Tuesday, May 6, 2014

running in South Korea

Marathon training means having to run many miles even while on vacation.  I knew the hotel we were staying in had a treadmill, so I could do the shorter runs there, but there's no way I could do my two long runs on the treadmill.  I searched for places to run and asked my friend who's living in South Korea what she would recommend.  She told me nobody really runs on the streets in and around Seoul, but there is the Han River that has a bike path along most of it where many people go.  Sounded good to me.

While not all runs went exactly as planned, or hoped, I would say overall I was pretty successful in maintaining my training while in South Korea.  Here's what happened:

Friday:  35-40 min easy was on the schedule.  If you read my last post, you know that we left Thursday morning and did not arrive in South Korea until Friday night due to the time change.  I was exhausted when we got there and went straight to bed.  No run.

Saturday: I woke up before my alarm went off...around 4:30 I think it was.  My body just didn't want to sleep any more.  I went to check out the gym at the hotel and use the treadmill.  The gym was small, 3 treadmills, a bike, some dumbbells, and a massage chair.  There was no fan, or air conditioning.  It felt warm before I even started running.  I ran 45 min easy + 4 x 100m strides.  I was drenched from head to toe when finished.  Oh how I love running on the treadmill (sarcasm).

at least the view wasn't so bad
Sunday: The plan - run 20 miles along the Han River while my mom, brother, and Ryan entertained themselves for a few hours.  The plan did not go quite as planned.  The food in Korea is very different than home.  There are not as many gluten free options, so my dinner Saturday night was very small (chips and guacamole).  Sunday morning I woke up starving and had a Picky Bar I brought.  We went to Dunkin Donuts and I had a couple eggs with cheese (no bread), coffee, and water.  I hoped it would be enough, but I had a feeling it wouldn't be.

eggs served on a real plate
Dunkin Donuts in S. Korea > Dunks in the US
We took the subway to the stop we thought was the right one for the river.  We ended up walking in circles for probably 20 minutes before we found it, only to realize another stop was right next to it.  Live and learn.  When we first saw the river my first thoughts were excitement and awe.  It was beautiful.  I was pumped to have the chance to run in such an amazing place.  

waiting for the subway
do I really get to run here??
My plan was to run 5 miles one way, run back to where I started, and then run 5 miles the other way, and back to where I started.  As soon as I started running I felt off.  I felt like I hadn't had enough to eat and I could feel the intense humidity immediately.  I tried to take it slow and focus on the views around me.  I ran 5 miles, turned around and headed back.  I felt hot and thirsty and had drank a lot more than usual for how far I had gone.  Around mile 7 or 8 I decided to take a few chews to see if it helped my energy.  I ate three, had some more to drink and continued on my way.  It didn't help.  As I approached the area where I started and reached 10 miles, I knew it just wasn't going to be my day.  My clothes were soaked from sweat and I didn't have anything left in the tank to continue.  I planned to meet my mom, brother and Ryan 3 hours after I started.  I tried to walk a little more to kill some time while I waited for them, but even that felt difficult.  I sat on the steps and waited.  After only a few minutes I heard Ryan yell my name.  They had come back early thankfully and were having something to eat close by.  I was happy to see them, but bummed it was much sooner than I had hoped.  I felt defeated and upset that I didn't have a long run in me that day.  But I knew the reasons, which helped keep my frustration at bay.  I knew I could give it another shot the following weekend.

Monday: Woke up early again and ran easy on the treadmill for 40 minutes

Tuesday: Back on the treadmill, 15 min warm up 10 x 1 min on, 1 min off @ 10k pace, 10 min cool down.  The treadmill pace was kilometers/hour, so I didn't really know what pace I was running.  I just ran harder for a minute, and then easy 10 times.  This workout typically isn't too hard for me, but this day it felt tough.  I was still struggling to find enough food to eat and it was taking its toll.  Being able to eat the foods I need and fuel the way do for running is something I took for granted before this trip.  I definitely realize now, more than ever, how important it is.  I was definitely feeling the effects of lack of fuel.  

Wednesday: 40 minutes easy on the treadmill, felt ok

Thursday: The sky was pretty hazy most of the time we were in S. Korea.  However, Thursday morning the sun decided to show its face.  What's worse than a run on the treadmill in a warm gym with no air?  A run on the treadmill in a warm gym with no air in the sun.  It had to have been 80+ degrees in there.  Not fun.  I did a very slow 15 min warm up and 4 sets of 1000/400 (1000's @ 10k pace - 7:55, 400's @ 5k pace - 7:09 with 30 second rest in between and 3 min rest between sets).  Other than being extremely warm, I felt pretty good.  I went extra slow on the rests and drank as much water as possible.  I was happy to have my last treadmill run in S. Korea done. 

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 20 miles along the Han River, take 2.  This time I made sure to eat a decent dinner the night before, and we went to the buffet in the hotel for breakfast so I could have more than just eggs.  In S. Korea they have rice, or would have rice, with every meal.  I love sticky rice, and it was a great substitute for my normal pre long run breakfast.  I had rice, an egg, some fruit, and was ready to give it another go.  This time my mom, brother, and Ryan were going to rent bikes and bike along the path close by.  Ryan carried some extra water for me, and they checked in with me every now and then to make sure I was doing ok.  It was a huge help.  This time I started out going the other way, ran 5 miles, turned around to look for my family.  When I met up with them, I turned around again and ran a few more miles before heading back.  The weather was beautiful.  It was a little warm, but the sky was clear, there was a nice breeze, and most importantly, there wasn't much humidity.  I took my time, enjoyed the views, and finished all 20 miles.  It was perfect. 

beautiful views...obviously pretty happy
me running, my brother and Ryan biking by my side
loving it
Sunday: Rest - traveled home 

Overall I feel pretty good about how training went.  I didn't feel as well as I have been, but considering the conditions, I think I managed ok.  We walked constantly while there as well, which I think contributed to some of my fatigue.  I feel very fortunate to have been able to run along the Han River.  It was definitely a highlight of the trip for me, and one of the most beautiful places I have had the opportunity to run.  


  1. I'm impressed with how much running you did!!! You are dedicated for sure, I would've had more than one rest day in there! I feel like you can tell it's humid there, just by looking at your pictures. Glad you had a successful 20 miler, it's really awesome that you ran so many miles in Korea. Who else can say that?? :)

    1. Thanks!! It really was an incredible experience! I was motivated by the marathon in just a couple weeks to keep up my training. I'm really happy I was able to!