Lee Bong-ju will run again
The author is a reporter of the EYE Team at the JoongAng Ilbo.
He didn’t have nimble and compact movements. His upper body was slightly pulled back, and his arms were flailing unevenly. Spectators were concerned that he was already tired, but Lee Bong-ju ran to the finish line.
Lee is compared to Hwang Young-jo or Sohn Kee-jung. Sohn won the gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but he kept his head down as the country was occupied by Japan at the time. Hwang Young-jo, who is the same age as Lee, was born with a strong heart and became the hero of the Montjuic Olympic Stadium in the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games in his fourth full-course try. But Lee won a silver medal in 1996 Atlanta Olympic in his 15th full-course try. He ran in four Olympic Games until 2008 in Beijing, but the Atlanta Olympics was the only event he won a medal.
Nevertheless, Lee Bong-ju is the history of Korea’s marathon running. No one ran better or longer than Lee. He won two Asian Games in 1998 and 2002 and the Boston Marathon in 2001 and completed 41 full-course events until he turned 40. He set the Korean record of 2 hours 7 minutes and 20 second in 2000, which is yet to be broken for 21 years.
He was born with flat feet, and his feet are different sizes, which is a critical issue for a marathoner. He has learned to overcome the disadvantage and keep his own balance by running with his right foot slightly tilted out and moving his right arm more.
Some people are born with talent and achieve more even though they try less. Lazy genius certainly deserves applause. But I believe that people who overcome weakness with constant effort need louder praise.
I cannot believe the recent news of Lee’s formidable spirit. He has been suffering from dystonia musculorum deformans for a year. It is a nerve disease that results in involuntary muscle distortion. When he appeared on television, he said he was afraid he may never run again but was determined to rehabilitate. He said, “I am a little over halfway through my life. Now it’s a matter of the spirit.”
I remember Lee Bong-ju in Sydney in 2000. At the 15-kilometer mark, he bumped into another runner and fell. The other runner gave up the race. Lee got up and reached the finish line in 24th place.
He may fall, but it is his style not to give up and complete the race. It’s okay to be a bit slow. Lee Bong-ju will run again.