Last year on a whim, my community group and I decided to run the Color Run. I say run but you can hardly call what we did running. All 229 pounds of me showed up thinking I was actually going to be able to run some of it. I hadn’t run in forever and I knew I wouldn’t be able to run all of it but I was certain I would be able to run some of it. Ha! We ran a few steps but mostly we walked, splashed ourselves with color and made paint angles on the ground and it was a blast!
Although I had a lot of fun, I definitely don’t consider it an actual race. When I heard a girl at work talking about running a half marathon in Korea and how cool it was when she got her first medal in another country, my ears perked up and I thought to myself “I want a medal from another country.” I didn’t actually have a medal from my own country, but I was determined to get one while in Korea. So, with the help of another foreigner who reads Hangul much better than I do, I registered for my first 5k.
For the last few weeks I’ve been training in an attempt to be able to run the entire 5k without walking. Unfortunately, my old ankle injury decided it didn’t like all the running and started to cause me a lot of pain. I wasn’t able to train like I was hoping so I definitely wasn’t prepared to run the entire race.
Despite not being fully prepared, I woke up Saturday morning ready to take my 2 hour bus ride to Boryeong for my race. After 4 cab rides to all the wrong bus terminals in Daejeon, I finally arrived at the correct bus terminal at 6:28am to board the bus departing at 6:32am. I watched as the runners for the half marathon and 10k left to run their courses and eagerly waited to start my 5k.
Running my first race in Korea was interesting to say the least. In addition to the race medal a runner receives, typical gifts for completion include rice and seaweed. Before the start of each race, runners stretch together, and massage each other to prepare for the race. I was given the following warning from the girl who registered me, “Don’t be alarmed if people start touching you.” I’m glad her statement came with an explanation of the race massaging because I definitely would have been caught off guard. And lastly, Korean’s take theme running to a whole new level. I saw a man with pantyhose on his head carring a huge toy gun the entire length of the race and three men wearing cheetah print dresses. Anywhere other than Korea I’m pretty sure the man carrying the gun would have been arrested and held for questioning.
After we completed the race we walked to the nearby beach and jumped into the ocean with our race clothes on. In Korea, bathing suits are not allowed before summer and even during summer time, many girls wear a big baggy t-shirt to swim in due to the very modest dress code they follow in Korea.
The water was just what we needed after a race in the very humid and hot Korean weather. We came out of the water to be greeted by a group of Ajusshi’s (older Korean men) who wanted us to play a beach game with them. The game is called Jokju and can best be described as soccer volleyball. There is a low net in the middle, above the ground and you get points my serving the ball (with a kick) and kicking the ball from one side of the net to the other until someone scores. The Ajusshi’s predictably underestimated us and were very surprised by our athletic abilities. Several head butts and face plants into the sand later, we took a group picture with the men and parted ways.
It was a super great day and one I will definitely never forget.
Medal from Korea, 34 minute finish time for my first race, a dive in the ocean and beach games with random Korean men… I’d consider that a definite success for my first official race!