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“I’m not getting in the car!” – A Half Marathon Abduction

9 Jun peace marathon

When I signed up to run my first ever Half Marathon in Korea, I never imagined I would find myself limping along a motorway, having ran consistently for 18km, suddenly being shouted at my some strange Korean man telling me to get into his car. No, that was definitely not how I imagined my first half marathon would go.

Many of you reading this blog will probably get a good laugh out of this post. Many of you know me pretty well, and know I’m not *exactly* the athletic type. While I’m ashamed to admit it, the type of marathons I’m associated with involve either sitting on the couch and watching 10 episodes of ‘Criminal Minds’ back-to-back or heading out with friends for a marathon drinking session. Like I said, this is not something I’m proud of but it is the truth!

For Lent this year, despite not being in the slightest bit religious, I decided it was about time I followed in the footsteps of my Dad and gave up alcohol. How hard could it be to not drink for 40 days and 40 nights?! Actually, considering I included all the Sundays, it was actually a 46 days…and while the first few weeks were killer it really wasn’t AS hard as I thought it would be overall. Just don’t EVER make me do another Paddy’s Day sober!

In order to keep myself on track, I signed up to run a Half Marathon in Seoul on March 30th. I’m not entirely sure if I decided to give up alcohol so that I could get fit enough to run the Half Marathon or if I signed up to the Half Marathon to ensure I stayed off alcohol! Either way, the plan worked!

first 10km group pic

With Aiden, Lauren and Tammy having ran our first 10km race of the year!

After months of training in the gym, and completing a few 10km races with some friends, March 30th was fast approaching  and I was slightly terrified. I originally thought the cut off time was 3 hours (and while I know that seems like an awful lot of time to established runners, to me it just about made the race seem ‘doable’!) but the week before I was notified that you must finish in under 2 hours and 30 minutes or you will be thrown off the course. I wasn’t quite sure how they would ‘throw people off the course’ but this scared me even none-the-less! In the lead up to the race, another hurdle was thrown at me when my training  buddy dropped out as she felt she was unable to complete the race in time.

I started to get cold feet. “Nobody would know I didn’t run it”, I thought. “Nobody would really care”. However, at the end of the day, I knew I had put the hard work in, had trained (relatively) hard, and had been sober for over  a month. If this was ever going to happen, NOW was the time!

My friend Lauren and I stayed in a jimjilbang the night before the race, which meant we ended up getting only a few hours sleep on the hard floor of a sauna which was packed with Korean families, old men who snored all night long, and the annoying buzzing of a Korean TV channel  showing the news on repeat.

We woke up early, but not exactly fresh-faced, and headed to the Kintex Stadium in Ilsan where the race was being held. Nerves really started to set in on the walk to the stadium, as we saw all the Koreans kitted out in professional running gear. Not only were we the only foreigners, but it seemed we were also the only women! We had a sudden moment of panic that maybe it was an all-mens marathon but worry soon drifted away once we saw an assortment of middle-aged Korean women stretching and preparing for the race. Besides a scattering of Korean soldiers running as a group, I feel we may have been the youngest runners there. Not that this made me feel much better, in fact if anything it made me feel worse. People twice my age were going to be running past me and laughing, and there was nothing I could do about it.

peace marathon

The day the race pack arrived…it even had my name on it. There was no turning back now!

For the first 6 or 7km of the race, I stuck with a group of people who were aiming to finish the Marathon in 2 hours and 15 minutes. There was a man with a big balloon attached to his backpack with the time written on it, so presumably if you stuck at his pace for the entire race you would finish around the 2.15 mark. Turns out that was over-ambitious on my part and my the 8th kilometer I was running with the 3.30 group, a group that may well have been first-timers.

We were the group at the back, and behind us there was maybe 10-15 stragglers. Behind them was something that scared us all. Each time I glanced back, it seemed to be gaining speed. It kept getting closer, hovering over us like some sort of evil villain. It was of course ‘The Timer Bus’. This wicked bus followed the race and if anyone, anyone at all, falls to the back of the pack and behind the bus…BOOM you get thrown on the bus and are disqualified from the race. At various stages throughout the race, I came dangerously close to this bus, and every time it crept up behind me I wanted to cry. There was no way I had run this far to drop out and spend the last hour following the rest of the runners on a bus!

I reached the 10km mark in about 1 hour and 5 minutes, and was delighted with this time as it was my fastest 10km to date. I also had a renewed source of energy at the 11km mark, as it meant I was on the home straight. There were 2-3 water stops along the way (not enough in my opinion!!) and 1 food/snack stop. I was so far behind the majority of the runners, however, that by the time I reached the ‘snack stop’ just before the 15km mark, all the food was gone. All that remained was empty cereal bar wrappers and banana peels scattered across the road. DEVASTATED.

At this stage the creepy bus was coming really close to me, and few of the people I had been running with early on had already been forced off the course and onto the dream-wrecker of a bus. I tried to push myself, and fasten the pace, but my energy levels were falling rapidly. The internet on my phone had stopped working and the only song that was loaded was The Proclaimers ‘500 Miles’…so that’s pretty much what I listened to on repeat for the last 6 kilometers of the race. Could have been worse, I guess. 

lauren and i

Lauren and I before the race

By the 18th kilometer I was really struggling, and the bus was ramming right up my behind. At the speed I was going (a slow jog) I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to complete the race in the alloted time. In fairness, the longest run I had ever done before this was 10km, so to get this far was an achievement in itself. No matter what, I told myself, even if I have to walk or crawl the last 3km, I will NOT give up! By muscles ached, my stomach rumbled, my face was the colour of a lobster and my ears started to hurt from listening to the same upbeat song on repeat for the past hour!!

And that is the precise moment that some stranger pulled up beside me and started trying to get me into his car! I was towards the back of the group, all us stragglers sticking together, and this guy starts shouting at me in Korean. He was kind of swerving in front of me, determined to get me to stop. I just pretended not to see him, looked dead straight ahead, and kept pushing my body to run. He would not go away though and soon he started shouting at me in broken English saying, ‘Time’s up. You cannot finish. Get into this car. Get in’. Ehhhh not a chance in hell was I getting in that car. I did not run 18km to give up now. He was super persistent though and drove along side me for the next kilometer shouting intermittently in Korean and English. He finally got the hint that nothing he could say or do would get me into his car and eventually drove off to pester some other runners.

I’m happy to say, despite a wickedly steep hill towards the end, and almost losing my motivation in the final Kilometer, I successfully finished my first Half Marathon in just over 2 hours and 35 minutes and have the medal, certificate and photos to prove it.

half marathon seoul

Tired but happy – first ever Half Marathon completed!

Lesson Learned: Never let anyone stop you from achieving your goals…you have nobody’s expectations to live up to but your own! 

 

 

Looking Back, Looking Forward

14 Jan

2013 flew by so fast I have hardly had time to sit time and sum it up. We are already nearly halfway through January 2014, I have barely had a chance to breath. Where did all those hours, days and weeks go?  What exactly happened and how far has 1 calendar year brought me? Or, as the truth may be, has it brought me anywhere new at all?! In this post I would like to do a quick review of “The Best of 2013″ and finish my setting out some goals for the year ahead.

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“The Best of 2013 – A Review”

 A fun-filled trip to Lanzarote with my buddy Ollie climbing volcanos, singing Karaoke and spying on albino crabs in an underground cave.

Graduating with a Master of Science in Humanitarian Action! (Even though a missed the ceremony, my new boss ensured I didn’t “miss the photo op!”

Competed in the Run-A-Muck Challenge with Toby and Sergei in freezing cold temperatures, over ditches and bogs, through muddy rivers and stacked hay bales!

 Visiting HOPE projects in Kolkata, India and achieving one of my life goals to participate in Holi Festival of Colours with the kids from HOPE’s children’s homes.

Flying to Bali to meet up with a good friend and traveling with her the Gili Islands, by far my favourite islands in Asia so far.

Making great friends and stuffing my face with some of the most delicious food in the world while exploring Mainland Malaysia and the beautiful islands off the East coast.

Moving back to South Korea and somehow making my second year in this confusing but exciting country better than the first, making beautiful and loving friends at every corner (of every bar!).

Spending 5 days on the island of Jeju off the South Coast of Korea in September for Korean Thanksgiving. BEST. DECISION. EVER.

Booking a last minute weekend break to Japan in October and exploring the mystical city of Kyoto.

Spending the Christmas vacation with a group of close friends traveling around Cambodia, a country that now has a  a firm place in my heart. (Blog posts about this eye-opening trip coming soon!)

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“2014 – What Lies Ahead”

I have made made personal goals for 2014, but in order to truly keep these “resolutions”, I know I must write them down and share them with others. That way, when I start slipping up, you can all remind me to get back on track!!

1. I will run a half marathon….before the end of March. 

2. If the first half marathon goes well, I must sign up to a second one.

3. I want to totally revamp this blog, but my own URL and post more regularly.

4. I will  start learning and speaking French again.

5. I will to go to 5 new countries.

6. I will travel home to Ireland….without flying.

7. I will get an article published in a Korean Magazine like Groove.

8. I will get an article published in The Irish Times, ‘Generation Emigration’ blog.

9. I will start getting back in contact with my friends back home and schedule regular skype dates.

10. I will finally reach my “ideal” weight. Not by your standards, or by some stupid magazine standards and certainly not my my dear mother’s standards. MY ideal weight, ideal for ME. 

Time to get my Bikini Body back!

20 Oct

I’m setting myself a 9 week challenge. Why 9 weeks? On Friday I booked flights to Cambodia, departing on Christmas day. That gives me exactly 9 weeks to shed about 7 kilos and have a body to be proud of by the time I head off on my next adventure. Actually I’m not so bothered about what I weigh, more so about how I look. I have said to myself on and of for months that I must stop drinking, I must join the gym, I must start eating better but have not tried once to actually do any of those things.

Now that I have a specific goal, and a date by which this goal must be achieved I’m hoping it will help me focus better. Even though I have been feeling under the weather lately, and I know I will be drinking again next weekend as I’m going on a week end trip to Busan Fireworks Festival with a group of 50 foreigners to celebrate Halloween I have decided that is no excuse to postpone this challenge yet another week. Tomorrow I am joining the gym next to the school I teach at and I’m going to MAKE myself go there 5 days a week. No excuses.

For me, my eating habits are what affect my weight the most. My mid week eating habits are nothing short of simply atrocious. I wake up late, skip breakfast and arrive at work at 12pm hungry, As we don’t get lunch at the school, everyday I debate with myself about what on earth I’m going to eat. The choices are limited to fried chicken from the nearby take-away, pastries or sandwiches from the bakery downstairs, Kimbap (rice and seaweed roll) form the Korean restaurant, Pizza or Pasta from Italian place upstairs or a random collection of tasteless noodles, a packet of crisps and whatever else I can find in the convenience store. Due to this awful choice of unhealthy foods I try my best to bring my lunch from home but could really do with interesting lunch ideas that are equally healthy and delicious. If anyone has any tips, please let me know!

Okay enough talking about what I’m GOING to do. Time to log off, go to sleep, and be fresh faced when I wake up so have time to EAT BREAKFAST, make lunch and….go to the gym!

Wish me luck!!

Back in 2005, when I had the confidence to wear a white bikini and still have a smile on my face.

Back in 2005, when I had the confidence to wear a white bikini and still have a smile on my face.

Dream it. Wish it. Do it.

24 May

I have been fairly abysmal in updating my blog over the last year, but truth be told I have been too busy enjoying life. Not a bad excuse really, now is it?!

I sat down last night, having just sold my beautiful car, and thought about the future, and what lay ahead. You see, I have recently quit my job, sold my car, booked flights to Bali and Malaysia and accepted a job in South Korea starting in July.

I wasn’t happy about where I was and the direction my life was going, so I decided to change it. I dreamed about travelling more, about teaching, about working with children again…I wished I could leave the office job behind and head off on another adventure. Then I did it. I actually did it.

Some may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one….

All of these big decisions and dreams for the future got me thinking about the year gone by and I realized that the last 10 months have been the busiest in my life thus far. Simply jam packed with work, with study, with travel and with spending quality time with friends and loved ones, 10 months seem to have flown by in the blink of an eye.

Working full time while writing a masters thesis, and keeping up my reputation (and love) of being a party girl while continuing to work towards my goal of visiting 50 countries before I’m 30 made for ONE BUSY YEAR!!

So, what kept me so busy you ask??

Well here is a recap, in numbers, of 10 months in the life of Janet – 

Jobs : 2

  1. Manager of Language in Group Summer School
  2. PR and Media Coordinator for The Hope Foundation
Being PR coordinator lead to me being photographed in lots of newspapers!

Being PR coordinator lead to me being photographed in lots of newspapers!

Continents traveled : 3,  Countries visited: 5

  1. Europe (Ireland, England, Netherlands and the Canary Islands -Spain)
  2. Asia (India)
  3. Africa (Kenya)
Some of the Turkana that I met while doing research in Kenya

Some of the Turkana that I met while doing research in Kenya

Road Trips within Ireland: 6

  1. Two great trips to Baltimore, West Cork
  2. Girly weekend in Galway
  3. Adventure weekend in Kerry
  4. Adventure weekend in Meath
  5. Two weekends of partying in Dublin
Adventure weekend in Kerry - amazing fun!

Adventure weekend in Kerry – amazing fun!

Masters Thesis Completed : 1

  1. Title: The impact that water and sanitation hygiene projects in schools can have on the comprehensive security of a community. A case study of the Turkana region of Northern Kenya.
The day I submitted my Masters Thesis.

The day I submitted my Masters Thesis.

Masters Degrees completed: 1

  1. Master of Science in Humanitarian Action. (Sadly I will miss my graduation, but I have been awarded a 2.1)

Amazing Friends made : Countless!!

Great times, with great friends!

Great times, with great friends!

Thank you to everyone who made the last year so special.

You will always be apart of my life.

Feel free to come visit me, wherever it is that I end up, and don’t be afraid to LIVE YOUR DREAMS. Xx

What is “Happiness”?

5 Mar

To me, it is uncontrollable, belly aching laughter with a friend. Pure happiness.

What does “happiness” mean to you?

Seconds before falling into the cold, Irish river!

Our Deepest Fear

27 Feb

Lately I have been catching up with some old friends, friends from school, from Uni or from all the small side tracks I have taken along the rocky road that is my life. It is an amazing feeling to see how successful, how grown up, how independent or how happy my friends are/have become.

Some are getting married and starting their own families while others are doing PhD’s in Biomedical Science or Applied Physics. Some are still roaming the world, content with nomadic life, jumping from country to country making friends the world over while many have stayed put in Ireland and are, in some cases, making their dreams come true. 

From designing iPhone Apps and synthetic wind pipes to performing live on National TV to getting ready to take on the high rolling mega economy of China, my friends are truly going from strength to strength. I would like to dedicate this blog post to you, my dear friends scattered around the world. Let it shine, be proud, and keep on inspiring those around you!

Let it shine!

Our Deepest Fear (As quoted by Nelson Mandela)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

The Korean Susan Boyle??

8 Jun

Just saw a video on YouTube that left me near to tears and felt I had to share. We have seen many talent shows, and as a result seen many inspiring groups and individuals come to into the limelight. From Paul Potts to Susan Boyle and even that cute little breakdancer George Sampson on Britain’s got Talent, the list goes on and on.

Here is a talented man with a difference. A man who has gone through so much even at the tender age off 20 (22 Korean age, 20 international age). Left in an orphanage at a baby, he ran away when he was just 5 years old after being beaten and ended up living life on the streets of Seoul for over 10 years, alone and scared. Can you imagine being homeless and alone and only FIVE years old? Sleeping in toilets or under stairs, selling gum by day to make ends meat.

Such a sad story, until said man,Sung Bong Choi, walks into a “Korea’s got Talent” audition and simply moves the judges to tears, not with his story but with his mesmerizing singing.

This video really touched me, let me know if it touched you too.

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