"We’ve had rain, we’ve had sunshine, we’ve had gale force winds, and we have had blistering cold.
"But most of all we have had a good time and the spirits are high, despite the daily challenges."
David Grier and Andy Stuart, extreme adventurers, are now beyond the half-way point of their grueling 70-day, 4000 kilometer journey across the Great Wall of China.
The pair has averaged 60 kilometers a day, traversing narrow mountain paths with cavernous drops on either side, running through dark tunnels with roaring trucks as their only company, clawing their way up rocky cliff faces and crumbling walls of ancient buildings, and emerging back up to the wall to reach jaw-dropping vistas. And then doing it all again the next day.
"The greatest challenge on a run like this is usually injuries", says David in a video interview with Fresenius Medical Care direct from The Great Wall, "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."
David explains that it is the combination of this treacherous weather and injuries that has made the run even more challenging: "We've had a lot of difficult weather conditions on this journey. You can take snow and cold winds and freezing temperatures, but when they all combine, it is the worst scenario. The wind chill brings the temperature down to -12C and on top of that you're getting whipped by the wind, and then the rain, the rain ... it seeps in everywhere and kills your spirit. Your fingers go numb, your feet go dead."
So how have David and Andy overcome these challenges and what keeps them going?
David says that overcoming injury is 99 per cent mental attitude: "Most things in life are more achievable with the right mental attitude. You need that mental strength to persevere and deal with it. You then need to convince yourself to slow down, rest and recover. Any finally, you need to be disciplined to pace yourself when you go back on the road."
"When everything gets really tough I keep telling myself 'just 5 more minutes' — and it's incredible when you get through those next 5 minutes, look back and see how far you've come".
But, ultimately, it's the purpose of the run that keeps driving David and Andy forward: to raise awareness about kidney health and chronic kidney disease (CKD).
When David attended a Fresenius Medical Care conference last year, he was astounded to learn about the extent CKD in China and it opened his eyes to a problem he wasn't previously aware of.
"If I feel there's a single message that I can deliver through this journey, it's to live a healthy lifestyle", says David.
Andy echoes this: " ... the message I would like to give people is that the rewards you get from exercise are just amazing: healthy body and mind".
As they continue on the second half of their adventure, David and Andy are committed to using feedback from the people they meet to better engage with them and share messages about kidney health.
The pair take every opportunity to share Fresenius Medical Care WeChat Back to The Wall Program to people they meet along the way, where players accumulate daily steps as they virtually run the Great Wall. They 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", explains David. "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."
David and Andy went on this journey on March 28, 2018 to kick-start the "Back to the Wall — Ignite Hope of Life" campaign, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative of Fresenius Medical Care Asia Pacific.
With the vision to create a future worth living for patients worldwide, every day, Fresenius Medical Care aims to raise public awareness of good kidney health, Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and inspire hope of CKD patients through the campaign.
Along the approximately 3-month journey of the pair, Fresenius Medical Care will organize a series of activities throughout Asia Pacific to engage healthcare professionals as well as the public.
This is only the start ... this journey is building momentum.