Feeling confident after Day 1 and 56k in the books, I was ready to take on another good chunk in Chungju, although pretty fatigued and feeling my age for once (44).
The bus ride from Bundang to Chungju was painless and super cheap…took about 2 hours. After checking into the Hotel River, (seriously the only legit hotel in all of Chungju!) I got ready to run. Hydrated, nourished, KT taped up, Garmin fully charged, headed out into this quite rural, working class/farming community. My plan was to follow some flowing body of water as I was accustomed to the well maintained and manicured river trails in and around Seoul.
Ha! Chungju’s trails were paved with cobblestones or just dirt and overgrown bush. Not complaining, mind you, but a stark contrast to Seoul and added to difficulty of the day! However, my first challenge was taking on the ungodly humidity of nearly 90%. Temp was around 80 but mostly full midday sun which had me dripping wet even while standing still doing nothing but texting! LOL
Chungju has amazing panoramic mountain views with several rivers converging. From just a 10k stretch, I could see the entire mini-city nestled into the mountains with the rivers feeding much of what is still rice paddies and farmland, of course with HD satellite TV dishes perched upon dingy, tin-looking shacks!
I had planned for 44k to make an even 100k total by Day 2. When I felt the oppressive heat and humidity, I had doubts early on. I had mapped out a 20k out and back “half loop” from close to the hotel covering about half the perimeter of Chungju. I’d finish two loops and run that Yellow mile twice to complete the 44k! Seemed like a brilliant plan.
By the first 10k, I stumbled upon a beautiful rock garden and took a rest. My hands now resembled those God-awful Vienna sausages. Still trying to figure out if it’s too little or too much sodium in my body! #runnerproblems
Somewhere between Mile 6-7, I texted this to my coach who was probably at about Mile 70 on his ride.
Soon thereafter, the familiar stinging pain of blister formation was detected. That was easy enough to ignore, but the tightness of my left Achilles into my gastroc (calf) could not be ignored. I started my 400m run-walk intervals but things came to a quick halt when leg just didn’t want to respond. I pretty much just walked/hobbled the rest of what would only be about a half marathon (20k total). The last mile was the drunken death march back to the hotel.
I usually feel angry, disappointed and generally dark when my body is reduced to a slow, slow walk. And I was, for a bit. When you’re alone for several hours at a time suffering physically, as all endurance athletes know, the range of emotions can be quite impressive. I had just pulled myself together enough to wog a little on that last yellow mile when all the darkness faded in an instant. Two Korean cyclists passed me and said, (loosely translated) “Wahhhw, good effort/job/laboring!”
It’s amazing how powerful a little acknowledgement and encouragement can affect the psyche. At that moment, a deep feeling of gratitude washed away the negativity. So what I didn’t complete the planned 44k?! I still managed a half marathon after a 35 miler the day before in some pretty challenging weather conditions. How lucky am I to be able to commune with the land of my ancestors doing what I love to do (run), and have the balls to get lost in a foreign country, get sweaty, get dirty, risk injury, and pretty much do it alone?! Gratitude begins within and is the key to self-love. It dawned on me that perhaps this journey is more about learning to love myself instead of constantly trying to prove myself to others!
Chungju kicked my ass a bit and has tempered me to listen to my body and get over my ego.
As much as I absolutely loved the landscape of Chungju, I was very ready to leave this morning. It’s got a grungy, seedy vibe with lots of “love” motels and for the first time, I felt a tad nervous about running alone in Korea. The dudes in Chungju are way more buff than in Seoul. The combination of testosterone, soju, and beer don’t make for the most pleasant of vibes! LOL
Let’s see what wisdom Daegu has to offer me. My coach has a monster 150 mile ride today. I’m stuck on a bus for a little while longer and would love to make up some lost mileage.