Fifty-two weeks ago I wrote about the 2013 edition of the Jeju Mandarin Marathon, and I was back for the 2014 race this morning. I have clear memories of the bitter wind for the race last year but the weather today was perfect; I was able to run hard and finish in a respectable time. Once again, foreign runners were given a 5 kg box of mandarins. My box is already less than half full but I did have some help from the students I took to the race.
I don’t often post photos of myself on this blog, but I think it’s only right to mention that I was interviewed by the Jeju newspaper that sponsors the race. They wanted to do an article about a foreigner living on Jeju and this is the result:
It was on the front page of the printed edition.
The first race I did on Jeju was the 2013 edition of the Jeju Trail Run, one year ago; that was one of the toughest races I’ve done for a long time. This year’s race had the same venue, the same course, set on the eastern flank of Mt Halla and over two oreums. The weather was suitably grey and stormy, giving the views over the moor-like landscape a bleakness reminiscent of some parts of upland UK. The swish of the blades of the wind turbines in the strong winds added to the atmosphere.
Paths through the woods with roots and rocks are a challenge and other runners seem to deal with them better than I do. The same is true of the steep climb of the oreums and the equally steep descent on the other side. It’s just as well I can recover lost ground on the relatively flat and smooth sections of the trail. Anyway, I was four minutes quicker than last year and quite happy with that.
It was back to the venue of June’s 19th Jeju Marathon Festival this morning for the Jeju Beautiful International Marathon. As is common, there were races of four different lengths and, once again, I did the 10km race. I’ve only got photos from before the race but the setting does live up to the name; the route follows the coast and on a sunny, windy day like today, with the turquoise sea, the waves breaking on the beach and the rocks with spray drifting over the road in places, it’s quite something. A top-ten finish also helps to leave a leave a good impression.
Organisers of running races have many problems to overcome, I’m sure, but this one must be unique to Jeju: I pulled in to the car park to find large areas covered with drying garlic. There was some lively debate in Korean between race officials and the ladies looking after the garlic and it was being cleared away by the time I left. That missed the point somewhat, I assume.
Anyway, the race followed the coast on the north-eastern part of the island. Korean runners are very welcoming; it was an out-and-back course and there were plenty of calls of ‘hwaiting’ (derived from the English ‘fighting’, a form of encouragement) from runners on the out half as I was coming back. The race attracted an international field and I even got a ‘ganbare’ (hang in there) from one of the Japanese contingent.
I ran my first half-marathon in over 18 months on Sunday. The race was due to take place in April but was postponed out of respect for the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster. In addition to the playing of the Korean national anthem before the race, music was also played while everyone stood and remembered the victims.
I made quite a profit on my entry fee. For a start, the price label on the souvenir t-shirt was more than the entry fee; I then took second place in the over-50 category, for which I won a trophy and 15 vouchers for 10,000 Won each – that’s getting on for £100. I’ll have to find out where I can spend them.
I usually avoid posting photos of myself on this blog but the one below, of me with my fellow prize-winners, made me smile.
It was a good day for a race – dry, cool and overcast. It also helped that the course was flat. The race started in Hallim and headed southwards along the coast with different turning points for the different races. There were views across to the sea and the waves on the beach or, at one point, splashing over the sea wall onto the road.
The band played before the start, as they did before the Jeju Mandarin Marathon last November…
…and the crowds stood and faced the other side of the stadium where I assume there was a Korean flag on one of the flagpoles. The guys in the photo below saluted; they may have been in the army, possibly national servicemen.
It was the Jeju Mandarin Marathon this morning, with races of four different lengths. I did the 10k and finished in a respectable position and a reasonable time. Even better, I haven’t had to lie on the settee this afternoon feeling weedy.
The race started outside the Seogwipo World Cup stadium, in the background in the picture above. Jeju may be remote, but it did host three games from the 2002 competition. Brazil were here in the first game, beating China 4-0 in a group match. It’s now the home of Jeju United, who lost 2-1 to Daegu this afternoon.
As the name of the race suggests, it’s all about mandarins. They’re quite a sight at this time of year, on trees and packed into crates on the back of trucks. Even the crates are coloured orange. So, the goodies I got from the race were the usual T-shirt, medal and snacks and the not so usual carton of milk and 5 kg carton of mandarins.
I’ve just put down my Kindle and roused myself from the armchair in order to write a blog post. I shouldn’t be so tired after a 10km race, but I am.
It was a really good event, on paths through woodland and on hillside, and lots of climb. The first climb was hard enough, but I realised two-thirds of the way through the race that we were being sent up a second hill. It might look grey and misty in the photos but it was pretty warm to be slogging up to top of hills as fast as possible.
They’re not just any hills, by the way, they’re ‘oreum’. Jeju’s a volcanic island, with Mt Halla in the middle, a dormant volcano. The island is also covered with hills formed by molten lava that’s found a way to the surface on the sides of Mt Halla. Some of them have a crater shape in the middle, but I wasn’t thinking too much about geology this morning.
The organisers provided a bowl of noodles at the end, with side dishes of Kimchi and beansprouts, as shown in John’s photo below, taken as we stood in the queue. It must be a major undertaking to cook up hot food on the hillside for lots of tired and hungry runners – big pans of noodles and hot soup, and a washing-up team – but they were very welcome.