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A beautiful day for a marathonOn Oct. 2 hundreds gathered to run in the 4th Beautiful Jeju International Marathon near Gimnyeong, Jeju City
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승인 2011.10.05  16:53:03
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▲ A vivacious group of young English teachers and participants of the 4th Beautiful Jeju International Marathon, Oct. 2. The author is wearing 1215 and Susan Shain is the third person to his right. Photo by Ashley Sheppard.

The early morning drive to Gimnyeong Beach was half tired but anxious. I occupied the backseat half enjoying the Sunday scenery, and half trying to rest just a little bit more, while the ladies in the front discussed knitting and reminisced about how foggy and dreary-looking the previous marathon day had been. It was cool out with a harsh breeze and I was wondering if the cold and the wind would dramatically affect the runners.

When we arrived at the beach the atmosphere was vibrant. There was a large track and field being used as the starting point, and a few hundred men and women were warming up doing brisk laps or synchronized stretches guided by a young woman with a microphone. The other foreigners and I were donning our green “Beautiful Marathon” shirts and helping each other pin on our numbers. There was a great palaver over who was running how far as well as people performing various stretches.

This was the 4th Beautiful Jeju International Marathon and most of the proceeds will be going to charitable efforts. The course itself followed the coastal road and the clearest of blue skies provided us with stunning views of the ocean stretching out to our left, waves crashing against rocks, and the towering wind turbines that mark this part of the island. There were people here to run and others were more interested in walking, and everyone had their choice between a 5k, 10k, half marathon, or the full thing. Although I was first gung- ho about a half marathon, I decided on the 10k. Before I knew it the whistle blew and it was time to run.

Once clear of the initial traffic jam of all the 10k runners taking off at once, the run was quite, the somber spectacle of constant movement. Some were passing and others were being passed. I heard groups giving various chants to help encourage each other. At right around the three kilometer mark I found the first refreshment station. A table of smiling volunteers and many cups of water and some halved bananas. I didn’t want to linger too long so I stopped for a few seconds to gulp two cups of water and sped off continuing on my mission. After what must have been 22 leg-pounding minutes I reached the halfway point, and I certainly did not regret running without a sweatshirt (it would’ve just weighed me down).

In addition to the green shirts and our racing numbers many participants also received a paper sign to pin on themselves that said “I’m running for…” and there was a blank space where they could write in something that inspired them. Unfortunately this was written only in English so many of our Korean counterparts didn’t seem to know what this was for. To our own amusement many foreigners wrote sarcastic responses to this prompt; including Brady Paron’s alteration that stated “I’m running from a tiger.” I also saw someone had written “waffles” and even “mom” as their responses. I chose to go with something clever that would unite foreign and local runners in a good laugh, and my back said “I’m running for 김밥 (gimbap)” written in my best hangeul. Throughout the race I heard many cheers of “Gimbap! Gimbap!” and found the shouts very motivational.

▲ "I'm running for..." Photo by Ashley Sheppard

Crossing the finish line is, of course, a moment of vast relief for any runner. In an instant it can suddenly not matter in the least how hard you were breathing or how tired your feet were. For Susan Shain [A Jeju Weekly contributor. -- Ed.] finishing time was pretty important.

“I was just planning on running this race for fun, but then my football team (University of Michigan) won our game 58-0 that day. I decided I wanted to finish the 10K in 58 minutes exactly to commemorate the win. With 1K left, I realized I only had a few minutes left and really had to book it to achieve my goal, but I did! I made it in 58 minutes and 50 seconds. Go blue!”

I’m certain every participant had an amazing time and can’t wait for the next chance to run a little bit harder and a little bit faster and improve their time or go for a greater distance. In fact I hear there’s going to be another run in November. I hope I see you there!

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