2012 Seoul International Marathon (My first full marathon)

The 2012 Seoul International Marathon was my first marathon. I was stationed in South Korea for 2 years and through work emails discovered that the race was being offered and there was a (private, charity) group that was putting a group together to train for the race and raise funds for Knights of Heroes. I unfortunately had to go do some training in Alabama during most of the training and wouldn't be able to do the weekly training runs with the group. 

Most of  my training for this marathon was done at Maxwell Air Force Base just west of Montgomery, Alabama. The training was mostly in the classroom and was held during "normal business" hours. And, since I was away from friends and family, I had some time to myself which was conducive to marathon training. 

Maxwell Air Force Base at this point had felt like a second home. I knew where the roads went and I knew most of the base from running around it when I had been there other times. Once in 2008 I tried running around the flightline in July and nearly killed myself. I was not in good shape and it was very hot and humid. Well, Alabama has quite the range of conditions and this time around I was there during the winter and it can get very cold in Alabama in the winter. 

I wasn't very fast at this point but I was very determined to get the training in. I did shorter week day runs and longer runs on the weekends. I was getting better at maintaining a good pace and not slowing down a lot at the end of the long runs. It got very boring at times but I looked forward to the marathon and to see my hard work pay off on race day. 

I flew back to Seoul in better shape for the distance than I had ever been before. I had run a 20+ mile run and was feeling good. I would say that at this point I was worried about a few things. The first was not pacing myself correctly and maybe running too fast at the start. The next was nutrition. I still was uncertain about what I should be eating before and during the race. 

I got up early the next morning and got to the bus that was to drive us to Seoul. It was about an hours drive and the most memorable part of the drive was how little traffic there was in Seoul early on a Sunday morning. It was a relatively quick and easy ride. 

Once the bus stopped we hung out for a while and then moved towards the start. 

I don't know how many people ran this marathon, but it was a lot. The starting area took up a large block and participants lined up according to their numbers. It was at least a 1/3 of a mile to the start line from where we were staged. 

The group I was with

One part of the beginning that I'll never for get was the warm up routine. All along one side of the road were stages lined up where performers (if you want to call them that) would say things that I didn't understand to music that I would consider 100% American. Eventually came the warm up and the people on the stage would lead us in doing warm up exercises. Shortly before the beginning of the race the song Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO was blasted over the speakers. There was something I thought was special about being in Seoul, about to run a marathon, and hearing such a familiar song that made the whole experience that much cooler. 

After the official start of the race we had to wait about 10 mins for our group to actually start moving (as I said, there were lots of people). Then the race was on. 
Lots of runners

I made what I think is a standard rookie mistake and started out too fast. I knew this to be the case but for some reason decided that I was going to just go with it. The weather was pretty good - it was probably in the 50's and was pretty sunny. I had gels about every 45 mins and had water and Pocari Sweat  at the aid stations. 

It was about mile 18 that I started to fade. I was getting tired and was in a fair amount of general discomfort. My body was tired and I still had miles to go. Eventually there was an aid station just before a bridge. I started to walk. Someone gave me a chocolate that I actually ate for some reason and immediately regretted it because it made me feel thirsty. 

From this point to the finish was not my proudest moment by a long shot. Although I can say that I never once stopped moving forward. I had hit the wall. My whole body was in pain. I thought that running slower would ease the paint but there was nothing for it. Regardless of my pace I was not in good shape. I ran when I could and tried to walk as little as possible. 

The finish was in the Olympic Stadium I ran the 3/4 of a lap on the track and finished in 3:52. I had been hoping for something closer to 3:40. After the finish I made my way out of the stadium to another running track where people were resting. I collapsed and just laid down. My legs were completely trashed and I was exhausted. Eventually I new I had to find the group I was with. I got up and walked around trying to find someone I recognized. At one point a young Korean came up to me and in perfectly good English (a surprise to me) said, "are you okay?" I thought it was funny because I didn't think that I was exhibiting any behaviors that would lead to someone to be concerned, maybe I was. 

I eventually found my group and made it back. The 2012 Seoul Marathon will be a race I will never forget. It was awesome on so many levels and I learned a lot, too. 

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