Seoul Int'l Marathon When Brittany and I showed up to the subway station, we were happy to see the carnival like atmosphere that precedes all the races I’ve ever been to.  There’s something awesome about 20,000 people getting together to be out on a beautiful day pushing through a tough race.  Everyone at a race is really in it together.  You come to admire the people you are running with.  There was the usual medley of music dancing, pre-race battle cries, and excitement all about. IMG_5799 There was something else about the runners when we got off the subway this morning.  They looked wayyyyyy more serious than me.  There were groups in matching uniforms, doing their pre-run calisthenics, people taking laps through the subway station (before running 26.2 miles!), and a whole mess of people who looked generally more prepared and serious than I. IMG_5800 IMG_5802 I had been sick all week and my butt had been pretty smashed up from a night of drunken snowboarding the previous weekend.  On the couple of short runs I took during the week, my stomach tightened up within a few miles and I felt horrible.  But by Sunday, I was mostly better, and felt like the 26.2 was a real possibility. IMG_5803 The story of my run can be told from the perspective of running lessons that I learned. When I ran a half marathon those many years ago, I was pretty motivated by the act of catching and passing the people ahead of me.  I was able to maintain a pretty good pace for most of the race just by deciding I wanted to pass everyone. So, for the beginning of my race this time, I thought I’d do the same.  I took off feeling great,  passing pretty much everyone from my starting group.  Within 10 miles I was running almost entirely with the group that started 20 minutes ahead of me, and within 13 miles I was starting to see some people from the first group to leave the starting line. At this point, I’m thinking I’m quite the badass.  I cruised the first half like nothing.  And then I had to run the second half.  After running the first half pretty damn fast (and 13 miles isn’t usually a huge run if I run at a normal pace) I started saying to myself, “I have to run 13 more miles.  That’s not good at all.” IMG_5805 IMG_5806 IMG_5808 IMG_5809 I hit a big wall long before I’ve heard the average marathoner hits the wall.  I thought there was no possible way I could run 13 more miles.  After 5 more miles the subway pass in my pocket was starting to feel real nice.  From 18 miles on the words of George Sheehan kept me from throwing in the towel: “Some think guts is sprinting at the end of a race.  But guts is what got you there to begin with.  Guts start in the back hills with six miles to go and you’re thinking of how you can get out of this race without anyone noticing.  Guts begin when you still have forty minutes left and you’re already hurting more than you ever remember.”  So with that in mind, I carried on slowly and step by step. I hit some good fortune at mile 18, when I felt my absolute worst.  A random couple was pouring out cups of Coke on the side of the road.  In desperation, I ran up and they offered me cola.  This was the first time that I was grateful beyond measure.  The next time came 2 miles later.  I left my running pack at home because I had the vague impression there would be occasional snack stops along the way, but by mile 20 there hadn’t been any and I was hurting pretty bad.  And that’s when I saw bananas.  Out loud I said “Thank you” with about as much gratitude as I have ever had.  I slowed to walk through the aid station so that I could double-fist bananas and drink 4 or 5 cups of Pocari Sweat (the Korean/Japanese version of Gatorade.) From there on it was painful but steady running. IMG_5811 IMG_5814 IMG_5815 copy IMG_5816 copy IMG_5820 copy IMG_5821 IMG_5828 copy But with just two kilometers left I saw one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed.  On the side of the road, a man wearing a clown wig, who started the day in such high spirits with everyone else, lay on the side of the road as a man desperately gave him CPR.  As there were already people attending him, there wasn’t really anything I could do, so like everyone else, I ran on.  But the I couldn’t shake the sight.  I got really faint and felt like I did a few weeks ago when I cut my finger really deep and went into shock.  I was a little bit dazed, and after slowing to a walk for a little bit, I just sat on the side of the road for awhile.  Eventually, I stood to finish the race (just in time, as my legs were ready to cramp up by the time I stood again), and I trotted the last 1.5 km in.  At the end I didn’t have the joyful feeling I had running with everyone all day.  Maybe it was my altered state of consciousness from running 26.2 miles, maybe I was just really tired, but I was still thinking of the man in the clown wig.  I walked around getting food and drink after the race almost in tears.  When I found Brittany I couldn’t tell her what happened, so I just showed off my medal and smiled, but she thought I was a little too sad for having just run my first marathon. IMG_5829 IMG_5832 As I lost my time chip, I don’t have an official time to report.  The last I looked at my watch before starting to run, it was 8:26, and I finished at 12:04, so I am conservatively reporting my unofficial time as 3:40. I’m not sure if or when I will run another marathon.  The marathon was incredibly fun, but as I said before, I really just want to enjoy running for the sake of running.  And I have definitely done that.  Last week, a friend asked why I run big distances, and I the time I just said that it’s fun when you get into it.  But there’s something very free about running; in Seoul, I go a few miles through the city, find myself on a mountain in the early morning  with only a few people around, and suddenly every step is the only thing to focus on.  Removing my focus means falling or slowing down.  When you run, you’re light, and just let your feet decide where to go. It has been a most excellent 6 months of running.  It’s been over 1,000 miles of enjoying the fresh air, exploring a new city, the occasional unforgettable adventure, meeting and running with new people, exploring my own mind and abilities, and enjoying what it is to have a body and consciousness.  I’ll still be running.  If anyone is ever in Seoul look me up and we’ll take a good run together. IMG_5836 copy -Ryan

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