Rose O’Sullivan can.
She recently ran and finished the Great Wall Marathon even as Beijing, just a few miles down the road, furiously readied itself for the Olympic Games.
And while the men’s and women’s marathons were assigned newly paved streets in the Chinese capital, along with a last lap of the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium track, Rose’s marathon was along more ancient routes, through small villages and along a roughly three mile section of the Great Wall – twice.
The Great Wall was constructed over 2,000 years ago to keep out what the Chinese emperors of the time considered the barbarian hordes to the north.
It’s hard to imagine what the celestial ones would have made of Offaly-born Rose, and hundreds of her fellow marathoners who scampered up and down part of a wall that snakes its way along the crest of the seemingly endless line of hills that once marked China’s frontier.
Rose and her husband Cork native Mike O’Sullivan live in Harrison, NY. They had made the trip to China in part to celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary.
At the outset of the trip, Rose went for a training run in the Beijing streets but the infamous smog brought her run to a preanture end after just about five miles.
Ahead of her was a full marathon of 26.2 miles with the added sting of the Wall section that included 3,700 steps up and then down again.
It would be too much for any sane barbarian horde. But marathon runners are a determined tribe.
“I foolishly thought that running on the Wall would be a Welcome change from the constant pounding on the roads. I had done it already, how bad could it be?” said Rose.
“Well, brutal is the best way to describe it,” she added while pointing out that running down the often weather worn and uneven steps along the Wall part of the route was even harder than running up.
At the top of the steps, Rose had her pulse checked by a doctor. She was given the all clear to continue. And this she did, al the way to the end at 26 miles, 385 yards.
It was amazing, surreal,” said Rose, who has now notched up 20 marathons around the U.S. and in several other countries including Ireland.
“It was very, very tough but so rewarding,” the 57-year-old mother of five told the Echo.
And who would argue? ‘Wall’ done indeed!