I’ve officially checked off another bucket list item — my first race in Asia! This past weekend, I ran in the Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon. I decided to do the 10K distance for my first Korean race, as it’s my favorite distance to run. I traveled to Gyeongju and met up with my Australian friend Sara, who also teaches in the same program as Nick and I. We ended up staying in the same hostel and spent the race day together, which was really nice.
I had signed up for this race several weeks ago. The one difficulty with traveling to Gyegonju is that it’s a bit of a challenge to do so if you live in a rural area (like we do). Luckily, Friday was a special “business trip” school day for my co-teacher and I. We taught 3 classes in a rural elementary school and then we were finished with our day around 2:30. I am so lucky to have an amazing and supportive co-teacher. She took a train with my to the city where her parents live (Jeonju) and then from there she made sure that I got on the direct bus to Gyeongju (3.5 hour ride). Without her help it would have been a real struggle to get there in time to sleep over for the 8 am race the next morning, because the buses only run at certain times from our rural town.
Anyway, everything went well! I got to Gyeongju around 9PM and took a taxi to the hostel. It was great chatting with Sara for a bit about our schools and overall experiences in Korea. We headed to bed around 11 so that we could get some rest before the race. We got up early, packed up our things, ate some breakfast, and hopped in a taxi. It’s an interesting experience being in a foreign country and wondering if you’re headed to the right area lol. We had about 30 minutes till race start time and hit a lot of traffic and wondered if we would make it to where we needed to be — what do you know, it all worked out! 🙂
The atmosphere at the race was amazing — just like at home, in a way! Lots of excitement, cheering, and lots of people. It was great to see quite a bit of foreigners — Americans, Canadians, Australians, etc. There were also many Asian runners from Japan, China, and Hong Kong. While many things felt similar to that of my race experiences at home, there were some differences. For one, the announcers and participants were often shouting Hwaiting! or Fighting! This is the Korean version of good luck or break a leg! It’s also a tradition to rub the person in front of you’s shoulders at the start line. It was so funny looking around and watching everyone run each other’s shoulders as they counted down to the race start! I know Nick likes back rubs, so I am thinking maybe I can get him to do a race with me in the future due to this Korean tradition! 😛
The race was a lot of fun! There was so much energy and my adrenaline rush seemed to last most of the day. The Gyeongju Cherry Blossom marathon is best known for its beautiful views. The cherry blossoms were so gorgeous! It was also a lot of fun just taking in the sights and sounds throughout the course. I am so happy for my friend Sara because she ended up running the 10K instead
of the 5K!! We both had a great experience. I wish I had gotten more pictures — especially of the cherry blossoms, but I only had my cell phone on me and am terrible at taking pictures while running!
We grabbed some lunch together after the race, then made our way to Busan, which was about a 50 minute bus ride. From Busan, we both parted ways as Sara was headed to a friend’s house for the evening and I was hoping to catch a direct bus back to my town. I navigated the subway easily and made my way to the bus station that I needed to leave from. It was a rainy 4 hour bus ride home, but it felt good to shower and crawl into bed to relax.
My next race is in 6 weeks. I decided to sign up for the half marathon because — why not! It’s been my goal to run a half while in Asia and I think now is a great time to continue training before the humidity really kicks in. The next race is in Gwangju, which is a 2 hour bus ride from us, so it will be very easy to get to. I am thinking we will celebrate after with some delicious western food 😀