Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hi-Seoul Marathon 2011

       The weather was looking wonderful for my second ever marathon, first ever fully barefoot marathon, YAY! Low’s in the 50’s at the start and a predicted high in the low 70’s. I was up at 4am and out the door to catch the subway into Seoul by 5am. It was a long trip, first drive to base, then catch a cab to the train, then an hour and a half on the train to Seoul City Hall, thankfully there were no train changes!

       Arriving at the start, I decided it was warm enough that I didn’t need pants or socks/flip-flops to keep me warm until the gun went off so I stuffed them in my bag and headed to the bag check. I’ve read many times that Koreans can be very aggressive, but my interactions with them have always been delightfully pleasant with people standing in orderly lines to wait their turn, etc. I can’t say the same for bag check, it was like a piranha feeding frenzy! We are given plastic draw string bags and sent to stand in line for stickers so your bag has a number and you have a matching number to stick on your bib. All was fine until we got close to the start and they had run out of stickers. People were getting antsy and when some poor guy was sent out with a handful of stickers he was mobbed like something from an Argentinian Soccer game! In my attempt to get my hands on a sticker I was stepped all over (not the best time to be barefoot), shoved into a planter hard enough to leave bruises on my shins and almost had the stickers ripped out of my hands by other runners. I finally managed to get the stickers in the right places and realized I was never going to get near the truck to place my bag because of the angry mob trying to get stickers. About that time a bag went sailing over my head and into the truck so I thought, what the heck, and hurled mine over about 20 people with my fingers crossed that I would see it again at the end of the race.

       It was actually a very small marathon by Korean standards. There couldn’t have been more than a few hundred people for the full and probably less than 1,000 for the full, half, 10K and 5K combined. While waiting for the start I chatted with a few runners, including an Ironman wearing a shirt from the Gobi Desert Marathon, WOW!!! The news station covering the races came up to take shots of my feet. They panned from my face, to my bib, to my bare feet, asked me to move them up and down like I was running, and then wanted to see the bottoms, LOL.

       Finally they fired off the fireworks to signal the start and we all shuffled under the arch. Since it was a small marathon, staying at the back and not passing people didn’t give me as slow of a start as I had planned so I still ended up taking off too fast. There were no spectators or trash cans along the course so when I was finally ready to ditch my jacket, I handed it off to a very confused police man.

       My plan for gels was one every 30 minutes or so including one just before the start, for a total of 10 over the course of the marathon, but I only managed to gag down 8. It worked though, I never hit the wall as far as exhaustion or lack of glycogen. Mentally though I was feeling pretty over the whole thing by mile 20 and my hip flexors were bothering me from 15 on. I don’t know what I did wrong, but by the time I hit 20 I was in way worse shape than I was when I ran 19 or 20 for long runs and I was running slower. I suspect running slow and walking actually added to the impact and hurt me more than it helped.

       Over the 5 hours I was on the course, I talked to many people, American and Korean, and other than the debacle at the bag check I had a great time. Once the miles were into the teens I put in an ear bud and lost myself in my audio book and eventually switched over to music. At 20 miles I was feeling discouraged because I felt more tired and sore than I should have at that point. At 23 miles I was beginning to perk back up despite being about .4 over the markers for distance. That meant a 26.6 mile marathon and I was barely hanging onto my pace. By 25 I was digging deep and we were running down a freeway that was in total gridlock. Seriously, they ran us up an onramp and onto a freeway for the last mile!!! It was even packed with rush hour traffic so we were choking on exhaust fumes.

My Cheering crew, the Osan Bulgogi Hash House Harriers!

      As we exited the freeway and approached the entrance to the park where the race was to finish I began to hear cheers and whistles that meant one thing, the Hash House Harriers were waiting for me with beer!!! I’m not really a big beer drinker, but it is the best thing in the world at the end of a very long run when the thought of something sweet makes you gag and your mouth is stuck shut from breathing hard for 5 hours. They were about 100 yards before the finish line and it was close to the 5 hour cut off so I hugged a few people, downed my Dixie cup of beer and did my best to sprint for the finish line.

       My official chip time was 4:58:09, which wasn’t what I was hoping for, BUT I successfully finished before the course closed, ran the entire thing in bare feet, and as of today (Tuesday here in Korea) I am only the tiniest bit sore. So other than not setting a PR, I met the rest of my goals and will be ready to do it all again on Oct. 23rd!

Not sure why they were rearranging the mats at that moment

Epilogue: Following a marathon, the brain of a runner is not particularly sharp and decision making skills are not at their peak. Since my HHH friends were so wonderful to meet me at the finish, I decided to tag along with them to watch the start of the Hash event for the afternoon. Before I knew exactly what was going on, I was entered in a running event called The Beer Mile. Still wearing my race bib and medal, I proceeded to run one last mile on a ¼ mile track that included chugging a beer at the start of each lap. I finished the mile in 4th place (thanks to a friend that let me pass her,) and then threw up all the beer (THANK GOODNESS!) Taking tired to a whole new level, I finally managed to convince a few people that it was time to go so I could follow them back to Osan (I had no idea where I was in Seoul for the hash event.)


C. Beth said...

Yeah!!!! Sounds like a great race, Wendy! Congratulations!

Jonnifer said...

It was fun reading your race report. Cheers and congratulations of course!

Clare said...

wow, great job...my feet are so tender (the skin) that i can't imagine the work to toughen them up. the beer mile sound crazy...how did you manage to complete anohter mile??

fetish4running said...

Congratulations! I love reading about your time in Korea! (Cool hat, BTW)

Barefoot Roses said...

Can't imagine going for one more mile! Fantastic job.