Korea, life in korea, outdoors, running, South Korea, thelazyfisherman

Running in Korea

Before I left South Africa I’d become quite hooked on running. Particularly trail running. I had done a number of races of varying distances, some stage races and a few road runs. My highlights being a 3h54 road marathon as well as the 73km Golden Gate Challenge (3 day stage race with some massive climbs). Kayley also did her fair share of running back in SA, she actually convinced me to try my first trail run. She has completed numerous trail runs, many 10kms, as well as a half-marathon.

So I duly packed some running kit with road and trail shoes for our time in Korea.
Running here has definitely not been as easy as back home. I first landed in early spring which is colder than the middle of winter back home. After dealing with the jet lag I did finally manage to drag myself out of bed in the morning for a few runs only to realize I was pretty unprepared to run in the cold! Very soon after that I got the worst case of flu I had ever had in my life! This may or may not have been due to the cold morning runs, or exposure to a new environment and lots of children etc.
I did however, eventually find my feet and settled into a rhythm. I was delighted to find a few trails near my apartment that went up and around the hills as well as some single track through some of the parks. Hiking is a big thing in Korea so this has been great for me as a trail runner. There are trail heads almost everywhere, most have a rough map as well. I have had a few startled glances from the hikers on my morning runs but most of them are very friendly.

Road runs have also been pretty good to get some mileage in. Most motorists have, surprisingly, been quite courteous when I’m trundling along where there are no pavements.
I have only done two trail races in my time here. Actually, it was one race that I did twice, last year and this year. It is called the Baekyang Challenge and takes place annually in Busan. 26km up and around a mountain. Lots of fun, tough climbs, great single track. This race is organized by a foreigner who lives and works in Busan so entering it is easy!

Which brings me to road races in Korea, for these you will need help, unless your Korean skills are good. Mine are not. Kayley and I have done a few 10km races and they have been fun. They are really well organized. You have to enter at least one month before online. Your race number, timing chip and shirt get delivered to you about a week before the race date. So on race day you just pitch up and run. If you get there early enough you can enter a lucky draw to win some prizes, this is done before the race and we’ve seen people gong home with TV’s. This is usually followed by some speeches and then a group warm-up coordinated by some dancers/performers on stage to the beat of K-pop. This is quite a sight to see and is hilarious.

Just before the race starts everyone gets a pep talk and shouts of “fighting” and fists in the air are the norm. Sometimes you will also get a shoulder rub from the person behind you and in theory you should be giving the person in front of you a shoulder rub. Then fireworks (for every event) and you’re off!

The routes are always well marked, lots of marshals along the way and decently stocked water tables. Timing is spot on as well. After the race you can collect your medal which will come with a small bag of treats. There is also free food served after the run, fishcakes (odang) and tofu. There are also free bag storage facilities at the start/finish and ample parking. Usually within an hour of the race you get a text message with your official time and about a week later they send you a certificate with a photo of you at the finish, race details and time.
If you are a runner I would definitely recommend trying a race in your area. If you are not a runner I would still recommend doing one just for the experience. There are usually a few events on offer, ranging from 5kms to 42kms. At all the races we’ve attended there has been a very mixed batch of participants. From the super cool, dressed to kill and faster than a speeding bullet pro’s to the loving couple who walk and hold hands and even the first time runner who bolts off, nearly has a heart attack and walks for the rest of the way until he sees the crowds at the finish line type. As foreigners we also get extra cheers and shouts of “Woawaaahhhh”!

Overall running in Korea has been a positive experience. It is a great way to explore new suburbs and trails. It also, for me at least, is a great time to think and reflect or to just zone out completely and forget about everything else. Another benefit is that it keeps off a few kilograms so you can try more of the delicious food!! This is a constant battle as we love trying all the food in new countries, and have really loved Korean food.

Do you have any running stories to share? Have you tried a race in Korea? Let us know in the comments below!

0 thoughts on “Running in Korea”

  1. Good for you guys! We started running in Korea when we signed up for a half marathon in Cambodia. I used to train on this tiny park outside our old apartment where it took 3 laps to complete 1 km! Haha, but basically it was hell! The weather as you said made it more challenging. Even though there were days I absolutely hated it, I look back and love running in Korea. Even if it was on a tiny little path! The best part is you could eat all the korean food and drink all the soju you wanted and saw no repercussions! You guys are so fun to follow, can't wait to hear more of your adventures!

  2. I enjoy running too and agree about the weather – it's hard to find the motivation when it's so cold outside but I absolutely hate running on the treadmill! We did the Gyeongju Cherry Blossom half marathon last year, it was amazing the whole course surrounded by pink cherry blossom! it's pretty easy to enter as a foreigner too, just email them and they will send you instructions and the application form in english! 🙂

  3. A couple of my coworkers are really into running and tried to get me to come. I had to decline because I messed up my knee a couple years ago and irritated it again over the summer on a hike. But maybe walking it would be possible for me.

  4. This is one thing I like to try here in Korea. I do run, but just in the vicinity of my area, you know, some morning jogs, but fun run like this, I haven't tried it yet, but I really like to. I think I want to attend that Color Run they held every summer. I like fun run with twists, and with your positive review about joining such event in Korea, I am now more motivated to attend.

  5. You definitely seem to be a serious runner! I'm definitely more of a casual jogger in comparison haha. I love jogging mostly in the spring, fall and early winter. I truly wish I could do it in summer, but the suffocating Daegu heat doesn't really allow it. I've never done any races or anything of that sort, but I'm totally open. Maybe it will happen this year! I also find running super therapeutic and a great way to zen out.

  6. I was laughing when I read "early spring is colder than the middle of winter" back home. We don't even have winter hahaha… So, aside from motherhood, the changes in season has really slowed me down (excuses!) but I do feel envious seeing my friends running outdoors in the Philippines all-year round. It's great to read about how well-organised these races are. I only get to watch them so I have absolutely no idea.

  7. After falling off a treadmill 5 years ago and humiliating myself at the gym, I opt to run outside. Congratulations on beating those running challenges! When I first came to Korea, I heard of a cross country bike ride from Busan to Seoul which I found cool. I should probably take baby steps and try a short race first!

  8. Well done guys! I used to run a lot before coming to Korea and had even done a half marathon but stopped when I got her due to the pollution and amount of traffic lights. I used to live in hapseongdong and there were barely even pavements when I lived so I'd have to run on the actual road with the cars lol. My boyfriend and I did a challenge in December that we ran 5k everyday and we're doing a 16k trail run next month in Scotland (which we should really be training more for…) I also did that Jinhae run! I think it's so funny how they have k-pop singers, group massages and a firework display in broad day light! Keep running guys! 🙂

  9. Trail in Scotland sounds awesome, I imagine it would be muddy! But that may just be stereo typing. I'm hoping to find a few trail runs when we're in Europe and the USA. Doubt any of them will live up to the 'vibe' at the start of a race in Korea.

  10. Good on you for taking the time to honor your passions in a new country! Despite the cold, I think South Korea is a great place for those who are active. Being in Ho Chi Minh City now where pollution and heat wage war against any plans to be physical outside makes me really yearn for South Korea at times. I'm gonna forward this post to a fellow South African based in South Korea who has a passion for the sport!

  11. I haven't been a runner since high school, but I'm not going to lie, I've kicked around the idea of getting back into it. This post was just another push in that direction. I've got a bum knee I've got to be mindful of, but maybe I'll start small and see how things go. Nice to hear you've had good experiences trail running. That appeals much more to me than running on busy streets. Thanks for the read!

  12. I miss running so much as well! I used to run in parks but that changed when I had kids. My hubby and I though did bike the Yangjae trail once. I was supposed to write about it awhile back but lacked time.
    I once heard though of a fun run that was held on China's Great Wall. Some of the people who participated were my then-co-workers. I have no idea how they did it considering the Wall's ground isn't flat and can probably cause knee problems if done without proper training, but it's something to consider if you're ever looking for runs in China! 🙂

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