I’ve always been an active person/monkey, flipping around in competitive gymnastics for almost two decades, zipping around everywhere via bicycle, rock climbing, achieving a blue belt in Taekwondo, and jumping on the bed to wake my boyfriend up every morning.
My latest craze has been running. I’ve been running here and there since joining winter track in 9th grade. I enjoyed the practices and competitions, but did not end up signing up for track for the rest of my time in high school. From then on, I’d mostly run a few miles for the sake of cardio, but I honestly did not truly enjoy or crave it. It was a chore. It was not until living in Korea that I have learned to love the sport of running. Most of my new friends were very active, some extremely impressive (through-hiking the Appalachian Trail, running marathons, winning many races). Another dear friend was not an avid runner, but she made up her mind to run a full marathon at the DMZ International Marathon. I remember her finishing her first 5K, then 10K, half marathon, and full marathon over the course of a few months. She was my next door neighbor. One scorching July Saturday morning, she ran 17 miles in the humid Korean summer. Toward the end of her run, she ran out of water and gave me a call, breathing heavily and thirsty, but remained determined and did not stop running. Meanwhile, I was in my pajamas. Adam and I rode bikes and delivered water to help give that extra push to finish the last few miles of the run. She trained and trained all summer long and completed her goal of running a full marathon. That girl, such an inspiration!
Being surrounded by such impressive people motivated me to give running a shot. My first run was in Boryeong, Korea in June 2013. I signed up for a 5K. A group of 10 or so took the train up to the beachside city and had a sleepover in a pension. At the starting line, my friends and I anxiously awaited to begin. Most people had signed up for the 10K, a few for a half, but none of my friends for the 5K. At the very last minute (literally), I decided to run the 10K with my friends. I finished it in 58 minutes. Not bad for not even training for it. Afterward, we celebrated by lazing at the beach. Completing a race by 10am gives a great sense of accomplishment.
I loved the environment of the race. Group stretching, awkward back massages, funny outfits, freebies. They usually serve foods that I would not specifically crave after a race, fish cake soup and blood sausage (well, I never crave that), but I have gotten down on kimchi, tofu, and makgeolli (rice wine). Why not.
For the next two years, I ran in some 10Ks (placed top 30) and a 5K (placed 2nd) around Korea. I trained to run a half marathon twice now, but obstacles got in the way (injured the first time and there was a fire in the location the second time). I love having an excuse to go catch some rays after school. By having a training plan, it forced me to go out for frequent runs. I set aside time on the weekends to do my long runs in the morning and feel energized the rest of the week. Running has been a positive part of my routine and I hope to continue if my knees allow it.
Now finally, my goal of running a half marathon will be tested next week, May 16, 2015. This is the 15th year of the 5-18 race, which commemorates the lives lost during the Gwangju Democratic Uprising that began on May 18, 1980. I’ve been training for a few months and feel ready. I’m going to take my time and not have a time goal in mind. My goal is to finish.
I also set up a fundraising page to raise money for UNICEF’s relief efforts in Nepal. So far, $250 was raised between seven lovely people in Gwangju. Please take the time to donate, please! All of the money will go directly to the cause.