And in fact, the 50k was really a 59k. Let’s hope that anyone signed up for the 50k realized going in that they would do almost 6 miles more than expected. This seems to be common in Korea–calling a race one distance and making it either much shorter or much longer. Though my race was definitely an accurate-ish 13k.
(4:30 am start of the 59k)
From the get-go, it was pretty obvious that the 59k was the BFD while the 13k was an afterthought. Or maybe it’s just that there are so few trail runners in Korea. But the finish/start line was all about the 50k, my finisher medal says Korea 50k, etc. etc. It was also obvious in the participants. Only 141 men and 46 women were officially registered for the 13k–or at least that’s how many people posted a finish, but the American military bases also bused in groups of soldiers–some of whom were officially registered and some not. It was the first time I’ve ever run a race surrounded by so many non-runners. And I don’t mean that in a snarky way. I mean, these people were there because they were forced to be there which is so anti-trail running spirit. They also weren’t too sure of what they were doing. It seemed a general trend to not understand trail etiquette or how to navigate a steep downhill. Unfortunately for these reasons, it was a bit of an annoying experience. Next year, I will run the long race–assuming I can continue training to that point and will be in such shape a year from now that I am able. I assume that the longer distance will ensure that people signed up want to be there, have trained, and are a part of the running community.
It was otherwise a beautiful day out on the trails. Pretty warm but not too hot during a season where any given day could be frigid or rainy or blistering hot. The organizers did a wonderful job with the route. Korean trails are characterized by stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. There is not an ethic of trail-building using switchbacks or mitigation of erosion. But there were few stairs on this course (and no stair cases) because they utilized a lot of mountain bike trail single track. So much single track also made it super difficult to pass people who don’t understand trail etiquette, but I’d rather deal with that than be on the Stairmaster. So it was actually a good honest TRAIL run which was a happy surprise. There were two serious climbs on the route (one had a hand line) and tons of steep downhill. My quads were destroyed and I had to use the elevator at work for two days. It took five to get back to normal. But it was so fun to blast down single track. I just don’t get to do that so much where we live. I ended up 8th woman with a time of 1:53. 1:22 was the winning time.
The 59k drew a handful of foreigners, mostly of the Chinese and Japanese variety as it was a part of a series of races in Asia, the Asia Trail Master. In a race series, one earns points by attending/placing in the associated races and there are prizes for individual wins as well as most wins, etc. This is similar to the TrailRunner Magazine’s “Trophy Series” or the International Sky Running series. One could also use the Korea 50k to obtain finishing points as a stepping stone to qualifying to run the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. So the main race certainly seemed to have more of a serious or authentic air about it and I’m going to keep it specifically in mind as an A goal next year. And you also just can’t beat being able to register online with a credit card and in English. I can’t stress this enough. Almost everything here has to happen through bank transfer and helpful students. And usually registration is a very short window and I often don’t hear about it in time to get in. So I guess this becomes my focus race by default, but I am happy that this option exists. The same week I registered for the 13k, I also registered for the Nike Women’s half marathon in Seoul, happening this Sunday. That one I did all in Korean with a student, then made a bank transfer, and STILL can’t get confirmation that I’m actually registered and the fee was accepted. I guess if my packet shows up in the next few days, I’ll know….