this is a critical parameter in the planning.


Fall is one of the best season to run and travel in China. Even in this period, there are obviously some risks of rains and the temperatures may vary from near zero degree (Celsius) with strong wind on several summits to 30C.

The 8 runs

I will run mostly on great and sacred mountains. Those high locations are places of philosophy and harmony with strong presence of Buddhism and Taoism.

The great mountains refer to the most renowned mountains in Chinese history and they were the subjects of the imperial pilgrimage.

The sacred mountains have all been important destination of pilgrimage. The Chinese expression for pilgrimage is a shortened version of an expression which means:

Paying respect to the holy mountains.

As a trail runner, I am going to do so :). So, I will run on six of the most beautiful, interesting and highest of those mountains.

In addition, the plan is to complete two runs back to back on the Great Wall.

Run 1 & 2 on the Great Wall

Certainly two of the most difficult runs of the series. I will start with those two runs to get maximum daylight since they could be classified as runs with “free-ride”, little signalling, most dangerous.

As I might not be able moving to more than one stage if any during the first week of October, I decided to start as early as possible and to group the first two runs. This means, I will do my first run the day after I land in China with 10 hours travelling of and 6 hours of jet lag. And I will do the first two runs back to back.

Running on the Great Wall is something I just could not miss and those sections are symbolic for trailers. They include some short parts open to every tourist and some much more “free-ride” known as the Ox Horn Edge Wall, the Nine-Eye Tower with some very technical segments such as the Sky Stair, the Eagle Flies Facing Upward and the Beijing Knot.

Run 3: Bei Heng Shan

As soon as the first two runs are completed I move to Datong aiming for Bei Heng Shan. This great mountain has 2 summits 2016m high. Minimum declivity expected is about +/-800m. Average temperatures is 6.1C. This is one of the most important great mountains.

Run 4: Wutai Shan

Not far from Datong and Bei Heng Shan, I will continue to Tai huai and the sacred Wutai Shan. I allow me less than a week to recover from the first 3 runs and (we will figure out which one is more challenging) to go to Tai huai by any means during the Chinese national holidays.

Wutai Shan is a group of 5 summits quite appart from each other. The highest summit reaches 3058m. I aim to tick 3 of the 5 summits including the highest one. As a holy place, the valley between the summits counts a large number of temples.

Run 5: Tai Shan

Anyone climbing Tai Shan will live 100 years

One more good reason to climb Tai Shan, a very cold and windy great mountain although its top ranks 1545m. Tai Shan is said to be the first great mountain of China.

Run 6: Song Shan

Song Shan is the central great mountain. Its tallest peak named Shaoshi Shan is 1512m. This mountains covered with trails is the closest great mountain to the Shaolin Monastery, birthplace of the famous Shaolin Kung Fu martial art and of the Zen school.

Run 7: Hua Shan

Most precipitous mountain under heaven

The West great mountain, close to Xi’an is well known for its very high cliff, its vertical stairs with 6600 steps and the plank-path. There are 5 summits (the highest 2150m); I aim passing by the 5 of them after climbing at night.

Run 8: Emei Shan

South West of Chengdu, the most remote location of my 8 runs, Emei Shan is also one of the most important sacred mountains. Usually people on pilgrimage take several days to reach the summit by foot. This will definitely be a tricky run with over +3000m to climb to reach the summits between 3045m and 3099m. Crampons are advised in spring but they should not be already necessary by end of October.

The way back to Beijing is planned take place before end of October and will last 2 days by train from Chengdu direct to Beijing.


As originally planned, I hope to move from one location to the other by train. All the route and train options are already set-up. The first train tickets are already bought. But tickets can only be bough few days in advance and the demand is high, so this is still a critical point.

Other logistics

Few words on that, although there is a lot that falls into this category, including insurance, route planning, administration, accommodation, communication, clothing… I am glad I could have my visa extended to 45 days; this will now make things so much simpler and let me focus on the runs.

Why 8 marathon trails?

By the way, I have chosen the number 8 only as it is the favorite number in Chinese culture :). It brings luck and fortune. Then I realized I would have to train to complete 8 marathon trails :) in about one month! …while I had never completed more than 10km running.

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One comment on “8 Marathon Trails in China
  1. Cedric says:

    This is such an adventure! How a human mind can invent such a dream and deal with all the steps to climb the whole thing and realize the big thing. Fascinating :) Good luck with the 8 marathons Pierre! Live your dreams and enjoy! Cedric – Antibes, FR.

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