korea

24 Before 24: Run a 10K Race!

Photo by race photographers
Photo by race photographers

You may remember that a while ago, I announced that I was going to be doing the Busan Half Marathon this fall. I started out that journey feeling really motivated and positively, but unfortunately my body had other plans. After about a week of running high mileage days every day, my knee started complaining and eventually went on strike one morning and I could barely put weight on it, let alone run, without it screaming in pain. I am very stubborn and did not want to give up, especially since I only had 3K more to go to meet my training goal for the day (…) but finally I was forced to listen to what my body was trying to tell me: “too much”. Having started my training a bit late, I wasn’t able to take rest days or chip away at it over a longer stretch – it was all in or nothing, and my body had decided for me. I went to see a specialist at the hospital who didn’t speak much English and told me, in essence, not to run. Ever.

Busan 10K View

After that, I decided not to be an idiot – a surprisingly difficult thing for me to do. I knew I could run 10K, since I’ve been happily working on my 10K endurance this whole running season, and so I could give myself a break in training and still do the race. Also, considering the fact that I’ve never run a 10K race before it should have been my logical first choice for my birthday list goal in the first place. So I amended my goal to be a 10K race instead of a half-marathon. This sucked for me because I really hate changing goals and because I had just announced I was going to do the half here on the blog so suddenly I was embarrassed as well as disappointed. Thanks to some good friends telling me (in kind words) not to be an idiot (I need constant reminding), I got over it. I took some weeks off and then went back to my normal running schedule of about 2-3 times a week. And then this Sunday morning I woke up bright and early and ran one of the most beautiful runs of my life with a seriously great personal best time.

Busan is home to the Diamond Bridge, a beautiful suspension bridge that stretches across the water connecting two parts of the city. Along one length of the bridge is Gwangalli beach and the mountains, along the other side is ocean as far as you can see. It’s absolutely stunning from the mainland, especially at night, but it turns out it’s just as beautiful of a view when you’re actually on it with thousands of other people on an impossibly beautiful, blue-skied, windy day.

Busan 10K

Due to a strange flaw in the registration system for the race, our alien card numbers weren’t accepted and our registration was rejected after the deadline so we couldn’t try to register again. We’d heard from friends that in years past it’s the easiest thing to run it without registering but I was still nervous about not being a registered runner. Up until we were on the bridge I felt sure someone was going to pull me off to the side and tell me no. I needn’t have worried! It was easy to get in (really, no sneaking of any kind was required as there were no barriers or blocks) and nobody was checking.

The race itself was funny, as so many things in Korea are: there was no security at any stage of the race, people walking in totally normal clothes carrying shopping bags, little kids walking along with their mothers, selfie sticks everywhere, and people stopping smack in the middle of the bridge to take photos of each other from every angle. At the water stations they were giving out water and….wait for it….choco pies. Yeah. I also saw a mom and son walking the wrong way up the very narrow shoulder into oncoming running traffic just as the route had narrowed for the final burst to the finish line, presumably to try and cheer the father on from the least ideal spot imaginable. The bridge speakers loudly played some seriously bizarre music, it sounded like the soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic action movie. And so on and so forth.

Busan 10K

Walking up to the start and for the first kilometer we were moving slowly, shuffling basically, in an enormous crowd of people of all shapes and sizes. Many people were using the race as an opportunity to just walk across the bridge and I don’t blame them, it was beautiful – I only wish there had been more division of lanes so that the people walking wouldn’t have stretched out so much across the wide bridge that the race, at certain parts, was an endless dodge of people walking or pushing the occasional baby stroller. That being said, there were great volunteers clearly showing people where to turn back for the 5K (it went halfway over the bridge and back) or which lanes to stay in for the 10K.

After the first kilometer, it opened up a lot and I was able to run, albeit sometimes needing to dodge people like I said. Having never done another 10K race I don’t know if this is normal or not! I almost instantly lost my friends after agreeing on a spot to meet up at afterwards, but it was for the better anyways, I prefer to run alone. I turned on my music and my training app and just enjoyed myself, the breeze, the beautiful view and the blue sky. I’m so used to running alone that it was bizarre to be around so many other people. I had to remind myself to just try for my own personal best, to dig deep when I needed to and appreciate myself for trying when I needed to.

Busan 10K

I only stopped once for a split second to take a picture, and the rest I ran at a steady pace. Within the last 3K, two of the half marathoners passed me – the half marathon did an 11K loop before running our same 10K route – and I marvelled. They were so beautiful – two African runners with the most effortless gait I’ve ever seen up close. And they flew past me and everyone else, practically catching up with the car that drove slowly ahead showing their time. They had run literally double what I had in the same amount of time and it really fired me up. I dug deeper and ran the last 3K much faster than the previous 7, in the end shaving close to 30s off my average time per kilometer! I had started my tracker about 0.2 km into the start of the race, but I ended up running 9.79 km in 1:03. I trust my app measurements, and that means I ran at a pace of 6’26”, which is a personal best for me.

At the end I felt amazing. It had been like a wind tunnel on the way back, and my ankles were a touch sore, but I sprinted to the finish line and felt totally incredible. I got a little medal saying I did the 10K race and I am still so proud of myself. It would have been foolish to try and run the half marathon, I know now that the 10K was absolutely the perfect goal for this stage in my life. After the race, I found my friends and we were all feeling great. We stepped around picnics spread out everywhere on the pavement with tons of bottles of makgeolli (rice alcohol) and beer and lots of Korean food – all at 10 in the morning! We hopped on the subway and treated ourself to some delicious, well deserved brunch before heading home.

Busan 10K

I’m so excited I did this race, and it only inspires me to try to do more scenic races in different beautiful locations in the world. I’m so happy to call this one crossed off my birthday list.

24 Before 24: Have a Picnic Somewhere Stunning

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I’m doing 24 fun or new things before I turn 24. You can see the rest of my list here.

For the month of August, I have a different work schedule – I’m working 9-6 instead of 1-9. I’m not much of a morning person, so last week I was really tired as I tried to adjust to the change. Even still, I have to admit that having my evenings free was totally wonderful. Finally I’m on a similar schedule to my friends, leaving us open to exploring the beautiful city we are lucky enough to live in. That means that in the evenings last week alone, we had a gorgeous dinner sitting on a patio, explored some awesome English bookstores in the university area, and of course, had this picnic at one of the most scenic spots in Busan.

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Igidae Park offers one of my favourite views that I’ve seen in Korea. The park itself is made up of fingers of land that jut out at various intervals, parallel to the far shore, which means that no matter how far you walk along the coast, you get stunning views of the city – the Diamond bridge on the left with Gwangalli beach behind, Marine City in the middle, Haeundae beach and Dongbaek Island further right, and of course Dalmaji Hill. None of those names will mean anything to you if you’ve never been to Busan, but the pictures speak for themselves. It’s beautiful.

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After work last Thursday, we took the metro 11 stops, then hopped in a 5-minute cab ride and ended up in Igidae. We were met with gorgeous views, beautiful clouds, and the prettiest blues and pinks of the sunset. I’d been once before, in the Spring, but I absolutely loved it at dusk.

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Our picnic fare was random (as the best picnic food is!) but perfect. We had kimbap (kind of like Korean sushi), chips, pastries, crackers, wine and cookies.

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We sat on the rocks overlooking the water as the sun went down, and for as long as we could after it was dark, until the ceaseless mosquito bites made us flee the scene. We talked about how lucky we felt to be able to experience such a beautiful place on a weeknight, after work, a short half hour trip from where we lived. It felt like freedom, and summer, and I was so grateful to be living so close to the water, to have made such great friends here, and to be eating Ritter Sport chocolate. It made me feel excited and inspired to make the most of the rest of my summer evenings as much as I possibly can. Life is grand.

Inside My Second Korean Apartment

Korean Apartment Tour

When I first moved to Korea, I shared photos of my apartment for anybody curious back home (hi Grandma! hi Mom!) or anybody curious in general. I remember how nervous I was about moving here in the months leading up to my departure, and I remember how great it was to see pictures of my friend Dylan’s apartment before I left. So if there’s anybody out there about to move to Korea to be a teacher at a hagwon and curious about what your accommodations will be like, perhaps this post can shed some light.

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This is the beautiful wall of windows I’m greeted with every time I step into my apartment. As you can see, I have no furniture apart from my bed (actually a futon) and a couple of little tables left by the previous tenant. I could really use a desk! But I’m making do for now by using my little built in table in my kitchen.

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I really love this table feature. It’s been working out wonderfully so far, but I’ve only lived here for two sleeps so we’ll see what I start using the space for as time goes on. The stools were also left behind and I love them too. My personal motto appears to be: “The more colour, the better!!”

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The Disney decals on the walls were also already there – aren’t they funny? The kitchen is very similar to my last one – it has two gas burners and the washing machine underneath. But my last kitchen didn’t have Winnie the Pooh so I think this apartment is winning.

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I also love this little table directly across from the kitchen. I’ve used it to store all my precious little things – a Ganesh god statuette that was a gift from my mom, a candle from Israel from my best friend, a rubber ducky I took from a fountain outside a love motel in Japan, you know, the usual. I killed off my succulent plant (typical, for me) so I repurposed its pink container to be a change jar. The full length mirror behind this table is also awesome.

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Lots of closet space, which is great, and I hung up my felt bunting across the ceiling because it refused to stick to the wall. I helped make miles of that bunting for Market Day at my last school and took some of the extras home. I love having it in here, it makes every day feel like a party!

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My reading materials and my bedspread and a little inherited table.

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A messy cabinet, with lots of storage!

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The bathroom, featuring a sneak peek of my ajumma pants (which I adore). My shower in this new place has a door (yay!) but the bottom isn’t totally sealed off so the water runs over the floor into the drain near the sink (not so yay!). It’s a good compromise, since some showers have no door or separation and all your stuff gets wet every time! I’m happy that I have an in-between-style shower.

And that’s that! It’s my second day at the new job today and I’m a bit overwhelmed but I’m just trying to work hard and do my best. I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually!

Dare I say I like this apartment better than my first one? I think it has more personality! And more light! And fewer neighbours across the way! I might need to buy a few more things to make it more homey, but it’s really great.

Lately | June

Lately JuneExcited I was able to see a stunning coastal temple this morning before I had to go to work.

Resolving to get out more in the mornings instead of always saving my excursions for the weekend.

Becoming a regular at a few great restaurants + bars in my neighbourhood (for Busanites: Artista and Thursday Party).

Planning my summer vacation – I’m thinking Japan!

Eating a lot of homemade summer rolls for dinner (I’ll share my recipe on the blog next week), scrambled egg wraps for lunch, and a lot of raw veggies in between.

Drinking the delicious-but-potent Long Island Iced Teas at our local watering hole, and lots of water the rest of the time.

Excited about trying cheesy pajeon, our upcoming trip to Jeju island, all the books I’ve been adding to my to-read list, and getting to teach cute little kids starting from next week.

Running at the local track and slowly increasing my distance – yay!

Brainstorming for a new creative (ad)venture. Stay tuned!

Watching Masterchef and Masterchef Australia because they’re both back on, hallelujah! My favourite time of year.

Daydreaming out loud about plans for after my year in Korea.

Listening to my favourite podcasts most of the time instead of music. Any song recommendations?

Relieved that most of the stress involved with switching schools seems to have passed so that now I can just focus on enjoying my long summer days and nights.

Making use of the open rooftop terraces on nearby buildings for gatherings and late night yoga alike.

Wondering how it’s already Wednesday, and how it’s already the last week of June.

Grateful for emails from family, long talks with good friends, and the fact that I’m back to feeling positive and excited about the rest of my year in Korea after a brief period of negativity and stress.

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