Spring races are afootIt’s about aching muscles. About gasping for breath, looking within and finding more. About runner’s high. It’s about getting out in the heat, the cold, the sun, the rain and running your hardest. Or simply walking somewhere with a beautiful view. Like a city street, on Mount Namsan or along the Han River.
It’s spring (almost), and this is the time for running, registering for spring races and joining running clubs.
All you need are your feet and comfortable shoes. If you’re a beginner, start slow, walk even. If you’re traveling, be sure to pack sneakers and comfortable clothes. A brisk jog will help your body fight fatigue. If you’re new in town, a slow jog can be a way of getting to know the city streets or parks. If you’re training, running a personal best is always good for an extra jolt of pride.
It just goes to show, at any level, jogging is good for practically everyone. Take the president of the Seoul Marathon Club: Park Young-seok is 75, and competed in an “ultramarathon” last year. You thought a marathon ― at 42.2 kilometers ― was long. Ultramarathons begin at 50 kilometers. The one Mr. Park ran was 100 kilometers. The longest certified ultramarathon in the world is the Ultimate Ultra, a 2,092-kilometer monster held each fall in New York.
Admittedly, running can be boring. On the other hand, it’s a real mental and physical challenge. According to Lee Eui-soo, one of Korea’s top marathoners, the best part about racing is when he gets as much as he puts in. And of course, as an elite athlete, he puts in a lot. The most frustrating part is when he thinks he’s in top form, but doesn’t perform as well as expected. Mr. Lee, whose best time is 2 hours, 13 minutes, will be competing in the Dong-A Seoul International Marathon on March 16.
Sarah Gage, an amateur runner living in Korea, runs for the runner’s high, that euphoria that comes after a hard run. “And of course to stay in shape,” she adds. Ms. Gage started running because “it was the only sport that you didn’t have to try out for.” And when she feels discouraged, she finds someone to run with or finds a beautiful route.
Scott Schelter, another amateur runner living in Korea, began running in high school, all for a cute girl. “I never did get a date with Angela,” he says, “but I have a date in April with the Gyeongju half marathon.”
Read on for race schedules, training tips, local running clubs and a first person story by Steven Lee, a nonrunner.
Making every workout count
In 1986, 14-year-old Bang Sun-hee watched the Asian Games in awe. The distance runners breezed past, and in her words, “They were so cool.”
She went on to become a pro racer, winning her first distance medal in a Chosun Ilbo marathon in 1996. “I hit my dead point at 35 kilometers, but it wasn’t the first time I wanted to give up,” she recalls. “My mind said, ‘Go forward.’ My body said, ‘Slow down.’”
She won the mental battle, and has since racked up nearly 50 first-place finishes.
Bang retired from racing in 1998, but only as a contestant. She led Korea’s first official marathon clinic in 2001 in preparation for the JoongAng Ilbo marathon. Officially, there were 60 spots for the clinic. Almost 600 people applied.
These days, Bang is getting ready to publish a book called “Running Log.”
To give our readers running tips, the JoongAng Daily interviewed Bang on Monday along the Han river.
How long should someone train for a marathon?
Ideally, a year. Some people say three months. If you’re training for a marathon, it affects your lifestyle. And after all that hard work, hopefully you won’t give it all up.
A year gives you time to start a healthy lifestyle and tune your body. A half marathon (21 kilometers or 13 miles) takes six months of training; a 10K takes three to four months, and a 5K race takes one to two months.
Why do some runners wear short shorts?
At 100 meters, clothes don’t make that much of a difference in time. But for longer distances, long shorts can start to affect your pitch, or how high you kick your legs.
Do you breath through your nose or through your mouth?
Breath naturally. When you walk, you don’t think about breathing. Some people advise you to breath using only your nose, but that’s inefficient. Use both.
What’s the ideal arm posture?
Women have a tendency to swing their arms from side to side. Big people tend to stick their elbows out. For distance running, you want to conserve energy. Keep your elbows at waist level and close to your body.
What type of sneakers do you recommend?
You should train wearing cushioned running shoes. When you actually run a race, you can use sneakers with less cushioning; they usually weigh less. But I discourage amateur runners from using pro sneakers. They may weigh the least, but minimal cushioning can lead to major injuries.
What does training entail?
Not just running distances, but weight training, cross training and interval training.
Can you overtrain?
Definitely. A lot of people think if you train hard, you’ll get faster. But how you train is just as important.
Is it better to train outdoors or indoors?
It doesn’t make a huge difference, but training outdoors is better. The forward motion on a treadmill is different from a forward motion outdoors. Also, when you run outdoors, your body has to adjust to the weather, which is good training for a race.
Where are some good places to run?
By the Han River, in particular wherever there are grass or dirt courses. Seoul also has some mountain courses ― Mount Namsan, Mount Ilsa in Gangdong district, Mount Daemo in Gangnam district and parks like the Olympic Park. For circuits, try the different stadiums ― World Cup Stadium, Jamsil Stadium, Mokdong Stadium, Dongdaemun Stadium and Jangchung Stadium.
What do you say to encourage students who feel like giving up?
All the amateur runners I’ve met are in it for fun and for their health. For some pro racers, running can be a burden because they’re in it for a living. I have yet to meet an amateur runner who tells me he doesn’t want to do this anymore.
One 10K run isn’t enough to knock this sloth
I had always wondered when hell would freeze over. I guess this was the day.
Here I was at 7 a.m., on a Sunday, by the Han River in Banpo, stretching and preparing to go jogging at an hour when I normally would be climbing into bed, getting ready to go to sleep.
I was under the impression that this was supposed to be just a short run with the Seoul Marathon Club along the Han River. I had no idea that my body would be sacrificed to that devil called “fitness.” Surrounded by 50 or 60 cheerful, healthy runners, I felt like I was a steer being taken to slaughter.
While they seemed like amiable people, I knew that something sinister lurked underneath. I knew their tricks.
They wanted to make me into a poster boy for healthy living.
If they had their way, I’d be jogging at dawn, busting my body in the weight room and doing hundreds of crunches every day. But I wasn’t going down without a fight to preserve my life of sloth and gluttony.
Three ... two ... one. The group charged out of the gates and I reluctantly joined then.
As a former football player, any wrongdoing meant instant banishment to the track, so I had always viewed running as punishment. A few minutes in, my footsteps thudding on the pavement, I began to think, “Did I do something wrong? Do my editors dislike my work?”
Minute after painful minute dragged by in a tortuous manner. And right when I felt like I was about to give up, something odd happened.
I began to hear trumpets. Soft at first, but unmistakable. As they grew louder and louder, I recognized the tune, and it invigorated me. I began to pick up speed and energy.
The theme from “Rocky” blaring in my head, I weaved in and out of traffic. The song reached a frenzied crescendo as I burst free from the pack.
Imagining myself racing up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, my stride lengthened as I sprinted toward the finish. I crossed with both arms raised and began to hop around in a circle, energized after a 10-kilometer (6 mile) run.
It’s going to be Sunday in another two days, and I know exactly where I’ll be at 6:30 a.m. ― on the subway, going home from a night out, my eyes closed and the “Rocky” soundtrack playing on my headphones.
Log on to learn more about Korea’s running communities
Plug into the running community. There are clubs for couples, ultramarathon runners, social runners and more.
Web site: www.koreanultrarunners.com
More of an online community than a club, this Web site acts as a bulletin board for serious runners to share news about ultramarathons around Korea and discuss training tips.
100th Marathon Club
Web site: www.100thmarathon.com
This dedicated group requires all prospective members to finish at least one full marathon of 42 kilometers (or 26.2 miles) before joining. Members set a lifetime goal of finishing 100 full marathons. The club awards prizes to those who complete their 10th and 100th marathons.
Seoul Marathon Club
Web site: www.seoulmarathon.net
This group meets to train for upcoming marathons in Korea, especially the Seoul Marathon, which will be heading into its sixth year in 2003. This groups meets with another club, Banpo Running, at 7 a.m. every Sunday to go jogging along the Han River.
Hash House Harriers
Web site: gotothehash.net/korea.html
Self-proclaimed “drinkers with a running problem,” the rowdy, fun-loving members of the Hash House Harriers are part of an international running club that has over 1,600 chapters worldwide. There are 16 hash groups in Korea, with eight in the Seoul area. All are welcome to join.
Bubu Marathon Club
Web site: www.bubumarathon.co.kr
While running is often viewed as a solitary sport, the Bubu Marathoner Club believes otherwise. A club for couples, it views marathon running as a way to keep in shape and spend time with a loved one, crossing the finish line hand in hand.
Compiled by Steven Lee
Mountain and lake vistas
Note: Registrations close early, up to two months in advance. A good site for schedules is www.runnerskorea.com/marathon_calendar/2003_calendar.htm.
Dong-A Seoul International Marathon
March 16, 8 a.m.
Web site: marathon.donga.com
The marathon starts in the center of Seoul, at the Sejong Cultural Center, and finishes at the 1988 Olympic Stadium. Some of the world’s top athletes, including Simon Bor of Kenya and Gert Thys of South Africa, are expected.
April 13, 10 a.m.
Web site: jgmara.or.kr/english/
The cherry blossoms in this area are famous. The route takes advantage of the scenery.
Up to three runners in the full-marathon will win tickets to take part in the 2003 New York City Marathon. Up to three athletes in the half-marathon will win tickets to run in the 2003 Beijing Marathon.
Anmyeondo Flower Marathon
April 13, 9 a.m.
Web site: www.flowermarathon.com
Registration: Closes March 18
5K costs 20,000 won ($16.40), the 10K and half marathon (21K) cost 30,000 won.
The magnolias, royal azaleas and rape flowers will be in bloom when this race is held. Not only will runners be passing flowers, they’ll be able to see pine forests and the sea.
The race grab bag includes a running socks, a medal and a seaweed laver set.
The 3d Hampyeong Nabi Marathon
April 27, 10 a.m.
Web site: www.nabimarathon.com
This race runs a week before the Hampyeong Butterfly Festival, which takes place from May 3 to May 11. To commemorate Hampyeong Citizen’s Day (May 4) and the day of the race (April 27), the 54th-place finisher of the full marathon and the 427th-place finisher of the half-marathon and 10K course will also receive medals.
The 2d MBC Daejeon Marathon
May 4, 9 a.m.
Web site: www.mbcmarathon.co.kr
Registration: Closes March 14
10K, half-marathon and full-marathon cost 30,000 won
The course follows the Geum River, allowing participants to take in the beauty of the surroundings ― as well as an occasional dip in the river.
The grab bag includes a CD-ROM of images related to the marathon.
Unity in Education Marathon
May 11, 10:30 a.m.
Web site: www.kftarun.com
Registration: Closes March 31
For teachers and students, 5K costs 10,000 won, 10 K costs 20,000 won
Four days before Teacher’s Day, all educators and students are welcome to race by the Han River. Entry for the general public is an additional 10,000 won.
The grab bag includes a Coolmax running T-shirt.
The 8th Jeju Marathon Festival
June 8, 9 a.m.
Web site: www.jejumarathon.com
Registration: Closes April 30
10K costs 10,000 won, half-marathon and full-marathon cost 20,000 won
The race, beginning and ending at Jeju’s sports complex, traces a path along the beach allowing for a view of the ocean. The first three male and female elementary school finishers of the 10K race will receive prizes.
The grab bag includes a T-shirt, finishing time certificate and medal.
Compiled by Joe Yong-hee, Steven Lee
by Joe Yong-hee, Steven Lee