Youth dash to compete in long-distance racesBY KIM JI-HAN
Lim Young-woo, a salary man who lives in Suwon, Gyeonggi, took part in six long-distance running races last year. The 29-year-old hasn’t always been an overly athletic person; his only notable sports-related activity was playing football in college with other students. But now Lim is a devoted runner and even advocates taking part in these races.
“When I run a 10-kilometer marathon instead of a full-course marathon, I experience how happy I am when I’m running,” he said. “Without the pressure I think it’s a really good event to enjoy with your friends or lover.”
People like Lim are flocking to long-distance races as they become popular among Korea’s young. While full 42.195-kilometer [26.2-mile] marathons are seen as dramatic life events, shorter races are considered more like festivals where people pay a small attendance fee (usually around 10,000 won [$9.25] to 50,000 won) to enjoy themselves.
The “2015 New Race Seoul,” which is sponsored by New Balance, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the JoongAng Ilbo, was one race that attracted young runners. According to its organizers, it took only 45 seconds for the 20,000 spots to sell out online.
“It usually took 10 minutes or so to see the applications finalized, but now it takes less than a minute,” said Roh Woo-sung, New Balance’s running marketing team director.
The popularity of long-distance running events is increasing year after year because of youth participation. When “New Race Seoul” started in 2011, under the name “NB Marathon,” it only received applications from 5,000 people. But in just five years, this number has quadrupled.
The organizers of “Nike We Run Seoul,” which started in 2008 under the name “Human Race,” said that among its 30,000 participants, 80 percent are in their 20s or 30s.
“The portion of male to female runners was seven to three in the early days, but now it’s equal,” said Kim Tae-wan, a brand manager for Nike. “The increase of female runners is boosting this running phenomenon.”
These kinds of running events set up their courses in public spaces and offer various side activities to boost motivation. This year, the “New Race Seoul” held a donation event through E Land Foundation to help children with orthopedic disabilities. If the average record of all the participants is better than last year’s record of one hour, 10 minutes and 49 seconds, an arm band will be given to all runners.
Some long-distance running events are like games. Participants dressed as the undead race in the “Zombie Run” while the “Color Run” lures participants in with the prospect of being sprayed in multiple hues of paint while over a 5-kilometer course.
Industry insiders say that the number of short-distance marathons is likely to reach around 100,000 this year, an increase from 20,000 in 2010.
“Marathon events previously highlighted runners’ self-commitment and their own will to compete,” said Roh. “But with the young generations, it’s now becoming a cultural event where you communicate and have fun with other runners.”