Being a large Caucasian guy in South Korea is a weird experience. As I warm up for the Hi Seoul 10K run, a TV news crew fixates on me. The camera sweeps over me. Records every move. Captures every lunge, backbend, hamstring stretch.
It’s been like this since I stepped off the bus from Incheon to Seoul. I’ve caught so many glances from the corner of someone’s eye. The Koreans have been discrete. And no look has been hostile. Just … curious.
The 10k race (and the marathon and half-marathon) brings out the few other Caucasian types – ex-pats who make their living as a English teachers. They stick together in their own cluster before the race.
I’m by myself, though. Sarah went to line up with the half-marathon crew. At 6’2 with a long mop of hair, it’s no wonder the camera hovers inches from a lone white guy like me.
If the TV crew expected me to be fast, they were mistaken. The gun goes off to start the 10K race. I thread my way through the crowd. As the theme from Star Trek Voyager plays, I’m penned into the pack. After about a mile, I can finally reach a natural stride.
The 6-mile route takes me to parts of workaday Seoul. I move to pass someone … and discover that I’m about to plow over a lad who comes up to my solar plexus. His dad notices that I’ve revved up to pass, and pulls him out of the way.
Soon, I’m at the finish line. I paw through my race goodie bag … I find canned spicy chicken and chopsticks. My sweat and the morning breeze make me shiver.
I wait for Sarah to finish her 13.1 miles – and just enjoy being an oddity in Seoul.