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Ball Five

I’m taking over “Ball Five” for Jay this week and next. In effort to keep this column “sports” themed, I’m going write about my experience with sports. I grew up playing small town high school sports, but I would not consider myself a sport person. Instead, I am going to write about a different kind of sport. Hiking outdoors. My most recent outdoor sport included me huffing and puffing my way up a great wall. And I mean, a 13,000-mile-long wall. In May, I was fortunate enough to visit China and learn about the country’s agriculture and culture through SDSU. During our visit, we of course had to see the Great Wall of China. We drove north of Beijing to that section of the wall. Many people assume the whole wall is in one piece, but it’s actually in chunks, as it was built over the course of a thousand years. The section we were on wasn’t that big, but it went straight up. I was ready though. I had been dreaming of saying “I’ve been to the Great Wall of China,” for years. Mind you, I wasn’t in shape. We had been warned the climb would be difficult. The last time I was anywhere near being in shape was in 2013 when I played high school volleyball. It was now 2017. As we started walking up, I could see how much of a climb it was, but that didn’t faze me. The slope turned into steps, and that’s when it began to get tricky. Many steps were just a couple inches tall. But as we climbed higher and the wall got steeper, the steps got taller. At some points the steps were as tall as my knees if not taller. My legs began to burn, we all began to sweat, and temperatures were in the 90s with humidity. I also brought along my big camera in my backpack which added to my physical exertion. We took breaks, drank water, took photos, climbed some more, stopped again. Many of my fellow classmates turned around. But not I. I was going to the top. An hour and a half later of huffing, exploring each of the watch towers, and wondering how on earth the Chinese warriors climbed this wall with their full suits of armor, one other classmate and I reached tower number 12, the highest point and end of this section of wall. The view was incredible. Though the air was a bit hazy, it was all worth it. Even just realizing what we had done was incredible. We had walked on history, where soldiers climbed and fought, where the wall builders had died because their emperor ordered it. We had walked where thousands of people from across the world had walked. Plus, we got in a great workout. Between the two of us, we drank at least five bottles of water if not more. I will never forget it. I’ve always enjoyed hiking, and though this was one of the most strenuous hikes I’ve ever taken, I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had the chance. It only took a half hour to get down, but the trek was worse than going up. My legs were like jelly. At one point, my classmate asked if I wanted to let him carry my backpack for a while. I declined. The weight wasn’t too heavy. I was more afraid of my legs giving out because of exhaustion. Also, I don’t recommend running down the Great Wall of China. My classmate fell once and scraped up his knee because he went around a corner too fast. That’s the other thing. The Great Wall is not straight. Be prepared for all the weird turns and oddly sized edges. We made it though, and I’m so glad we went. Even through all of this, an old man with a traditional rice hat and a cane steadily walked the whole way up and down about the same timeframe we did. He never stopped and never broke his pace. He never used the edges for support. The real kicker? He beat us to the top. Or at least I think he did. I can’t remember, I was too busy trying to catch my breath due to my lack of athletic ability.