The Great Wall

April 19, 2013, by Robert Avery-Phipps

The Great Wall Marathon

I’m Rob, a master’s student at The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC). In May I will be taking on the Great Wall Marathon, a grueling 26-mile race along China’s most iconic structure. A marathon is challenging enough but the wall was specifically built to be inhospitable and keep foreigners out of China. With 5000 steps it certainly won’t be a walk in the park but I am up for the challenge!

I have always enjoyed running but since moving to China I have stepped up my intensity. Firstly because it is impossible for me to find a rugby club (a sport that used to be a major part of my life), simply because the Chinese don’t have a concept of what it is: “oh you mean American Football, very cool!” Secondly, because it’s a great way to explore my local area.

The Great Wall is a ‘must see’ sight in China, but I’m always embarrassed to admit to a Chinese person that I have not been: “arr you’re not a man until you have seen the Great Wall,” they say. But, when I tell them that I plan to run it they say: “No! Crazy idea, impossible, just go to look is ok!” I am looking forward to becoming a man when I get to the wall but really looking forward to the ‘crazy’ challenge ahead!

I want to raise money and awareness for Rotary International’s End Polio Now. I have been fortunate that the Rotary Club has supported me with a scholarship to enable me to study in China. Before leaving the UK I attended a meeting where I learnt about polio, an awful condition which leads to paralysis and potentially death. However, I was uplifted at the end of the meeting as thanks to unbelievable investments from the Rotary Club, the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation and many other individuals and organisations, this life-wrecking condition is almost eradicated. But, if we rest on our laurels and are not able to eradicate polio, it will become as formidable as it once was.

I became fully inspired to dedicate my run to this charity when I went on a trip with the Shanghai Rotary Club to the western Chinese city of Lanzhou to donate wheelchairs to people who had fallen foul of this horrible condition in early life. These people were genuinely delighted with the gift they had received. I naively asked one man: “what will this wheel chair enable you to do?” I didn’t really know what I was expecting as an answer but he said with a smile: “I can now go outside and feel the sunlight on my face.” This guy was literally trapped in a dingy downstairs apartment, relying on his elderly mother to carry him outside to ‘feel the sunlight’. This wheelchair perhaps was life changing for him but I left Lanzhou hoping and believing that this kind of donation will be unnecessary for future generations as it is really possible to wipe this disease off the face of the earth for good!

For the price of a coffee or beer around three children can be immunized and safe from polio for LIFE. It is a much cheaper option than providing wheelchairs for these kids! It is my aim to raise enough money to immunize 1000 children in the areas of the world where polio is still a serious threat.

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