Friday, August 27, 2010

Running in Seoul, South Korea

Traveling in Korea on the way to the 2010 World Leisure Congress and Leisure Games, and just spent 4 days in Seoul. The weather was very rainy while we were there but the locals tell us that we should be glad it wasn't last week - Hot and Humid.

Have to admit, didn't see a lot of runners in downtown Seoul. Bonnie and I ended up running in a Monsoon Tuesday morning and got a lot of stares from the locals as if we were aliens from another planet. But with a city of 20 million plus people, if we didn't get the run in by 8 am on their downtown streets, it wasn't going to happen. We were looking like O. J. Simpson going through an airport with the people we were dodging as it was.

It was explained to us that a lot of Koreans don't like being in the rain for health reasons. They may be right. One thing we both noticed is that our clothing and shoes had a sulfur smell to them even after being rinsed in a sink.

We did find a river road not two blocks from our hotel that was beautiful for a run. It cuts through the city and was long enough for our 30 minute morning run. We did not find more than a dozen people during this stretch, and it was lined with historical drawings, paintings, and architecture that lent a perspective of peace and balance.

Quick review of Seoul, and a comment about anyone planning on running a race here.

Seoul is a city that completely defines change. During the past 50 years, it's population has grown 450 percent, which would force change upon any society with that demographic shift. Part of that shift is happening right now. It seemed like there is a emphasis put on all students to learn English and to study hard in school. There were ads in the subway and on bill boards on companies willing to assist students to learning how to study and/or pick up a second language. Korea is preparing itself to be a leader in international trade.

If anyone is wondering what a government would be like if it was run by corporations, this would be a classic case study. All of the baseball teams have corporate names instead of city/state ones, such as the LG Twins, Samsung Tigers, etc. Most events have corporate sponsored in their advertisement.

I wouldn't consider myself a world traveller, but I was very impressed on the politeness and curtesy shown during our stay. Of the places I've visited, Korea is the one that presented me with the greatest language barrier. But they've made a great effort to have menus, signs, and subway information shown in both Korean and English to get where you going, and/or get what you need. They even had "Hi Seoul" agents in green outfits that helped Bonnie and I find a Temple when Google Maps had failed us.

All-in-All, I would not hesitate to come to Korea if you're looking for an Asian Marathon to run. It's relatively flat, the transportation system is very accessible and easy to understand, the people go out of their way to be helpful, and the cost of living makes it attractive to running one in Japan.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Hyoja-dong,Chuncheon-si,South Korea

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