A typical site at a marathon: colorful balloons lofting above the start/finish line. However, a 24-knot north-westerly caused them to heel over and resemble a rainbow that had had one too many beers at the local hof. First-time marathoner and fourth-place finisher Nina Sakaki noted while waiting at the start line how this would bode on our return. The outbound train heading 21.1km east to Namwon would be a cakewalk, but the return, a death march.
On Nov. 17, with the help of the National Agricultural Cooperatives Federation Bank (Nonghyup), the Federation of Athletic Associations, the Seogwipo City Police Department, and an amazing cohort of local volunteers, the Halla-ilbo and Jeju Gamgyul Association hosted the 11th Annual Jeju International Mandarin Marathon Race.
The president of Halla-ilbo, Kang Man-saeng, stated in his opening address that the race was held in order to, “give hope and courage to disappointed mandarin farmers, and promote the consumption of mandarin oranges.” He went on to state that, “The Mandarin International Race this year will be held as the preliminary event of the 2013 Seogwipo World Citrus Pre-EXPO.”
He also believes that the local economy is threatened by the free trade agreements agreed between Korea and both China and the United States. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, China is the world’s leading mandarin orange producer, cultivating 12.7 million tons in 2011, nearly double that of Korea.
The course goes out and back from the World Cup Stadium in Shinshigaji to Namwon, mostly following the 1132 road, an avenue banked by endless acres of citrus farms with their fruits ripening in the crisp November air. The course itself reflects some pretty unique race swag: a huge box of delicious citrus for any non-Jeju citizen participant.
10 k.m. runner Melissa De Sole, from the U.S., commented, “The finish-line held a surprise. I walked to the tangerine tent for a snack, but I wasn't allowed to eat any! Instead, they sent me to the next table, where I was handed my very own 5 k.g. box of tangerines.”
In addition to free crates of citrus, there were some other things that let participants from abroad realize that they weren’t in Kansas anymore. First-time half-marathoner Elle Lucadamo, also from the U.S., noted, “From the start there was so much excitement, especially from the dancers on stage getting the runners warmed up with some dancing and stretching to K-Pop music.”
The course provided other gifts besides K-pop calisthenics and clementines; they were at times bittersweet. “The hills and wind were disheartening, but later I felt a sense of achievement,” recalled Nina. She continued, “Sometimes I was able to catch a glimpse of the beautiful sea and the mountain. It was awesome!”
After my own 44.2 kilometers came to an end, I unwound at the sauna below the World Cup Stadium, and then got a bite to eat at Emart. Upon my exit from the market I was greeted by streets shimmering from a brief rain shower and a legitimate, uninebriated rainbow stretching from Mt. Gogeun, over the marathon route, to the then deserted start/finish line. After such a fun day, seeing all those colors filtering across the sky was pretty incredible, but you can bet there is only one hue that really caught my eye...
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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