Monday, April 23, 2012

How I Became a Runner

I'm sure for those of you that have known me for an extended period of time, this title may catch you by surprise. Trust me, 8 months ago, I never in a million years thought I'd be writing a post about how much I've come to love and enjoy the sport of running. That day has come...

As I stated in this earlier blog post, I was not the most athletic person growing up. I was that kid in the outfield during pee-wee baseball that was more interested in the butterflies and grass than the actual game. The last organized sporting thing that I did was track in 7th grade! So if you had told me that I'd be an active member of a running club in Korea and would actively be running (between 3-5 times a week), I would've looked at you like you had 3 heads and an 11th finger!

But here I am today, having just completed my first official 10KM race this past Saturday (in a personal best time of 48:31 - granted it was my first time, but I beat my goal of 50:00!). It all started about three months ago. I had started to become quite involved with Mannam International, a large volunteer group here in Seoul that I've talked about many times before. I had heard a rumor that they were thinking of starting a running club and became a bit interested. I obviously wasn't the first in line to sign up, but reluctantly told myself to just check it out and see what it was all about.

In all realities, the only reason why I even joined was because my friend Fred (who's from Vancouver and has since gone back to Canada) told me he was going and I should come as well. So on the day of the first meeting, I remember sitting outside the subway exit, anxiously awaiting Fred to show up. Had he not come that day, I don't know if I would've gone through with the first meeting. Honestly. I was that unsure about my running abilities.

Luckily, Fred showed up and we headed up to the Mannam Office for our first day of training. We started off the session by doing a quick round of introductions (there were roughly 8-10 of us that first meeting) and doing a basic orientation on the proper way to run, what to eat, etc. from our coach, Mark. It turned out to be a really great session. Then came the dreaded part - the run itself. Having not run a very substantial distance for more than 10 years or so, I was super nervous that I wouldn't be able to complete the first chunk.

We headed out from the office and started jogging down the street. We made our way to the Han River and jogged past two bridges, turned around and headed back to the office. I was doing good until I hit the first bridge on the way back. Fatigue, soreness, and just plain out of shapeness set in and I struggled to finish the last little bit back tot he office. I was embarassed for myself and vowed that the next week I would be able to not only finish the run but finish it in the middle of the pack and not at the very end. So that week, I joined the gym across the street from my school and started running on the treadmill at least 3 times a week to get ready for our next regular meeting.

Was I ever ready! We ended up running close to 10K and I was one of the first ones done! No slowing down, no struggling to finish at the end. I felt absolutely amazing and knew that this was something that I wanted to keep up. Within two weeks, I was hooked on running and have not stopped since!

That was almost two months ago and even to this day, I'm still doing runs about 3-5 times a week. I have found some really cool websites (thanks to the help of other members in the club) and apps for my phone that have helped me keep track of my distances and times. Just last week, I ran everyday from Saturday to Wednesday and ended up covering close to 50 KM (which is about 31 miles for those of you not on the metric system)! Since I've started running regularly, I've dropped nearly 8 pounds, which is fantastic! Seeing as I'm not one that tracks the pounds, I'm pretty excited about this new lifestyle of mine!

All of this training culminated at the Cherry Blossom Marathon last Saturday (mentioned above). Despite some horrid conditions (thanks Mother Nature for not cooperating and bringing the rain and the wind!), I set my personal best and now have something to base the rest of my races off of. I'm exicted to continue the training process and hope to complete a half marathon before I leave Korea! Once again, never EVER thought I'd be saying that as a personal goal!

As we say in MIRC (Mannam International Running Club), we run for fitness, we run for health, we run for life! This has now become my new motto and I couldn't be happier to live by these words!

Getting ready to go on our second run as a club!
Following one of our runs around Namsan Mountain

The start of the 10K Walk in Their Shoes - we ran the course while others walked to help raise awareness for countries that have been affected by natural disasters

At Cheongpyeong helping with the river clean-up effort!


Volunteering at House of Hope, a home for people with mental disabilities

Before the start of the Cherry Blossom Marathon, my first official race!

Finally, if you would like some more information about MIRC and what we are doing, you can check out the following blog. I have spent the last couple of weeks getting it all set up! Check it out and let me know what you think of it!

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