Wednesday, May 11, 2011

12th Hwaseong Filial Piety Marathon Competition

Me down front, barefoot
  Being associated with the military here has lots of perks. One of which is being invited to fun events like the Hwaseong Filial Piety Marathon Competition. In Korea, all races are called “marathon” (likely something is being lost in translation) so today’s race was actually a half marathon, 10K, or 5K fun run. Either way it was a stunningly beautiful (if a bit warm) day. The City of Suwon provided busses to pick us up at our base and they gave us free registration! Awesome!

       I decided to go for the 10K, which was good because I spent the three days before laid out with a head cold and definitely could not have handled a 13 mile race. Our race started with an immediate downhill, and then a long uphill. That is pretty much how it continued, uphill, downhill, long uphill, longer downhill….. I was a little worried that I would spend a lot of this race walking.

       That was okay though, this time my race was dedicated to a good friend who is battling a far more serious illness, cancer. Bruce went from being obese to a Boston Qualifier and although he never smoked, is now undergoing chemo and radiation therapy for lung and throat cancer. Life can be terribly unfair! For the 12 weeks that he will be in treatment, everyone in our close knit group is dedicating all the miles we run to Bruce to support his fight!

       The race was well run, but the water stops seemed miles apart! The fact is, over a 6 mile course, we probably had 4 or 5 stops, but it was about 70F, 15 degrees warmer than our recent daytime temps, so it felt down right HOT! I had grabbed my 10oz. hand bottle, knowing with a head cold I would need to keep sipping. It worked out really well because I was able to refill it twice and have water the whole way.

       For the most part it was an uneventful race. We ran up and down the hills, did some High-5’s, got a few comments on my feet and my Team Bruce t-shirt, but it was mostly city scape so not terribly interesting and I was totally focused on the road in front of me. I feel bad sometimes when people ask why I didn’t respond when they waved or shouted to me, but when I am running I go into my own little world and totally miss shouts and waves, even though I rarely wear headphones. I could have used music on this run though. Somewhere just past the half-way point I was really beginning to flag so I started reciting long ago memorized poetry, the effort of remembering each stanza kept me focused and moving to the rhythm of the verses.

       5.5 miles in, we turned a corner and I could see the long, long, long stream of humanity slogging up a half mile long hill. UGH! I seriously did not want to run up that hill, but I didn’t want to walk up it either. Most people were walking at this point, the really strong runners having finished 10 minutes or more prior. I focused again on the road in front of me, knowing I was way better off taking it one step at a time than looking at the top of the hill and feeling like it will never get closer. Time is so relative, 5 minutes can seem like a year, and a year can seem like 5 minutes. That half mile felt like it took me an hour!

       As I crested the hill I felt relief and my heart rate settling back down a bit, just .2 miles left to go. Then we turned the corner and the steep downhill we started on suddenly snapped back to the front of my mind. In racing, what goes down must come up and staring me in the face was the payback for my fast start. The last 2/10ths of a mile were steeper and more painful than the half mile climb before it, but at least I could see the finish line! I could also see the clock which was ticking past 55:00, better than I expected under the circumstance. My final Garmin time was 55:14.

       Looking back, I think a lot of my friend’s struggles are reflected in this race. Bruce has a long hill to climb. He understands the baby steps we need to take to gain strength in running and I know he is applying that to getting through his treatment. One step at a time, looking only a few feet ahead, not focused on the top of the hill that seems impossibly far away right now. At some point, he will turn a corner and it will look incredibly steep and scary, but at the top of the hill will be the finish line, ready to welcome a tired, but strong runner into the crowd of proud finishers who would not quit, not matter how hard it got!