▲ Runners starting in one of the races at the 15th annual Jeju Marathon. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
In what looked like a field-sized Korean-style Richard Simmons workout video, the 5,263 participants of the 15th annual Jeju Marathon kicked off the event with a large group stretch to prepare their toned muscles for the trial to come. This year’s event included the usual full and half marathons along with a 10 km run, and embraced a full spectrum of ages, with everyone from small children accompanying their parents to 89-year old Endo Tetsuji who traveled from Japan.
“I hope to be that active when I’m their age!” said Kyla Smith from Ottawa, impressed with the vitality of the older participants.
Following the stretches, full marathon runners lined up and anxiously awaited the firing gun. Positive vibes once again provided the supportive atmosphere that has become a staple of Jeju athletic events. There was no shortage of photographers and camera men on hand as the levee broke and runners flooded the streets.
“Fighting!” cheered onlookers from the sides of the course, which began at Gimnyeong Beach and headed east past the wind farms. Mike Laidman, an English teacher from BC, Canada, who was running the 10 km course, enjoyed the feeling and support at the 5 km turnaround point.
“The cheers can really help give me a boost in the last few kilometers of the race. It’s always fun coming back,” said Laidman, now a familiar face in Jeju races. This year he shaved a minute off his time and finished a place ahead of last year at 10th in the men’s event.
A running group from Japan cleaned up in the 10 km race, with Nakagawa Manabu finishing in 00:32:24, more than 2 minutes ahead of other runners as well as last year’s winning time. Japanese visitors swept all the events except the women’s full marathon, with Kim Yeong Hee from Ulsan finishing at 03:12:31. Tsudhiya Hidenori took the men’s full, with a time of 02:41:22. Frontrunners for the half marathon finished the race ahead of many 10 km runners, with a speedy 01:13:04 from Amano Metofumi, who lead the pack.
One of the largest travel agencies in Japan is affiliated with the event, and organized package tours for Japanese participants. With one of the goals of the festival to boost off-season travel to Jeju, an increased number of 376 Japanese participants equated to a successful event for organizers. In addition, about 1,200 runners came from the mainland.
“This festival has great potential to grow the tourism market,” said Kim Se Bon, the event director. Although he and his team are happy with the turnout, he thinks the evaluation of success ought to “come from outside, not from inside.”
On the outside, Laidman said he finds Jeju races to be “damn fun!” and enjoys hanging out with friends and Koreans afterwards. “There’s always some free food and drink to be had,” said Laid-man, who seemed to have forgot-ten the initial 20,000 won fee, which includes an event shirt. A kimchi and mushroom soup was served, and everyone felt like a winner with the clear medal they received.
Smith spread word of the event to friends from Daejeong, who visited over the weekend. “It was the best way for them to experience Jeju, by running along the coast and feeling the nice Jeju breeze,” she said.
With four months to go until the island’s next marathon event in November (the Jeju Tangerine International Marathon on Nov. 21), there is plenty of time to hit the streets running in preparation for what are some of the most popular community events Jeju has to offer.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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