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JOURNEYS

Raul Saldivar completed an arduous Great Wall Marathon, not for personal glory but for the love of disabled kids

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The six-day experience included climbing five to six hours for the first three days, followed by a more difficult climb. Decreased oxygen made climbers move more slowly, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. "We had a great group," Raul raves, and despite altitude sickness, all but one made it to the top. Because of his outstanding efforts more than $20,000 was raised for the children in Romania.
Two years later, his spirit of adventure again surfaced. Considering that Raul Saldivar's life goal is to visit every continent, he was intrigued by the Great Wall Marathon. However, this particular marathon not only meant getting back into a training routine, but also required 50 percent more training time than a regular marathon.

Great Wall MarathonThe Great Wall Marathon is run in a single file line, with four miles on the actual wall (these areas are not generally visited by tourists). The final portion of the race is nearly straight up, according to Saldivar, and the course encompasses over 5,000 steps. "It's considered an adventure marathon," he mentions, noting that the goal for most participants is to simply complete the race. There were checkpoints that each runner had to reach by a certain time in order to continue, and some were not able to reach the finish line. Competitors finished anywhere between three hours, 45 minutes to eight hours. Raul completed the entire race in seven hours.

"We were glad to be back home in Nebraska to see the sky, moon, sun and stars."

-Raul Saldivar

Saldivar began training in May, doing much of his work on an elliptical machine to protect his knees and back. He also worked on a stair master, and did weight lifting for toning and strength. In January, he began running thirty miles a week, which then built up to fifty miles.
"My main goal was to survive," Saldivar divulges. This marathon endeavor matched his sense of adventure with the ability to raise funds for Mosaics work in Romania and Africa. The organization solicited financial support for his effort from corporate sponsors, individuals, on-line appeals, and letters.

Saldivar joined a team consisting of runners ranging from Des Moines to South Africa. They built a strong relationship and supported one another during the race. Saldivar relayed that 1,500 individuals participated, and about 400 ran the actual marathon. They were impressed and encouraged by how children in the countryside greeted them with flowers and high fives.

Before the race, Raul and his wife spent time in China. They visited Beijing, the Forbidden City, and the Olympic site's swimmers cube and bird nest. Later, tours escorted them to jade and silk factories as well as Tiananmen Square. After the race, they explored the Terra-cotta warriors site in Xian, floated down the water on a Yangtze river cruise, visited the panda research center at Chengdu and examined the rock sculptures, including several Buddha statues nestled within the caves.

In all his endeavors, Raul credits his wife Ellen as a major supporter.

Because China heavily depends on tourism from the United States and other countries, the Saldivars felt they could travel and interact freely with others. The guides they encountered at the locations shared their personal opinions on any subject without reservation. The Saldivars tasted delicious food- although Raul mentioned the fact that, Eastern restrooms are not the greatest. Two observations from the Saldivars Eastern adventure were the massive number of people in China and the poor air quality. Raul also notes that, "We were glad to be back home in Nebraska to see the sky, moon, sun and stars."

In all his endeavors, Raul credits his wife Ellen as a major supporter. Throughout his training, whether it was accompanying him on a bike or providing water to quench his thirst, she has been right by his side. During the race, she rang cowbells (signed by the Mosaic staff) to encourage him. In a couple years, Saldivar has plans for another endeavor; whether it be hiking in New Zealand, biking across Europe, or another equally adventurous challenge, the possibilities for Raul Saldivar are endless.

-end- metroMAGAZINE


 

Jan 12, 2010 04:25 pm
 Posted by  jwinkna

That is heartwarming and touching! Mom talks about Raul a lot, now i know why! :)

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