Extreme explorer, Cipla Foundation trustee and ambassador David Grier and fellow extreme athlete Andrew Stuart have passed the halfway mark of their gruelling 70-day, 4,200-kilometre journey across the Great Wall of China.
This challenge is a feat that Grier already completed in 2006 when he became one of the first people in history to run the 4,200km distance in 93 days. This time Grier has returned to take on the Wall in the opposite direction.
Stuart and Grier have taken up the challenge to create awareness for the Ignite Hope initiative, which funds and assists youth suffering with kidney disease. Grier is also a trustee and ambassador for the Cipla Miles for Smiles Foundation, which creates awareness and raises funds for Operation Smile to facilitate corrective surgery on children born with cleft lip and palates.
Over the past five years, Grier and Stuart have run more than 9,000kms, across India, the UK, Ireland, Cuba and Thailand, and also did the Man versus Beast adventure together.
Starting where the ocean meets the Great Wall in Shanhaiguan, the pair are attempting to run roughly 60 kilometres per day in order to complete this challenge on time. Every day they traverse narrow mountain paths with cavernous drops on either side, run through dark tunnels with roaring trucks as their only company, claw their way up rocky cliff faces and crumbling walls of ancient buildings, and emerge back up to the wall to reach jaw-dropping vistas. Then doing it all again the next day.
The journey has not been without challenges, according to Grier. “Things turned against us pretty early on, from weather to injuries. None of this has dampened our spirits or resolve to get to the end no matter what is thrown at us. Starting off in the mountains with the snow was extremely difficult - treacherous even. And this was part of the reason for our injuries. We needed to keep tightening shoes, which restricted our tendons and caused tendonitis.”
He explains that in addition to creating awareness and assisting youth suffering from kidney disease, Ignite Hope is also a call to action to engage with inspirational individuals to inspire the youth and reignite passion and hope in their lives. The Ignite Hope project has set up various community initiatives to educate people about kidney disease.
“One of the ways in which we are raising awareness on this adventure, is by sharing the Fresenius Medical Care WeChat Back to The Wall Program with people we meet along the way. Players accumulate daily steps as they virtually run the Great Wall,” Grier says.
“We also share text messages to promote kidney health. When the road intersects the trucking areas, the truckers take selfies with us, then we get their WeChat numbers and forward these messages. The feedback is growing as we continue and we learn how better to interact and engage with the folk that we meet. This is only the start... this journey is building momentum,” concludes Grier.
To track Grier’s progress, follow him on Twitter
. Grier’s experiences are also published on his daily blog
. To donate to the Ignite Hope initiative, please click here
. For more information on the Cipla Miles for Smiles Foundation, visit ciplafoundationsa.co.za/miles-for-smiles
. The logistics
The Back to the Wall adventure was planned by William Lindsay OBE, who was also responsible for arranging the 2006 Great Wall adventure. The fundamental difference with this adventure is that they will run the wall in the opposite direction, starting in the wintery mountains at Shanhaiguan, where parts of the wall are washed by the Bohai Sea, and will end at Juyongguan, where the 2006 event began, bringing closure to a 12-year journey.