Wednesday, November 05, 2008

2008 JoogAng Seoul Marathon

The Startline @ Seoul Marathon

Blisters on my soles just after the ChunCheon Marathon gave me doubts if I could start at the JoongAng Seoul Marathon the Sunday following. The problem was aggravated by my adventure with the family up Mt. Sorak on Tuesday. We got into Seoul on Thursday from SokCho, and met up wth Max to collect the race pack at the Olympic Village hotel on Friday. I was disappointed when the organizer told me that I was not registered as I have not paid after confirmation of the registration, and that they did not have a race pack and ChampionChip for me. They advised that I could still go for the race, although I will not have official timing recorded, and have no certificate to show.

By Saturday, my soles were still sore, and I decided to just go for a sight-seeing run to try out the Seoul Marathon route. Beverly did not want to risk any injury, especially after her good run at ChunCheon just a week ago. Sunday morning’s weather was not too cold, as Max, DO and myself made our way to the Sports Complex by MRT. There was already a crowd when we arrived, and on the way to baggage deposit, bumped in SlingRunner, Vincent and Brokie. They were all charged up waiting to score good timings with their fresh legs. DO had just recovered from his injury at ChunCheon, and would be taking it easy too.

hmm....getting warmed up :)

Since I was not going for timing, I queued way back behind the 5hr pacers and runners. By the time I crossed the Chip mat, 5min had elapsed. I started my Garmin 405, and tried very hard for the first 3km to weave in and out to reach to the 4hr timing group. My legs felt good, but the air and surrounding scenery left much to be desired. The runners ran closely as a pack throughout, and it was difficult to move forward. My impression was that these were serious runners able to maintain a good, sustainable pace. I went into an average 5:03min/km pace, and felt quite comfortable for the first 21km.

At 15km, I saw DO, and he was running quite carefully. I moved up as I felt good, and it was not until 24km when I felt the numbness on my soles. By then I was too far away to turn back or cut short on the out/back course. The Kenyan lead pack were seen reaching the 30km mark when I was just at 20km...haha. Sling and Max must have been much further ahead, and I tried hard to spot Vincent and Brokie amongst the thick crowd. By 28km, my feet was feeling sore, and I slowed down to about 5:25min/km and ran more carefully. I decided that I should just complete the whole run since I was more than halfway through.

The crowd was still heavy at 30km. The highway and streets were lined with bands and cheer groups, playing loud music with dance, something lacking at ChunCheon Marathon. The ground was softer too, but there was really no scenery to speak was ‘mental’ and boring running at this course. Choco Pie and bananas were served around the 32km mark, and I thought it was too late into the run to do that. I picked up a Choco Pie and gave the free gel a miss. My legs were feeling really sore, and I slowed to 5:35min/km pace. I tried to amble along to maybe do a 3:45 timing.

The slopes came at the 34km and 37km marks, and they really gave the fatigued runners a tough challenge. I was not in the mood then to ‘chiong’ since I knew that my desired timing was slipping. I just ran gently, with small strides, up the slopes. It was fortunate that the downslopes were not too steep for they would hurt my soles even more. 5km to go, and I was staring at a 3:50 finish. I just relaxed and countdown the km markers. My long sleeved dri-fit shirt along with the running singlet kept me warm when the cold winds blew. My legs were feeling stiff, although not really troubled by cramps as I was not really pushing. I slowed to 5:55min/km pace, and quite a few babes and aunties overtook me with 3km to go. I chugged along, and pushed for the final 1km. I had intended to veer off and not go past the finish line, but the thick crowd and barricades forced me all the way into the stadium and across the finish. My Garmin showed 3hr49min, and the digital clock showed 3hr53min. I was glad the run was over as my feet hurt real bad.

After some light stretches, I spent the next 30min looking for Max and DO. Finally spotted Max who came back with a fast time of 3hr25min. Together we waited for DO. Brokie and Vincent then came up and took a few group photos. Brokie did 4:04hr and Vincent did a screaming good runners we have in the FatBird Pacer team...hehe. Finally DO came hobbling back in 4:41hr.....he suffered from a bad case of knee pain and had to walk most of the final 10km. We still found time to whip out the Singapore flag for some memorable pics. Heard from Sling later that he did 3hr12min, qualifying him for The Boston to all of them.

There are a few key observations and lessons from the Korean marathons over these 1week. I would say that the Seoul Marathon’s organization could be improved, and the route/course is good if one is going for timing. However, it was pretty boring and not much scenery to offer. Vincent found that the course and weather was more favourable to ChunCheon's, which had its fair share of slopes and cambered, hard roads. I would’nt mind doing ChunCheon again, but cannot say the same for Seoul. This experience tells us that doing back-back marathons take a firm toll on the body, and with our need for a longer period of recovery from the stresses to the body, it would be some time before I consider doing another back-back marathon again.

However, I enjoyed the whole Korea Marathon journey, and will remember that it was at ChunCheon when I did my PB of 3hr36min, a time which I think will be hard for me to better in a long time to come. Running in cooler weather does make a great difference in the sustainable speed we can achieve. While the cardio aspects remain good, the strength of the feet and cadence will have to be further developed through interval and tempo training sessions.

Distance: 42.195km__Time: 3hr49min__Pace: 5:25min/km

Photo SlideShow from DO's Camera

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