BUSAN, South Korea – If you are looking for a new weekend activity, why not register for a road race? Running a race in Korea is a great way to make new friends while getting exercise and experiencing Korean culture. You can zip your lips and save your excuses because all you need for this activity is two feet and a heart beat (and a very small slice of your monthly paycheck).
“Ah, that sounds like my kind of thing!” you say, “ but I don’t speak Korean. I’m also not sure I can run more than 10 feet to catch the bus…… how can I ever hope to participate in one of these joyous events you speak of?”
Worry not, as this article will tell you everything you need to know in order to become one of the many expats who lists ‘road racing’ as one of their favorite things to do in Korea.
Step 1 – Find a Race.
This can be the most difficult of all steps. There is a lack of comprehensive sites that list races in English, and if you are new to the scene, you may not even know what to look for. If you have some experience with racing and some help from a Korean speaking friend, you can easily navigate the Korean running sites. Here are a few sites to get you started.
Step 2 – Register for the race.
One thing that is very different about Korean races is that they do not provide race-day registration. For large races, registration deadlines may be months in advance of the race and often fill up quickly so, plan ahead! Almost all races have their own website, these are also predominately in Korean (if you have no Korean friends, now is the time to get one).
Some running groups will provide help with registering and may even register you as part of a large group. In order to sign up for any race you will need your ARC number, a mailing address, phone number, and a bank account.
After completing the online registration form, you are required to make a bank transfer to the race organizers, usually in the sum of 20-30,000 won, depending on the race.
Step 3 – Train….. or don’t.
Racing in Korea can be a serious thing, a not-so-serious thing, or both. For runners who enjoy training and competition, races are an awesome way to fill the need for speed, and maybe even bring in some cash prize money if you place among the top runners. For others who are more interested in the social aspect and some light exercise, races are one of the best places to meet new people – especially if you’re looking for a relatively sober environment.
Race packages, which include your race number, sometimes a timing chip, and often a free t-shirt or bag, will usually arrive about a week before the race to the mailing address you provided at registration. Make sure to bring your chip and race bib with you on race day.
Step 4 – Race Day!
When the time has come to pin on your race bib and lace up your sneakers, nerves can be running high. As a first time racer, joining such a big event can be extremely intimidating and even scary. The one thing to keep in mind is that these events are organized for people to have FUN. Isn’t that why you signed up in the first place?
If you are feeling nauseous, and can’t remember why you ever thought racing was a good idea just know that the ‘hard’ part will be over shortly, and the fun all begins at the finish line. People of all ages and fitness levels take part in these events.
Yes, there are often elite competitors, but the majority of those on the road are families, friends, and co-workers who have decided to run as a team-building activity. It is not unusual to see couples crossing the finish line together, walking hand in hand.
Once you’ve put in your time, whatever it may be, you’ll be greeted with a bottle of water and shown to a booth where you can trade in your race bib for a goody bag that usually contains a participation medal and some kind of choco-pie-type treat. With the finish line behind you, you can then sit back, relax and enjoy the post-race atmosphere and think about which race you’re going to do next!
You can join the Facebook group, Waeguks Got Runs, to keep up to date with the expat running community in Korea.
Photos courtesy of HojuSaram via Flickr.