Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The die is cast

...I've registered for the Joongang Seoul Marathon on November 7. (Incidentally, I hope that the word "die" won't come up again in the context of the race.) I will be starting, and I hope finishing, at the Olympic Stadium along with 23,999 of my closest friends.

My running's generally going along really well, considering I just cannot lose even one of the twenty pounds I need to take off to alleviate the pounding on my creaky knees. On Sunday, I ran for a solid 75 minutes, the most I've done at once since I worked myself up to 90 for awhile on St. Augustine Beach several years ago. I'm comfortably cruising at 10 minutes per mile, which is pretty slow, but two years ago I was laboring to do a half-hour at 10 1/2 to 11 per.

I tried to get my cross-country kids to enter the Bada 5K this past Saturday; I picked that one particularly because most of the races are on Sundays and Ecllid has to be in church. I'd hoped that Buyoung, Laura, and my fellow teacher Susan Kim would enter, as they had a great time at the race a month before... Buyoung wasn't interested, Ecllid forgot to enter, Laura's mom didn't send the entry fee, and Susan registered but had been under the weather, so she didn't come.

That left Hanbyel, who was so upset a month ago when she hopped on the wrong bus and missed the race, and me. Getting to the race was a trip and a half: seventeen subways stops, a transfer, and a half-mile walk. The setting was beautiful though, right along the Han River, in the shadow of the National Assembly building on the overlooking hill:
There was a huge crowd, split among the marathoners, halfers, 10Kers, and 5Kers. An actual Korean road race is just like an American one, but the intro and the outro aren't. Beforehand, thousands of runners do mass stretches to K-pop songs and cheerleaders, and at the starting line, you're exhorted to rub the shoulders and then pound the back of the person standing in front of you. (More about the outro later.)

As to the race itself, it was really pleasant, nice and cool, though so crowded on the out-and-back course that it was hard to feel really free to run. Hanbyel was really nervous, never having run more than 20 minutes at a time before, that I thought I'd better toss my idea of running as strongly as I could and coach her through it. By the second half of the race, she was too winded to talk, but I kept chattering, trying to take her mind off her discomfort, and she made it, 35:12, running all the way. At the end of the race, she wanted to die, but within a few minutes she was positively glowing; you get such a feeling of accomplishment from a new personal best! For me, it feels good to be a coach--of sorts--again.

I'm truly proud of her, especially as the race came just ten hours after the school's performance night, when she performed with the Dance Club, played the flute with the orchestra, and did the Meryl Streep role in Mamma Mia.

Afterward, we sat down by the river for a bit and opened our post-race prize packages:
To the victors go the spoils: sticky bun, peanut butter crackers, medal, and 317 dead fish. (I wish I hadn't said "spoils".)

I think I'd rather have the usual bananas, bagels, and Gatorade from an American race. A nice lady took a picture, using Hanbyel's phone, of Hanbyel and me, but the phone seems to be hors de combat. If Hanbyel manages to send me the photo, I'll post it.

Anyway, there's another race on the same spot next Sunday, and I emailed the leader of the Seoul Flyers Club, asking him to enter me in the 10K (as he offered on their Facebook page), so I'll be stepping up my distance a little. Also, I'm going to be visiting family in California in a week and a half (!) and maybe I can find a race there. Anyway, the plan is to do a 10K, then a half-marathon, then the marathon I promised myself, back in 1969, that I'd do one day.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter the Joongang Seoul Marathon.

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