Another Korean week, another reason to not work. This week was down to national foundation day, celebrating the formation of Korea as a nation way back.
To us teachers, it’s another reason to book buses, trains or planes and shoot off for another mini break.
Korea is currently in hurricane/typhoon/earthquake season. Basically the weather is doing whatever it feels like and all forecasting seems to be pretty much useless. The weekend was supposed to be a complete washout, whereas it turned out to be a beautiful weekend, with a bit of a storm hitting this week, but kind of skipping Daegu and my walk this morning being the most beautiful, blue-skied, autumnal morning one can imagine.
The weather only let us down on Friday evening, when the baseball game we’d travelled out to got called off due to rain. So instead we headed downtown, leaving me with a fairly fuzzy head for my train ride down to Busan Saturday morning.
Despite Busan being my most frequently visited Korean city, there’s still a fairly long list of things I want to do. After meeting up with the rest of the group near the touristy market spot of Nampo and getting some lunch, we started our wander up to a spot overlooking the cultural village, a multi-coloured network of houses that became heavily populated by migrants during the Korean civil war. It makes for a nice photo, but considering it’s known as an artsy area, there wasn’t as much happening as we’d expected.
From here we climbed up through a sculpture park and another small temple before winding our way down to Songdo beach – a much less well known beach amongst expats, but a very pleasant one and with a plethora of cafes around it. Our day ended fairly early with some Western food as pre-race fuel for the half marathon most of us had signed up for the next morning.
The Busan half marathon was a stunning route, which is why I’d been so keen to do it. It crossed over all three of Busan’s major bridges, including the highlight – Gwangali bridge, a 7.4km suspension stretch across the bay with amazing views over Busan, normally packed with traffic, but for one morning taken over by runners.
The run started at 7:30, but we needed to be there by 6 50. I’d booked us a hostel super close to the start point, but our alarms were still going off around 5 30 so that people could have the necessary time to wake up and be ready to run. It was a lovely sunny morning as the thousands of people gathered at the meeting area. There were DJs, scantily clad cheerleaders and men in suits all on various podiums and the hum and energy around was exciting.
The fireworks went off and the crowd slowly started to bumble its way towards the start line. I’d made no effort to squeeze my way towards the front of the pack, starting maybe 200m back from the start line with the rest of our group. Anyone who has run a popular race knows the slowness as everyone slowly squeezes their way through the start gate timers before setting off.
As I neared the start gate, I waved my goodbyes, put my headphones in and hovered my finger over the ‘start workout’ button on my iPod that would make its usual attempt to figure out how fast I was running. As soon as I was through the gates I skirted out to the side of the crowd so that I could sail past them and within the first kilometre was running with the handful of people who were there to set fast times.
The first 7.5km disappeared without me really realising, just as we were getting onto Gwanagli bridge. The route was fun as the 5 and 10km runs had a different start point so we past them all whilst crossing – kids out running, parents jogging with pushchairs, whole families out towing colourful balloons. I didn’t check my timer to until I went passed the 10km mark, and when my iPod’s cheerful female robotic voice told me I was under 40 minutes I was pretty confident I’d break my 1 hour 30 target as I hadn’t been pushing too hard.
The most difficult stage of the race came between 14-17km, which I was expecting. Most of my training runs are about 13km long and when it’s still just 14km in you feel like you have quite a way to go. It also happened to coincide with the longest incline of the race. I caught up with a guy running at a similar pace to me, but who seemed faster on the up-hill and just tagged onto his heels to pull me up.
Once I’d past the 17.5km mark my mentality changes, as I know there’s only 3.6km left – shorter than my run into town. Then I could start to dip into my reserves without fear of burning out too soon. I finished with a time of 1.23.03 which I was very happy with – an average pace of 3.57 per kilometre. The marathon website hasn’t yet updated with the overall results so I can’t see where I placed, but I out-finished everyone that I was running with and felt I did fairly well overall. My next main target is the Daegu Marathon next March, something to keep running towards over the winter.
Sunday afternoon was spent relaxing on Haeundae beach. There was no trace of the rain that was predicted, instead it was sun-cream on and beers in hand. When the fun started to fade we headed off and jumped on a bus over to Jinju, finding some interesting displays along the way.. Continued here.