It has been a busy few days for me as I ran not one, but two 10K races this weekend. Running is new for me; it's something I've just picked up since being here. I did my first 10K was in mid-May. As it was my first race, I was told just to finish, just concentrate on running every step, and not worry about the timing. No, I wasn't anywhere near the front of the pack, but I did manage to run the whole thing.
The run started at World Cup Stadium and ventured off along the river. It rained a little bit---just enough to cool us down, but not enough to make the trail slippery or make it uncomfortable. At first, we were all running as a big group; it was hard to find space for my feet. But it was exciting to be racing a clock, actually running for a purpose instead of just to move somewhere. After a while, when the real runners found their way to the front as us amateurs slowed down, there was finally some room for all of us.
Running along the river trail was beautiful. The Han River is a view that I will never get tired of. I live really close to the river, so I did all of my training runs on the trail near my house. I discovered that running from my apartment to the 63 Building in Yeouido is about 10 kilometres (well, it is according to my caveman-basic calculations, anyways), so I run there and back for my weekly runs.
I remember one of my first runs, when I was running towards the river under a bunch of overpasses and I just stepped onto the river trail, and suddenly the view of the river opened up to me. It was late, maybe 10 o'clock, and so the sky was dark but the tall apartment buildings across the river were full of light. So this amazing view of the river reflecting all these lights just opened up all at once. I actually gasped out loud---a full, deep intake of air, and then a "Wow." That was then followed by some quick sideways glances to make sure no one heard me. It was just that beautiful, I couldn't help it.
And so I was running along the river once again. I was running to the sound of my feet hitting the pacement, counting each kilometre marker as it went by: 1, 2, 3...that went by quickly...4, 5...halfway done...6, 7, 8...almost there...
I was trying to find the ninth kilometre marker when I first saw the spectators. They were standing along the edge, pumping their fists in the air and shouting something like "Whiting!" or "Piting!" The people kept coming, more and more were standing at the sidelines cheering, "Piting!" to everyone running by. Even though I wasn't sure what they were saying, it pumped me up and I kept going, now with a smile on my face. Then I turned a corner and there, suddenly, was the finish line. With a quick burst of energy and a few dozen "Piting!"s, I crossed the line.
It wasn't until later that I found out the crowd was yelling, "Fighting!" (pa-ee-ting or hwa-ee-ting, in Korean)---the Konglish expression for encouragement. It doesn't really have a direct translation, but it's meant to be like "You can do it!" or "Go for it!" or "Don't give up!"
It's come to be something I look forward to when I race; I know that I must be nearing the end when I hear it, and it gives me that one last burst of energy I need to cross the line. It's what I needed to hear this morning, as I was nearing the finish line at Olympic Stadium. "Keep going!" they said. "Don't slow down, just keep fighting!"
And I crossed the line with my best time yet.