Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kissing sisters and kicking butt

...which is better that kicking sisters and...

It's been a lively weekend. On Friday, I went to a ballgame with my friend Bob Ellison, my only mature fellow teacher-- by that I mean he is, as I am, mature in years only. It was a tremendous hassle reserving tickets; Michelle, our school receptionist, had to call twice and spend over twenty minutes to get them for me, giving them my birthdate, phone, email, and Alien Registration Card number. But it finally worked.

The game itself was both perhaps the best game I've ever been to anywhere and, in the end, unsatisfying. It matched the two teams that share the stadium, the Doosan Bears (hooray) and LG Twins (eh). The Bears, sadly, have redesigned their uniforms, rendering my cap an instant heirloom. They also have adopted a surreal mascot... a scowling robot bear. I was watching from an entryway after returning from buying beer or using the men's room-- the two do tend to go together-- when the mascot walked up next and paused next to me. He's your typical sports mascot, but duct-tape-colored, with what are clearly supposed to be rivets holding its "plates" together.

Our beloved RoBears (isn't that a French name?) put an incredible 30 men on base and kept hitting into double plays. There was a week's worth of SportsCenter Top Ten plays all over the field, by both teams, with ten thousand impassioned fans on each side, all screaming and pounding their plastic sticks together and singing their team fight songs to the tune of Dancing Queen, It's a Small World and Pomp and Circumstance (swear to God) for them and Honey Honey and Mary Had a Little Lamb for our side. It was just an incredible game. And then it was over, a tie, the first I've ever seen. In Korea, if nobody wins in twelve innings, it's a tie. (Weirdly, in computing teams' winning percentage, it counts as a loss for both.) They say a tie is like kissing your sister, but I don't have a sister and I'm not from Mississippi anyway.

I don't remember yesterday. I do remember that nothing happened. Oh, I bought some soy milk. Not in a particularly interesting way, at that.

Today, however, I was terrific.

It was the morning of the Bundang Marathon/Half-marathon/5K, and four of our students and one of my fellow teachers, Susan Kim, planned to run the 5K. One of the students, Hanbyel, called in a panic ten minutes before start time because she just realized she'd taken the bus going in the wrong direction and she was twenty miles away. She was upset, of course, and I felt terrible for her but promised we'd find another race soon.

Things are mostly... but not entirely... the same as in American races. The worst thing is that they don't give out t-shirts; that must be against the regulations of the UN or the World Court or, certainly, God's Law for Runners. Instead, we got medals and insulated bottle holders the size of youth footballs. I want my t-shirt!

I'm also not used to the emcee shouting at the starting line, in Korean, "Wave your hands in the air!" (they did) and "Rub the shoulders of the person in front of you!" (they did) or a couple thousand marathoners doing stretches together or, especially, the weirdo walking amid the waiting runners, spraying our legs and faces with cool mist. I wish I knew the Korean for "Y'idjit, it's fifty degrees and I'm standing still in shorts... I'm not hot now!"

As for the race itself, the 5K must have had close to a thousand runners. (For all I knew, we might have had 50.) We had no idea where the course went; I kind of expected it would be in the huge park where it started. As it turned out, it went for a mile or so down an eight-lane street and then back along a path by a stream. Fortunately, it was impossible to get lost. Even for me.

I haven't run a race in six years and figured to be in worse condition than I was when I was 50. I always used to run 5K's in about 28 minutes and I was hoping against hope to do this one in 30. I'd planned to check my pace at each kilometer marker and try to do six minutes per, if I could keep it up. Well, they didn't have a 1-K or 2-K marker, and at the 3-K I realized that I'd been going a good deal faster than I'd thought. So I tried to keep up the pace, and as it turned out I actually picked it up a bit and finished in 27:10. That's faster than almost all of the two-dozen-plus 5K's I did back in Florida, 'way back in my forties, when my hair was more coal than ash and my back didn't sound like a Rice Krispies factory when I rolled over in bed.

You guys, I so rock.

I doubled back to cheer on the ladies at the finish and we all went to get the medals, wheat bread loaves, and corn tea that they had for all finishers. I had to leave without the complimentary massage :: sigh ::  and draft beer. (Now that's something that American 5K's could learn from the Koreans. I still want my damn t-shirt, though.)
After the race, from left to right: Buyoung, Susan Kim, Kara, Laura, me. I am aware that I look 
(1) scruffy, (2) pale, and (3) pear-shaped. However, in my defense, (1) I got a haircut afterward; (2) (a) It's been a long winter in long pants and long sleeves and (b) Hey, they're all Asian!; (3) (a) It's the maternity top I wore (b) The camera adds ten pounds and I had two cameras on me (c) Hey, they're all tiny! and (d) Shut up. 

Koreans all make peace signs in photos and teenage girls like to hide their faces from the camera.  Oh, and we're not lined up by finishing place... we did it, as Yogi Berra said, alphabetically by height.


Ron said...

Your 5K is an inspiration to old guys like me. This was great to read! And I still want to go to a ballgame with you. Keep me in mind for the next one!

Stephen J said...

Thanks, Ron. We are planning another 5K in a few weeks. And I'd love to go to a game with you; Jamsil Stadium has a game six nights a week and I'm always up, schedule permitting, to go.