Sunday, April 28, 2013

Racing in Korea

As I briefly mentioned in a recent post I've finally found my running niche ~~ I really do think it has something to do with all the beautiful rice fields I have at my disposal, or the Kpop might have something to do with it to, although my friends believe I run on Soju fuel. Now that I've written a terribly incorrect run-on sentence (yes, i'm an English teacher) let's get to the point.  

A few weeks ago I ran my first race here in Korea, The Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon [경주 벗꽃 마라톤] with my friend Charles.  Seeing as it was only preparation for more to come [keep reading] I opted to run the 10k, leaving Charles to take care of the rest (well the half course anyway).  
Let the games begin
I knew the crowds would be ridiculous considering it was peak cherry blossom season, combine this with the marathon crew and you better get ready for some pushing. Thankfully Charles' co-teacher was also taking part in the race and volunteered to drive us out to Bomun lake (the venue for the event), thus saving us some of the pushing and shoving on the shuttle bus - and probably some extra sleep time.  I'm not exactly sure why, but the race was scheduled to start at 8 am, I would've understood if it was mid-July and we were trying to beat the heat but this really did not seem necessary mid April.  We were a bit rushed as I had to pick up my race bib that morning (mix up with my registration and deposit names) along with a million other people, thankfully we Charles spotted some familiar faces and we squeezed into the front of the line.  As I stood waiting I heard the announcements for the marathon to begin, soon followed the half marathon (both accompanied with fireworks and lots of cheering), at which point Charles left me to fend for myself.  But no worries I soon had my bib, threw our belongings in the storage area and made my way to the starting line (again with a million other people).  

I met up with some other foreigners, who oddly looked familiar (and wound up being from the same orientation as me) as we stood waiting to run. We were in a sea of Koreans as we heard the 10k starting announcement but did little moving at that point.  Turns out we were surrounded by some of the 5k participants and ultimately had to squeeze our way through to the front.  Eventually we made it to the race line and we were off - time to get those legs moving. The first half actually most of the race I felt as if I were playing frogger, or maybe tetris, as I squeeked my way between runners, walkers and even standers. Yes, there were people standing in the middle of the road taking pictures withe cherry blossom trees, selcas galore in Korea, even mid race. If I hadn't previously read blogs eluding to this scene, or was new to the quirks of Korea, I may have been a bit more than annoyed, but I've learned to take it all one step at a time, literally.  I breezed past the picture takers and continued on my way, weaving and bobbing with a little laughing thrown in.  This continued until about the 8k mark at which point the pack thinned out, I found my second wind, and hurried towards the finish line.  

I crossed the line at 1:09 but knew that this time couldn't be accurate as I was still standing in a sea of people when the race started.  Even if it had been right I was happy with it, but secretly I was hoping that i'd come in under an hour. When I could finally get to a computer and check my results it turns out I finished at 55:30, a time i'm more than happy with.  Finishing was a great feeling but my only thought at that point was, holy crap i'm thirsty, so straight to the water booths I went. After polishing off a bottle I grabbed a second, collected our belongings, took a few selcas (I admit it, i'm Korean) and went to wait for Charles at the finish line.

1:50 ~~ good work!
I was a good friend as as Charles crossed the line snapped his picture, sweat and all, but to be fair I did follow up the picture taking with a fresh water bottle for him.  After walking it off and stretching a bit we made our way to the goodie bag stations to collect our snacks and medals.  All of this for the small price of 30k, i'll take it, oh and not to mention my beautiful new race T-shirt. We hung out for a while, bumped into a few more friends and relaxed with the thousands of runners; eventually meeting back up with Charles' co-teacher who graciously drove us back to town.  Okay so maybe i'm weird but usually i'm not hungry immediately after running so I passed on the post race snacks (to be honest choco pies and more bananas didnt' sound very delicious either) but by the time we got back to Charles apartment I was starving. We eventually made our way downtown and met two of our friends who immediately recognized our hunger, I guess we were acting a bit goofy.  Within minutes I was eating some delicious bibimbap, I probably could've had a second or third if they let me, but I stopped at one.  The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the park before I caught the bus back to Gumi.

10K ~ Check!
We're so very Korean
Beautiful sunset put me to sleep on the bus ride home 

1 comment:

  1. First, almost all races start at 8:00am or will soon matter what time of the year they are. second, way to go on finishing under an hour, even though i already knew you did. Just wanted to make it official. As i read your blog i was smiling the whole time and actually giggled/chuckled a bit while reading at work because i felt the same way in my first race. It's cool to see someone go through what I did once and be able to relate with them...especially a friend like you. I am proud of you, as you know, and i look forward to your next blog about the half.