... that I love running in Korea. Seriously, I do. I doubt that there's anywhere else in the world that's as enthusiastic and uplifting to roadside runners as Korea is. I feel like a genuine rock star every time I run here.
It all started last year when a few friends and I decided to start training for a half marathon. Since we're all hagwon teachers and we don't get off work until late, we couldn't start our nightly runs until around 9 PM. The first few runs I thought that it was odd at the sheer amount of people who would stop for us on the street and clap and cheer us on. I figured that the majority of them had to be somewhat intoxicated as they were leaving a restaurant or bar late in the evening.
Things only got better during the World Cup. I began sporting my Korean soccer jersey, to support Korea- but mostly to get more people to enthusiastically cheer for me while on our jaunts. We would run the dark alleys of Pohang and every time we'd come upon a group of Koreans we would all shout, "Dae Han Min Guk" and everyone, I repeat, EVERYONE would reply with a "clap-clap clap-clap clap" in unison. There would also be cheers, thumbs ups, and high fives. It.was.awesome.
Tonight my friend Claire and I decided to run a few (ahem... four) miles to get some hangover soup (I'll have to have a separate post dedicated to the stuff). I wasn't sure if we'd get any attention this time. It was late, dark, and we were running a different route. Luckily for me, a few minutes in we were cheered on by a group of men leaving a soju bar. About a half a mile later a man working a parking booth took the time to stand up, wave at us frantically and give us a thumbs up. From then on we were unstoppable. Groups of men, women, and children held up their hands for high fives and congratulatory pats on the back.
I only wish that it could be the same in the States. Having consistent support from strangers makes my run so much more enjoyable and I find myself wanting to run for a longer period of time. Back home I ran hard because I was scared that if I stopped I was going to get shanked in the kidney- and that was in broad daylight. I remember running around my university neighborhood in Tacoma, carrying a can of pepper spray and a pocketknife in my sports bra. Baby steps people. Baby steps. Until that day, I'll keep the glory runs of South Korea.