Contributed by Snot Rocket Scientist Eric Hidalgo.
There are normally five organized foot races in Changwon every year, two in the spring and three in the fall. But before that, here’s a list of some general information about races in Korea.
1. All organized races in Korea are called “marathons” regardless of the distance. Consequently, many “marathon championships” may have only a half-marathon as the longest race.
Also, don’t be put off when asked, “how long is your marathon?” You should then answer: full course, half course, 10k or 5k.
2. The procedure in joining local races is generally:
– register online at the race website. (How to information here)
– pay the fee by transferring or depositing money to the designated bank account
– wait for the race kit
– go to the race venue on race day and run (no need to register again at the race venue)
3. All local race websites are in Korean. So you may need some assistance from a Korean friend to register. And if you don’t have internet banking, you may need some assistance in paying as well.
4. Race websites will begin to accept registrants about three months before the expected race date. The last day for registration is always about one month from race day. In most cases, this deadline is extended for one week but don’t count on it.
5. Race kits will arrive in the week before race day at the address that you entered in the registration process. I always specify my office address for this purpose. It simplifies everything.
6. Always pin your bib on your chest. This is how they match pictures to the names.
7. Race venues will have a place where you can deposit/retrieve your belongings before/after the race.
8. Be prepared for stares, comments, pointing and a lot of “waaahs” if you use minimalist footwear. While Vibram FiveFingers and even sandals are allowed, you will run the risk of getting mauled if you wear Crocs.
9. Make sure you smile as you near the finish line since this is usually the spot where they get your picture that will appear on your race certificate.
10. At the finish line, the finisher’s medal won’t be draped around your neck by a pretty girl or a handsome hunk. These honors are reserved for running gods.
For the rest of us mortals, after crossing the finish line, just stroll on over to a series of booths marked with 풀(full course), 하프 (half course), or 10k. Upon seeing your sweating, heaving visage, the person behind the counter will give you a small plastic bag. Look closely: your finisher’s medal will be among the banana, choco pies, and pink milk.
11. They will send you your race certificate about one month after race day.
12. Local races are mostly well organized and fun. Each race always has dancing girls, samulnoris, free food, free massages, and free rice wine. First aid stations are well equipped and manned.
13. Time limits are usually 5 hours for 42k, 3 hours for 21k, 1.5 hours for 10k. They start picking up the traffic cones and opening the road up to vehicular traffic afterwards.
If you exceed these time limits, you can still run if you want but it will have to be on the sidewalks and there is no guarantee that there will be someone at the finish line to give you your medal. But Koreans are generally compassionate and there’s a good chance someone will pity you and wait for you to finish. (I’m speaking from experience here.)
14. Okay, I got nothing else but I didn’t want to stop at thirteen.
The Masan 3.15 Marathon
As the name suggests, this race is usually held in the middle of March. But this could change. In 2011, for instance, this race happened in October. Anyway, best to check the website from time to time.
The race route will take you up and down the bay/river road in Masan.
Distances: 21k, 10k, 5k
The Kyungnam Changwon Mould Marathon
This race is held every April just around the time the cherry blossoms come out. The route takes you on a wide loop from the Changwon Sports Stadium to the hills north of the city, down to the river road and back to the stadium.
Those who have been doing their hill training will love this race. Runners with spring allergies – not so much.
Distances: 21k, 10k, 5k
The Gyeongnam Marathon
Usually organized for the second Sunday in October. The route is a there-and-back to Changwon’s heavy industrial section along Masan Bay and back to the Changwon Sports Stadium. This route has a “heartbreak hill” at the start and end of the 21k. This is a good tune-up race if you plan to run the Changwon Tongil in November. Curiously, this race offers a 6k route.
Distances: 21k, 10k, 6k
The Jinhae Marathon
Normally scheduled for the first Sunday of November. The race starts at the Jinhae Public Stadium and takes you around the Naval Base. You’ll see warships new, old and supposedly old (The Turtle Ship replica). Also takes you around the quaint parts of Jinhae.
Distances: 21k, 10k, 5k
The Changwon Tongil Marathon
The last and biggest race of the year usually scheduled for the third Sunday in November. This is the only race in Changwon that offer the full 42k Marathon.
The route is similar to the Gyeongnam Marathon in that the 42k goes deep into the heavy industrial section of Changwon and on to the small fishing villages beyond. The full marathoner will see very nice Masan bay sights as well as a great view of the Machang Grand Bridge (think Golden Gate) as you run under the east end of the bridge.
Also features the delightful “heartbreak hill” at the end of all race routes.
Distances: 42k, 21k, 10k, 5k
There may be other local races that may be lurking around that I haven’t discovered yet. If you know of such events please let us know at our Facebook page.
About this contributor:
Eric Hidalgo has been living and working in Changwon since 2007. He has been an avid long distance runner since 2009 as a result of a chronic case of homesickness. He presently lives in a shoebox apartment in Jinhae.