Monday, October 20, 2008

This weekend marked a tour of two of the three World Cup stadiums in the Seoul area. On Saturday, I went to the Suwon World Cup Stadium, which is the 43,000-seat Big Bird that could, ostensibly, reside in Beijing's 91,000-seat Bird's Nest. I saw what I was told was the semi-final of the K-league, a game between Suwon and Gwangju in the southeast. Suwon's Bluewings came out flying, scoring in the 7th minute and adding a second goal in the second half to win 2-0. The rowdy crowd sang the entire time, mostly in Korean, though I did understand "Suwon, happy, happy goal! Suwon, happy, happy goal!"

Today I travelled to the Seoul World Cup Stadium for the Something or Other Half Marathon. Though it was billed as a international marathon, it was neither international (all signs were in Korean) nor was there a marathon. The goal was to run 1:24 or faster, which was the third straight time that I was trying to do this on the third Saturday in October (note: I actually ran a 1:21 this March). From about the 4k mark, which was on pace in 15:53, I pretty much knew what was going to happen. I would make it to 10-15 km at race pace and then die an agonizing death.

As scripted, I made it to 11k in 43:48, and then stopped looking at my watch and decided to stick with the navy member in front of me. I hit 15k in just over an hour, but that was all I had today. The sailor I was running with him would put 3 minutes on me in the final 6k, and I staggered home in 1:30. It was a clunker of a race, but what I think is most impressive (or pathetic?), is that I didn't actually jog it in over the last 5k, but fought tooth and nail to run the last 6k in 30 minutes.

Afterwards, I came away with a finisher's medal, a Chinese apple, a 5-lb bag of rice and a small carton of milk. Hauling the rice on the Seoul subway for an hour was only the beginning of the madness today. I later found myself in a car with Riyaad and some friends, blaring the Bee Gees and riding with six people in a small Kia. I've been in cars with six people crammed in, but I've never seen it done with two adults in the front seat. I've also never paid about $7 for hot chocolate, which is how the day came to an end.

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