Thursday, March 19, 2015

Race Report: Seoul International Marathon 2015

I was highly anticipated this marathon as my first sub4 marathon, but it’s turned out to be another failure. I was so determined to run this race and got my flight booked July last year. The race date only confirmed towards end October, and registration only open on 8 December. The key lesson learned in this race, I ran a better race back in home ground and I don’t need to purposely travel for a cold climate marathon for a PB. The body is a complex organism and it won’t always work the way you think it should.

I travelled to Seoul on an early morning flight on Thursday. This is my second trip to Seoul, and I had no issue to travel to the guesthouse from Incheon Airport to Dongdaemun around 6pm. Despite most of the Korean don’t speak English, Seoul City is a tourism friendly city. You can move around without any problem via Subway and trains. These transports will display/announce in 4 languages (Korean / English / Mandarin / Japanese). On other hand, the quality for the guesthouse is ok. I got a single room with bath room attached. The room will be great if I came few years earlier, but now I think I was spoiled by all my business travels in the past few years. I couldn’t sleep and rest well in the room, the bathroom was too cold and the room was cold too at night time. I was too conservative in choices prior to the race, most of the meals were familiar name like McD (plus LotteRia, the Korean version of McD), Subway & BurgerKing. Some sightseeing planned ahead of the marathon. Dongdaemun, Insandong, Jamsil Stadium (finishing area), Gwanghwamun (starting line), Namsan Tower, Myeongdong. Lots of walking and these tourism activities continued until Saturday evening until I felt I walked too much.

Saturday night I was not able to sleep well, may be too cold, too tired or just plain excited for race. I woke up 4am, but the race only start at 8am. I slowly prepared myself and left the guesthouse for breakfast around 6am. The morning plan role out nicely, morning breakfast at McD after a 30 minutes’ walk from the guesthouse, used the toilet and slow jog to the starting line (about 2.5km from the guesthouse). Reached the starting line around 7am and it was filled with runners. I took out all warming cloth and packed them into the baggage to be transfer to the finish line. Walked around in the freezing 1degC weather, I found many runners stayed inside the lobby of the Sejong Performance Art center, it’s located just next to the my assigned starting pen C. The starting pen setup was so simple and it’s depend on your own judgement if you wanted to stay in the assigned starting pen. There are not check point, not barriers, just few ladies holding up a banner with a big A/B/C/D/E on it to indicate which zone is this.

8am, the elites were off. After some speech and the national song (my guess), zone A and B were let off too. When I finally past the starting line at 8:18am, spent more than 30 minutes in the cold with only my running attire plus the poncho, but the cold is much bearable may be due to adrenaline building up. Running with the poncho for the first 3km, I took it off but still kept it on my hand. Only confirmed that I won’t need it any more then I disposed it in the 5km water station. The route bring us from Gwanghwamun to the Dongdaemun twice, 1st time via the famous Cheonggyecheon stream, 2nd time via the main Jungro road. I managed my pace around 5.5min/km, when we reached Dongdaemun area for the second time, it was about 20km done. The pace was right on the dot for the first 20km. Then I struggled from there onward. The average pace getting slower by every km.

A blind runner with a pacer overtook me. The pacer doing a great pacing job with the blind runner and pace command was loud and clear. This is the first time I saw this live, and it spike up my spirit to run with them. Hence I was still managed to keep the pace around 5:45min/km. But they are strong, I finally lost them, and after crossed the Hangang River at 36km, I felt I lost the determination to continue. My soles were still great, no blister (dry weather with minimum sweat). The right ankle seems to be alright, and the tights & calves were tight but still manageable. But, I just lost the determination to continue. I started to walk. One by one, the 4:00 hours’ pacers overtook me. I knew I failed.

I didn’t run much, I felt really cold on the route. Until 41km, where I certainly felt that maybe I should at least aim for sub 415. Then the fire started to heat up again. I started the run walk routine and finally arrived at the stadium. I enjoyed the entrance to the stadium and sprint to the finish line. And I remembered the last time I finished my marathon in an Olympic Stadium, I was still doing a 5 hours marathon. I felt great! I crossed the line at 4:12’22”.
Seoul International Marathon 2015 Finisher Medal
Official Split Time 
Overall Finisher Statistic, FM average @ 4:6'16"
At the finishers’ area, I had plenty of Pocari Sweat. Actually this was the first time I had it. It tasted way better then 100Plus we used to have back home. I drank too much until I felt really cold and my tight and calf muscle almost cramp up. I shivering and walked to the warm changing area but can’t walked fast with the tight muscles. What an experiences.

After reflection, this failure was mostly caused by under trained. The down time from the injury and the work commitment caused few delay in the plan. I only done 6 weeks of serious training prior to this marathon, the endurance was not fully built. Also, all the tourism activities and the few nights that not slept very well contributed too. So, the key to complete a marathon with great timing is simple, training. With great training, I can run faster even back home (408 in SCKLM). I don’t need to travel all the way for a cold climate marathon for PB. Without sufficient training, that’s day dreaming.

So, will I return to Seoul for revenge? Probably not in the near future. I need to correct my mind-set, travel to run a marathon is not for a PB, you travelled, and the marathon supposed to be the highlight of the trip, but not the only reason for the trip. Of course if you PB too, that will be a great bonus for the trip. I suffered in this trip. I travelled with my mind all into the race. Walked around the famous tourist spot like a zombie, ate only familiar food before the race (worried that the kimchi and spicy food will upset my stomach), and no photos taken! I had 2 plates of toppoki after the race for dinner. For next oversea race, I will register for 2016 Tokyo Marathon. If I got thru the ballot selection, I will bring my wife for 2nd honeymoon.

Keep Running!


  1. I wouldn't call it a failure Neoh.

    You learn quite a number of things running in the Seoul Marathon and that's a good timing 4:12!

    Congrats again.

    Hope you'll get the ballot for Tokyo Marathon 2016. :)

    1. Thank you!
      It help to pull me back to the ground, and hopefully rebuild another better foundation to achieve a better running timing in coming race.

  2. A very determined and great effort all the same. You went thru an injury and yet you finished the race in very good time so don't beat yourself too much. That sub 4 is just around the corner for you, I'm sure of it. I'll catch up with you one of these days to pick your mind about Seoul πŸ˜€

    1. Sure, I will catch up with you in one of the GCAM training session.

  3. Congrats, its still good timing. And you really reflected well on the factors that affected your performance, that's great :)

    I'm following Hansons, too, preparing for BIM in May. Just had a bad flu recently that affected my training after 6 weeks of hard work. Hansons can get us the PB, but its darn hard to follow consistently :)

    1. Pat, good luck on your BIM.
      Hanson Method stressed on consistency, so some time you just need to be realistic to scale back the goal to avoid any disappointment. But from my experience, if the downtime is less then 1 week and you still felt great/manageable in those SOS training sessions, then you should continue with the preset goal.

  4. Thanks, Neoh :) Resumed my training last weekend and the fitness seems to be intact, so gonna continue the programme this week and see how it goes...

  5. Hey Neoh! I am Annie. Would go for Seoul to run my 2016 marathon. Are you going this year?

  6. As I am the first timer and it is very excited. But when I read your blog, it frightened me. I am scared of cold. Was it that cold?