Deputy Managing Editor
I have so far won four medals. The first one was at the graduation ceremony of my elementary school and the other three were for running.
Unlike medals you receive at schools for outstanding academic performance, you don’t have to be an elite runner to win a medal in a marathon.
Pay a participation fee, finish the race with a mediocre record and you can get one. In the fall of 2007, I won a medal after finishing a 10-kilometer race.
I practiced for some weeks for the race and finished it without much difficulty. Though my record was far from impressive, for beginners, running regularly is tough. After the 10-kilometer race, I forgot about running completely.
The urge to run revisited after I was diagnosed with a mild stomach ulcer in early 2011. I thought running would resolve the digestive problem.
In the fall of that year I took part in a half marathon in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. Without proper training, running a 21.09-kilometer race proved to be nightmarish for a novice like me.
I had no problem running until the 18th kilometer. After passing the 18-kilometer mark, my body lurched and I couldn’t run any further. I had to walk the rest of the homestretch which seemed to last forever.
The final 1-2 kilometers was utter torture _ I had never gone through such a terrible physical ordeal. I briefly thought about giving up. But, somehow, I was able to finish the race, clocking in at 2:17:08.
The record, engraved in my second medal alongside my name, was not significant. What’s important was that I finished the half marathon for the first time ever in my life, a feat that made me think that I’m not bad at running long distances.
Furthermore, I thought I could complete even a full marathon if I underwent the proper training. I set a goal to run the 42.195km full race this fall.
For this I needed to run half marathons several more times. Recently in mid-March, I applied for another half marathon in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province.
The course was alongside the Han River. But I didn’t practice enough in the weeks prior to the race. Worse, I had a severe nocturnal cramp in my left leg two days before.
With no sufficient training and the lingering aftermath of the cramp, I decided to give up participating the day before the race.
However, the moment I woke up at dawn on the day of the race on April 8, I changed my mind. I told myself: “Just go there and run a few miles.”
I drove to the marathon venue in Misari, Hanam where thousands of amateur runners had already gathered. After rubbing Vaseline on my knees and slipping into the running outfit, I felt I could run a further distance than I thought.
The starting gun went off and I hit the road together with thousands of runners in colorful outfits. The weather was so nice and the path alongside the Han River was ideal for running, presenting a beautiful scenic backdrop.
Without chasing a pacemaker, I ran at my own pace, at a slow but steady speed. I tried to pay little attention to the others running past me.
Running alongside the river was fantastic. The sheer joy of running under the clear sky and the mild wind blowing on my face was all I could feel.
Before that race, I didn’t know running was so enjoyable. I wouldn’t say it was a runner’s high. But that day, while running, I felt exalted.
I didn’t have to stop and walk even as I passed the 18-kilometer mark. And I was able to maintain my pace until the homestretch. I finished at 2:06:41.
It’s meaningful that I ran faster than previously. My next goal will be to break the two-hour mark. It means I must train harder to make my muscles strong enough to endure the greater pressure.
I think I fell in love with this sport. Unlike other sports, all I need is only a pair of running shoes and a road. Training is the price I should pay for a medal. I picture myself running toward the homestretch in the fall to win another medal, this time for a full marathon.