I was standing in the corral shoulder to shoulder. Packed in tight. My anticipation was building, my heart was beating but I was breathing to stay calm. I was nervous, but I was ready. I was jumping around and shaking out my legs. The fireworks went off and the marathoners took off. I cheered for them and kept shuffling around. Right about then is when I quickly realized that everyone around me was wearing a blue bib and I was wearing a pink bib. It dawned on me that I was in the wrong corral and when the fireworks had gone off a few minutes ago and the runners took off, the runners I had been cheering for, that was MY race and I was supposed to be with them. Uhg.
Every race in Korea offers all the distances. So you can choose if you want to run a 5k, 10k, Half or Full and each one has a staggered start time. Unfortunately, I don’t understand Korean, was fairly nervous at the start and have a habit of missing some serious cues even when I’m at home. I was in line for the wrong race and my race had already started. Let’s just say I was distracted by the K-Pop cheerleaders.
We were packed in so tight, shoulder to shoulder that by the time I realized my mistake there wasn’t much I could do. I slowly shuffled forward toward the start line watching the clock for the half marathon tick away 9 minutes, 10 minutes, 11 minutes…. At twelve minutes the second round of fireworks went off and I finally set off. Twelve minutes behind the start of my race. More than a full mile back from where I meant to be.
I pride myself on my unrelenting positive attitude, my adaptability and mental toughness when it comes to athletics, but at this moment, I almost cried. I had no idea where the course went, if I would be able to find the course for the half or I would be stuck running in the sea of 10k-ers. I had to catch myself and do some serious self-talk. I played the scenario back and pretended I was the coach talking to one of my athletes, what would I say to them?
I would say, “Let it go, roll with it and stay positive. You can’t change it because it already happened and you can still have a great race if you don’t let it get to you. Find the joy in the race itself and just have fun with it.”
So that is what I did.
I still wasn’t sure if I would be able to find the half course or if I would be running the 10k so pacing was a little hard and my mind was pretty frenetic. I tried to stay calm and in control but I really didn’t know which distance I was racing.
I finally found the split off for the half course and left the sea of 10k runners. I felt more relaxed knowing that I could still run the distance I had trained for but a little disheartened because by the time I got on my course I was THE ONLY ONE THERE. The street was empty and I was literally last. I had to control my pace and fight the urge to push myself to catch up. I just kept remind myself I would subtract 12 minutes from my time so my place at that moment didn’t matter. Run your own race, and run it smart!
I finally caught up to the rest of the runners and started to feel the Race Euphoria I love! I was settling into my pace, my mind was calming down, and I was feeling good.
I was on FIRE! Runner’s high was in full force. I was high fiving everybody (kids, old ladies, policemen, fellow runners) my playlist was on point! There were songs about how you can do anything you want, there were songs about you only get one life and to live it well, there were songs about girl power and I was loving it. The cherry blossoms were out and so so beautiful!
Isn’t it crazy I am in Korea? Life is so funny. You always get to where you need to be. Who would have thought a year ago I would be running this race? I am so thankful for my body and this experience! I love running! When can I do a full marathon?
I was an unstoppable bundle of joy and energy… until…
I was tired. I pushed it pretty hard and I was starting to fatigue. My phone died and I lost my music. The cheering crowds were gone. My friend and biggest cheerleader, Karin sent me an e-mail the week before declaring I was an “uncaged princes cheetah warrior.” Naturally, I wrote that on my hand and pretty much chanted in for a mile straight.
Also during this time I convinced myself that I had accidentally joined the FULL marathon course because I couldn’t read the signs. I had to study others’ bibs to make sure that I was in the right course. I was.
I was a shark and everyone in front of me were guppies and I was going to eat them for breakfast. I set my eyes on the back of their heads and reeled them in one by one. A little dark, but it worked. I pushed hard at the end and felt good when I crossed the finish line. Good and relieved.
DID I GET MY GOAL TIME OF BREAKING 2 HOURS?
Umm…I really don’t know. The clock read 2:12 when I finished and I started somewhere between 11 and 12 minutes behind my race, plus the pacing was off when I thought I might be running the 10k and my chip never registered because I hit the wrong mat…so MAYBE!
(Let’s just say yes).
It was somewhere between 1:59 and 2:01, still about 15 minutes faster than my next fastest half. So I am HAPPY. I ran with joy, I enjoyed the race itself. A friend from running club was there and waited the whole 2 hours to cheer me on at the finish and had gatorade waiting for me (so nice!!!). Two of my friends did the race as well and we celebrated after with an big American breakfast. The cherry blossoms were out. I loved the crowd and the energy. I got a LOT of high fives and a chocolate pie. So all in all, it was a great day.