Monday, July 9, 2012

Namsan Hot Summer Marathon

Namsan Hot Summer Marathon

       My 6th half marathon in 4 months, I can’t believe it! This makes me a “2 Moon Half Fanatic” which is fun.
The cheer squad waiting for the first runners
(Photo by Jaqueline Bartocha)

       It was a wonderful fun race day, which is good since it was a grueling course. It consisted of out and backs over a 3k long path over an undulating mountain. There were water stops at either end, and nice bathrooms with fountains that turned into filled buckets with giant ladles you could dump over yourself, or a granny with a hose ready, willing, and able to completely soak you from head to toe and fill your shoes. About one kilometer into the course the Seoul Flyers running club members, that had the good sense NOT to enter this race, set up a support stop to cheer on the runners and give us extra water, Gatorade, and gels. It was awesome to have such great support and hear people get excited each time I passed. They had megaphones and cameras, and I spotted one dedicated Flyer schlepping pairs of 8 liter jugs back and forth to the nearest water tap several times.
Go Seoul Flyers!!
(Photo by Jaqueline Bartocha)

       Unfortunately, the race didn’t go as well as I had hoped it would. Taking off at the start, my legs instantly felt like they were on fire from a hard effort with no warm up. I couldn’t explain it since I was still in the slow shuffle of the start, waiting patiently for the crowd to thin out enough to actually run. It really felt like I simply wasn’t getting any oxygen to my legs. Maybe my blood pressure was down from the heat or something, I don’t know, but I knew it didn’t bode well for my finish time. Thinking my calf compression sleeves could be too tight, I stopped and pulled them down around my ankles. It didn’t help and not long after I stopped to pull them back up again. Still no help or change, it was going to be a really long 13.1 miles.

       It was hot, but most of the course was shaded so at least we weren’t being cooked by the sun. I had decided before hand to wear my Merrell Trail Gloves since I was sure the road would be miserably hot by at least half way through the race. It was probably a good decision, although I think I could have managed with the amount of shade we had. Oh well, too late now!

( Garmin connect record of the event and elevation profile)

       I was determined not to talk a walking break during the first loop, but the hills were way more steep than I had anticipated. A friend had posted his elevation profile a week or so before from running the race route and the difference in height between the tops and bottoms of the hills didn’t look all that bad. The reality of it though, to quote another friend, was that it was like running up and down a 5 story building. I would love to know exactly how far we ran if you measured it out with a marking wheel instead of GPS!

       As I approached the end of the first out and back, I passed the Flyers and yelled, “What the h**l was I thinking!” This got a hearty laugh from the group. They all live in Seoul and have run this mountain before. They knew exactly what the race entailed, which is why they were cheering and not running!

Mugging for the camera
(Photo by Jaqueline Bartocha)

       By the end of my second out and back, I was really beginning to think this would be a 3 hour half marathon for me. I was a total mess. Thanks to lots of water on the course, I was drenched from head to toe, my shoes were squishing, and my skirt was so water logged it weighed several pounds and was falling off. Every few minutes I would have to hike it back up again to keep from mooning everyone behind me. There was no way to know where I was in the pack because people were an various laps. With the exception of the fast marathon runners that would whip past me every so often, the rest were alternating between a fast downhill trot and a slow death march up the next incline. People constantly passed and were passed and I rarely seemed to see the same runner twice. My course calculation skills were gone and there were runners and hikers everywhere, it all just seemed like a big blur.

       Along the way, I would alternate between downhill, “I can do this, let’s get it over with” and half way up the next hill, “Oh, forget it, I don’t care anymore.” I think the only thing that kept me from not plopping down at the cheering station and quitting was the fact that this was the race that would give me my second “moon” in the half fanatic standings. Sometimes, the refusal to quit is the only thing that keeps you going. By mile 10, my left calf decided to try cramping. I immediately popped two Salt Stick capsules and downed the last of my water bottle, hoping my next chance to refill would arrive soon! It seemed to work. Although my calf continued to twinge, it never fully cramped.

       Finishing up the third lap, I was actually feeling a bit better, or at least a bit less despondent. I had 2 miles left to go and the Flyers were still out cheering (more than once I have finished a race so late that they were all gone.) By this time, pounding down the hills was really getting hard. My right ankle, where I had the stress fracture 2 years ago, was hurting and worrying me. The last thing I need right now is another stress fracture! Downhill trots became a lopsided hobble, landing on my heel on the left to protect my twingeing calf, and on the ball of my foot on the right to protect my hurting ankle. Once I hit the turn around that marked the partial lap for the half marathoners, I breathed a sigh of relief. Just one more mile!
(Photo by Sarah Gu)

       Passing the Flyers one last time I paused for a drink and Jacqueline snapped this shot of a very weary runner. I thanked them and pressed on for my last half mile. As is started the last lap I was happy to note that I could probably finish sub-2:40. Then, as I reached the last leg back, I realized that a good finish kick could put me in sub-2:30! I don’t know why I play these silly head games, it makes no difference to anyone, anywhere, but me if I finish 2:40 or 2:30, but it gave me a reason to pour it on at the end. I chugged up the last hill, breathing like a steam engine on its last gasp of coal, hobbling with an uneven rhythm. The clock said 2:30, but I knew it took me a minute or so to get to the start mats and my Garmin seemed to agree.

       Crossing the finish I headed straight to the bathroom (apparently I was well hydrated) and started wandering around looking for all the stops I needed to make. 1) Retrieve back pack from bag check. 2) Find the amazing food everyone was carrying around. Chilled watermelon and cucumber soup, hot bibimbap (my favorite!) and big vats of makgoli, a Korean fermented rice drink. 3) Get my printed certificate, (YES! 2:29:54!) 4) Turn in my chip in exchange for my medal. 5) And last, walk back to the cheer station to join the Flyers in celebrating the finishes for our two runners in the Full marathon. This was not necessarily the order that the stations were meant to be progressed through, but my fried brain did its best and I got to everything eventually.

Runners and cheerers
(Photo by Sarah Gu)

Photo by Happy Leports

       I did see one man being accompanied across the finish line by his entire club, their banner, and bouquets of flowers. It was his 200th or 300th marathon, either way they were celebrating big time! He would make a very good Marathon Maniac!

       Festivities over, pictures taken, and car packed up, I headed home for a shower and nap. It really was a great race. The hardest runs, the ones that really put you to the test and make you leave everything on the course, are the best no matter how well or poorly you feel you did. It wasn’t my best race, and it wasn’t necessarily my hardest race, but it was definitely one of my most challenging races and I will cherish my memories and medal.

Honored to be part of this picture! From the left, Michael Dal Cero (6th place full), Michael Strata, Sara Maltby (first place for the women), Adeel Ahmad, James Bates, ME, Suntae Bae (who carried that flag the entire race) and Uriah Orland (6th place half). All amazing runners with amazing finish times.
(Photo by Jiwah Woo)


MF said...


I am traveling to Korea from May to July and trying to find any marathon I can to run. This race seems to be the perfect time but I can't find it anywhere online. Any help would be appreciated!



WendyBird said...

Hello, sorry for the slow response, I was traveling. The best thing for you is to get in touch with the Seoul Flyers. If registration is available they can help you get in. It is a very limited and popular. They will also know of any and all other races going on around that time. There is nearly always at least a club marathon on the Han on any given weekend. Best of Luck!