Friday, May 11, 2012

Hwaseong Filial Piety Marathon

       It was a beautiful day for a race! The sun was shining, but it was still cool, and lots of people were out enjoying Children’s Day. It is a huge holiday in Korea and every year on the 5th of May the whole country celebrates. In the City of Hwaseong, they hold the annual Filial Piety Marathon, which consists of 5K, 10K, and half marathon races. The race directors love having foreigners participate so they give us free entry and bus transportation from the military base.

       This was my third half marathon in 3 months, preparing for a full marathon in China. April’s race had been cold and miserable, but this one promised to be warm. Possibly even too warm! Unfortunately, the race didn’t start until 10am, giving the sun ample time to beat down on the asphalt by the time the half marathoners would be crossing the finish line.

       My biggest challenge for the race would actually be to take it slow. It is a very hilly course so I was tempted to grind up the hills and let my heart rate go high, but I was also determined not to leave too much on the course since I was one week into my 3 week taper. A runner from our military base that I was chatting with asked me to pace him at 10 mpm. That sounded perfect to me so that is what we went for. We were slower on the uphills, faster on the downhills, but by the 9 mile mark we were holding steady at 10 mpm on average.

       As my new running buddy and I trotted along, I asked him about his running experience. He and DNFed at the half way mark in the marathon in March and it had taken him 2 ½ hours to get there. He also had not been training since then. Ut-oh! No way was this guy going to make it to the end in 2:11! As we passed the half way mark he was really beginning to struggle. I asked if he wanted to slow down, no he did not. We chugged up another hill, WHICH WAS 20 MINUTES LONG! I stopped a couple of times to let him catch up, but I just couldn’t run any slower and the pavement was beginning to warm up so I knew I needed to keep moving.

       This is where some silliness began. A car passed me with two guys hanging out the windows with big professional cameras, taking pictures of the race. Barefoot runners are still pretty odd here, and a barefoot runner, who is a blonde woman in an orange tu-tu is definitely a stand out character! The reporters zipped up the road and set up an ambush. Both photographers were out of the car and on the race course madly shooting pictures of my feet! They actually stood in front of me and showed me what poses they wanted, LOL. It is a very good thing I wasn’t out there for a PR! I wanted to say, “You realize I’m running a race here, right?” but they spoke no English and I speak very little Korean so I smiled, posed, and let them finish their pictures before heading to catch back up to my pace-ee.

       I picked up my pace significantly to catch him and it felt wonderful! As happy as I was to pace someone, this was not a commitment I had made prior to the race and I had never met him before so I knew I could take off whenever I wanted to. Finally, after about 9 miles I realized I was tired of nagging him to keep moving and I’m pretty sure he was tired of listening to me, so I went on ahead. More importantly, the sun was reaching its peak and the asphalt was getting warmer by the minute.

       At about 12 miles, the road headed up hill again. It was nearing noon and the road was HOT! I was resorting to running in the paint since nice white or yellow lines are much cooler than black pavement, but even that was uncomfortable. All the down hills were taking a toll on me too. I know China will be worse, and that definitely scares me, but I will go into it more rested and that will help!

       Finally, the stadium came into view and I knew I was close. My daughter was at the finish line and just past the arch there was a nice patch of grass to sink my toes into, 2:11:53 was my official time, right where I needed it to be! My Daughter had run the 5K in her Vibrams, but they had disappeared into her back pack and she was cheerfully padding along next to me in her bare feet as we made the rounds to collect medals and food.

       I inhaled the snacks in my goodie bag, but the heat was making me too nauseous to eat the Korean food offerings. So I toasted some fellow runners with a bit of Makgoli and we headed back to the club tent to see how everyone had done.

       China in a week, EEEEKKK!!! After China I will be pacing a friend for a half marathon. She is shooting for a 2:45 so it should be perfect for me 2 weeks after The Great Wall, LOL. Hopefully I can at least walk by then!

I will definitely have to wear my orange tu-tu next year for one last Children’s Day run!

2011, at least they stopped me AFTER the finish line last year!


Mitch said...

That sounds like an awesome and brutal marathon! Good luck!

Unshod Ashish said...

What a wonderful international ambassador for barefoot running you are!