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

9 Jun

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! 

 

 

St Patrick’s Day Festival Seoul in Photos

18 Mar

Sadly I was too busy on the day to take lots of photos like I usually do, but I thought I would share the few I did take anyway. For a full review of the day, check out THIS POST.

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A fusion of cultures – St Patrick’s Day in South Korea

18 Mar

Listening to an American Military Brass band open an Irish Festival in South Korea by singing Ireland’s call on a day that many will remember for Ireland’s Six Nations victory, was not something I will easily forget.

Speaking on stage at the 14th Annual Seoul St. Patrick’s Day Festival, The United States Army 2nd Infantry Division band said they were delighted to be there and saw the festival as an excellent opportunity to strengthen the partnership between America, Korea and Ireland.

The US Army 2nd Infantry Division Brass Band. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

The US Army 2nd Infantry Division Brass Band. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

A sea of green and smiles and laughter. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

A sea of green and smiles and laughter. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

The event, which took place at D Cube City in Sindorim last Saturday, was an incredible fusion of Irish and Korean music and culture and while there are over 1,000 Irish living in Korea, many of whom were no doubt present on the day, it was the presence and participation of so many non-Irish residents that made the festival so unique.

To watch an Irishman on stage speak fluent English, Irish and Korean to an equally stunned and impressed audience, was a true example of what the festival is all about. It is not simply about showcasing and promoting Irish culture abroad, but it’s about being excellent representatives of how welcoming, friendly and adaptable the Irish people are and how open we are to other cultures.

It was great to see so many Korean kids enjoying the festival. Photo by Michelle Marie Jenkins

It was great to see so many Korean kids enjoying the festival. Photo by Michelle Marie Jenkins

Some of the finalists in the Costume Competition. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

Some of the finalists in the Costume Competition. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

While Ireland and Irish musicians were well represented on the day, there were also musicians and dancers from Korea, the United States and even China. Listening to Bard, a group of Koreans who play traditional Irish music, play some classic Irish tunes while young kids danced in circles in front of the stage and 1,000’s more soaked up the atmosphere and basked in the first of the spring sunshine really encapsulated the theme of the day.

Other highlights included; watching the crowd look on in awe as Tap Pung, a Korean Irish Dancing troupe, took to the stage and gave Riverdance a run for their money; watching hundreds of waygooks (foreigners) form a human train in front of the main stage while Sweet Murphys Fancy belted out some drinking songs; watching professional photographers click furiously with the knowledge they were getting incredible shots as the finalists of the costume competition lined up near the stage and danced around in a last-minute bid to impress judges and lastly seeing big groups of Korean school children sitting in the audience, delighted with the green balloons and the hilarious Jameson branded “leprechaun” hats which had been given to them for free, smiling and laughing despite not having a clue what was going on!

A beautiful Korean-Irish Fusion dance directed by Nannah McGlennon. Photo by Stephanie Anglmyer

A beautiful Korean-Irish Fusion dance directed by Nannah McGlennon. Photo by Stephanie Anglmyer

Tap Pung, Korean Irish Dancers on the main stage. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

Tap Pung, Korean Irish Dancers on the main stage. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

St Patrick’s Day has always been my favourite holiday of the year, even surpassing Christmas and Halloween in my personal popularity chart, and this year was no different. I have always been a very proud Irish citizen, and this pride seems to multiply whenever I’m actually outside of Ireland.

Celebrating St Patrick’s Day in Korea this year, however, felt extra special and yet I can’t exactly pinpoint why that is. It could be  that it was my first time being involved in the behind-the-scenes organization of the festival, which took 6 months of hard work and dedication by a team of volunteers who were delighted to see their hard work pay off on the day. It could have been the fact that I was volunteering on the day so had a different perspective from the rest of the crowd.

Finally, and this could be the real answer, it could be because it was my first time in celebrating St Patrick’s Day sober in over a decade. Whatever the reason, pride and joy was simply flowing through me like a fast-flowing river on Saturday and no amount of negativity or difficult situations was going to dampen my spirits on my favourite day of the year!

A snapsot of the colorful crowd. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

A snapsot of the colorful crowd.

paddys day seoul

Myself and Michelle taking a short break from our volunteering duties!

Myself and Michelle taking a short break from our volunteering duties!

Big shout out to the Irish Association of Korea for organizing such a  memorable festival and to all the incredible volunteers who helped out on the day. It was the perfect way to welcome the spring to South Korea and another excellent showcase of why everyone loves the Irish!

To see more photos from the day, check out Stephanie Anglemyer’s photography website at: http://www.anklebiterphotos.com/

Generation Emigration – St Patrick’s Day in South Korea

11 Mar

st patricks day seoul korea

Each day this week on the Irish Times website, members of Irish communities around the world will be sharing plans for St Patrick’s Day where they live. Today, I had the opportunity to share my experiences in South Korea and to write about Seoul’s 14th St Patrick’s Day festival, taking place this weekend.

To read the article on the Irish Times website, click here.

Back home in Ireland, preparation for St Patrick’s Day does not involve too much planning, aside from stocking up the fridge, planning crazy green outfits with friends and deciding how early is too early to start the festivities. This year, all that changed for me.

On arrival in South Korea last July, I was asked to join the Irish Association of Korea (IAK), a not-for-profit organisation which promotes Irish culture in Korea. As well as hosting events for the Irish community, it also provides the opportunity for Koreans and other expats to experience and learn more about Irish life. The main event of the year is the St Patrick’s Day Festival in Seoul, now in its 14th year, with up to 10,000 spectators showing up on the day.

Being a part of this active and engaging organisation has given me incredible behind-the-scenes experience of what it takes to plan a St Patricks’s Day Festival abroad. It takes months of hard work by an extremely dedicated team of people. Over the last few months, much of the committee members’ free time has been tied up at meetings, fundraising events and sponsorship talks. I could never have imagined how much time and effort goes into organising one day of craic agus ceoil until I was involved myself.

Now that all the ground work has been done – sponsorship secured, a perfect venue located, great musicians, experienced Irish dancers, story-tellers and local volunteers recruited – we are all very excited for the event to begin.

The festival here Seoul is known for the keen participation from members of both the Irish and Korean community, and this year will not disappoint with traditional folk dancers and musicians playing Irish music, both traditional and popular rock, coming from all over Korea to perform.

Musicians from Ireland will also feature heavily on the bill and the festival will offer an opportunity for the public to get involved, with traditional ceili-dancing, which has grown in popularity every year, taking place at the main stage. There will be face painting and story telling for children.

No festival promoting Ireland and Irish culture would be complete without the GAA present and thus a display of Gaelic football will be hosted by the one of the most successful teams in Asia, the Seoul Gaels Gaelic football team. The Seoul Gaels will also be using this opportunity to seek new recruits for their upcoming season, which starts in April.

The Seoul St Patrick’s Day Festival is the perfect opportunity for people living in Korea to experience Irish culture and get a feel for the wonderful array of Irish talent living here. March 17th is a day when we all think of Ireland and its rich history. To be able to celebrate that here in South Korea shows the extraordinary power of the Irish abroad and I am very proud to be a part of such a great expat community.

Pharrell Williams – Seoul is also HAPPY!

9 Mar

PharrellWilliams_Happy

With the help of my amazing friends, and quite a few total strangers, I just finished filming, editing and uploading a Seoul remake of the Pharrell Williams HAPPY music video. Considering all filming was done on smart phones and the entire video was edited in a few hours, I think we did a pretty good job. Let me know what you think! :)

SantaCon Seoul 2013

9 Dec

Last weekend myself and about 8 friends from Paju attended SantaCon in Seoul, which is a gathering of 100’s of people all dressed as Santa Claus, his elves and everything in between parading around Seoul’s nightlife district singing Christmas Carols and simply being merry.

I ordered 3 elf costumes off ebay and was delighted when they arrived just in time. I also got creative with some fairy lights, colored paper and a giant piece of black foam and made myself a YouTube video / photo booth which I must say I was fairly proud of!

Sadly I didnt take as many pictures as I would have liked  (cause I was having too much fun!) but here is a quick glimpse of the shenanigans had on the night.

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Top 10 Korean Phrases – A Vlog

24 Oct

Last night myself and Shauna (from the amazing “What a Waygook” blog) decided to make our very first Vlog. We wanted it to be informative but also fun, so we decided to talk about the ‘Top 10 Korean Phrases’ that you should know while living here. Shauna asked all of her Facebook friends and followers which phrases they thought were the most useful and then we sat down in Shauna’s apartment, cup of Barry’s Tea in hand and pretty much had a chat about learning Korean.

We must have been chatting for about half an hour when we realised our beautiful video had cut off after 12 minutes due to the memory card being full. DISASTER!! A real beginners mistake, I know, but as my Dad always says, “If you do not learn from your mistakes, your are doomed to repeat them” and I can guarantee you this is not a mistake we will be repeating again!We hoped to teach you the Top 10 Korean Phrases (with a few BONUS phrases thrown in for good measure) but as our video cuts off early, you only get to enjoy the top 8 Korean phrases this time. We will finish the Vlog next week though, don’t you worry!

We really enjoyed making the video together and we are hoping you will enjoy watching it. It was our FIRST EVER time doing this, so please let us know (leave a comment here or tweet us @iamshaunabrowne or @janetnewenham)  if you would like us to make any other videos about life in Korea.

Here are the phrases (Yes, there are actually more than 10, we know!!) written in both Korean and English and with what we hope is the proper way to pronounce them. Happy Learning!

1. Hello- 안녕하세요. Anyeong ha sayo.

2. Thank You- 감사합니다 Gamsa ham ni da

3. Yes- 네 ney

4. No- 아니요 ah ni o

5. Where is the ___________? ________ 이 어디에 있어요? ___ o d eh is oh yo?  For example, “Where is the bathroom?’ The word for bathroom is 화장실( hwa jang shil) so the sentence becomes 화장실이 어디에 있어요?

6. How to I get to _______? _________ 어땋게 가요? o ddeok kay gay yo? For example, How do I get to Seoul is 서울 어떻게 가요?

7. I’m sorry- 미안합니다. me ann ham ni da. There are a few ways to say I’m sorry. This one is very polite and once you get better at Korean you can change the polite level depending on the situation.

8.Discount Please, 갂아 주세요. Gakk ah chew say yo. This can only be used when the price isn’t set. For example at a market or somewhere.

9. Simmer down/calm down; 침착해요. Chim chak hay yo. A great one if you’re out and about and someone is bothering you or something like that.

10. How much is this? 이거 얼마예요? e go ul mah eh yo? (이거 being “this”).

11. Directions; 직진- jik jin,  Straight

오른쪽 oh ruhn chuk, Right

윈쪽 wen chuk, Left

여기 세워 주세요. yoh gi say woh Chew say yo, Stop here please

12. Really? 진짜? jiin ja? I love this word! Even these days when I can’t follow my student or whatever I just reply “진짜”?

13. One moment please, 잠깐만요. Jam can man yo, . You can use this when getting off the subway, bus or just to say “wait a minute”

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