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)|
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!|