Monday, April 11, 2011

Daegu-BETTER, Always

Here in Daegu, at least among many of my friends, we have a superiority complex. A very well-founded superiority complex, to be sure. Daegu is in the center of Korea, the hub of transportation. This makes it easy to travel anywhere in the country with extreme ease. We are an hour from multiple beaches! Daegu is in a valley surrounded by lovely mountains providing excellent hiking and touring. We have a thriving downtown with bars and restaurants galore. If you want a change of scenery, we have 2 uni areas to explore. And we have all this at a cheaper price than Seoul or Busan. Things are, from what I've found, a bit more affordable in Daegu. And did I mention our transit system is pretty excellent? Bus and metro fare is 950won with a transit card - that's less than dollar a ride! With free transfers! We have a great mix of the old and the new.

Really I could continue on forever on why I think Daegu is the best. This is, after all, Daegu-Better. What I want to highlight here, though, is my appreciation toward the city of Daegu, the Daegu Sports Council, and the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation, hosting their World Championships in Daegu this August). From a tipsy conversation outside the Viniroo cocktail-to-go stand when I agreed to run the Daegu 10k, to this past Sunday, I finally made the journey to my first real running race. And it was amazing.
That picture is exactly how I felt on race day. (The Korean says: Daegu Marathon Club)
After months of training, and then letting all of that work go to waste due to a month-long illness, the Daegu 10k on Sunday, April 10th 2011 came. I am not a runner and I kind of hate running but I stuck to my goal and ran this race with my best friends in Korea (couldn't have done without you guys). My personal goal was to finish the race under the 1.5 hour time limit. I did, although not by much but I am happy enough. There is always next time.

But my appreciation for the people who ran this race came about 2 weeks before game day. I was hanging around my apartment on a Saturday morning, sipping my coffee when I got a call from an unknown cell phone number. I answered and could hear the Korean spoken through my receiver coming form my hallway. I hesitantly opened my door to find a delivery man outside clutching a silvery package. I hadn't ordered anything to my house. Was this a mistake? The man, seeing my confusion, made some running gestures and said "maraton!" Ah, this was stuff for the run!

I eagerly accepted my swag and ran back into my apartment to tear open the pack like a kid on Christmas Day. Inside held my race number and tracking chip, a program for the event, and a backpack! Nice!

Fast-forward to race day. I met up with my friends and fellow runners before the race bright and early Sunday morning. The area was packed with people! Although the other runners were mainly Korean, I've never felt more welcome in such a big setting in my life. People left and right wanted to snap pictures with us and spirits soared high the whole day. As a very novice runner, I lagged behind my better trained friends and footed the race alone. Or so I thought. The entire race course was lined with Koreans holding up hands for high fives, offering encouraging cheers, snapping photos, screaming "fighting!," and a wealth of other encouragements. These guys definitely kept me going when I felt down and out.

Also to my rescue were the random Korean men who would run up beside me and try to keep me running their pace. As a foreigner in Korea it's usually hard to feel part of something bigger besides the expat community. During the race, we were all people just running together. It was a welcome unparalleled to any I've experienced in Korea thus far. The cheers and encouragement lasted all the way to the end of the race, when an ajumma pushed her way through people crowding the water table to hand me a bottle of water.

Once I reconnected with my friends, the welcome continued! At the snack stand, we got our snacks along with a participant medal (I was extremely excited about this, I haven't gotten a medal since college!) which I eagerly hung around my neck. After we were all be-medaled the guys and gals manning the snack area, a self-proclaimed ajusshi, an adorable middle schooler from Ulsan we met at the start of the race, and other various race-goers were so excited to snap pictures with us. I felt like I belonged there, that I wasn't some crazy foreigner but I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Photo courtesy of Miss Bridgette, my inspiration for running and the one who got me to run in the first place.
With the cool boy from Ulsan. He found us after the race!
So thank you Daegu and everyone involved in the 2011 Daegu International Marathon Race for making this waygook feel not so waygooky. I didn't know I could be so happy after running that far, but you made it possible. And I will never forget it. Daegu-Better, all the way.


  1. Congratulations on running your first in Daegu!
    Are you currently running with a group, or training on your own? I ask because I moved to Daegu two weeks ago and am currently looking for a running group.

    Any information that you can provide me with will be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

  2. I meant to say "running your first race in Daegu"...opps. :-)

  3. Asali: Thanks! I'm hoping to get a few more races in this year. I actually just run by myself or with some friends. You're more than welcome to run with us down by the river. We don't have a set time or anything, just usually happens on Sundays.