- I've confirmed that Gurye is the second smallest city in South Korea
- Gurye county is the smallest county in Korea in terms of population, but not in terms of square kilometers
- Gurye county is the poorest county in South Korea
- Gurye now has three stop lights (they've added two since I've arrived), but the lights only function between 6 am and 11 pm
Well, this whole small-town business has had an interesting effect on my running. For those that don't know, I am training to run a half marathon on November 15th in Suncheon.
I'm amazed at the reaction I get to running. I mean, besides the gaping stares from ahjummahs and the blank gazes of old men. Those are a given. People are actually interested - dare I say fascinated - by my running. I went for a 12-mile run on Sunday. I started the run with 2 miles around an outdoor park path and finished with the same 2 miles. Well, there was this little man walking the path when I started and was still there when I came back (10 miles later). To my surprise, he started jogging next to me.
Man (in Korean): How long have you been running? More than an hour at least!
Me: Yes, 1 hour 15 minutes
Man: Ahh, shee. (pretty common phrase for "jeeze")
We ran together for a little while. He told me to follow him and, to my surprise, he took me to a new smaller path (but still very pretty). We talked as best as my limited Korean would allow. I was really thankful that he spoke slow. Most older men speak loud, slurred and fast when someone says, "What?" He was a nice running partner, I was sad to say goodbye.
I also run in the mornings before school. On multiple occasions, people have cheered me on. People I've never even met will say, "Go, Amyyyyy. Marathon, yippee!" This is at 6 in the morning! Once I made the mistake of running right as school got out. Yeah. My students were everywhere. One student even tried giving me his juice.
And my host dad is a huge supporter. Everyday he asks where I ran and then sits in awe thinking about how far it is. He reminds me constantly that the abandoned roads of early-morning Gurye are, in fact, very dangerous. I know, man. You have to watch out for those parked cars; they're killers. And on days where I'm lazy and decide to run in the afternoon as opposed to the morning, he spends a good chunk of breakfast asking me why I didn't go jogging this morning. And because of the language barrier, I can't even make up excuses. He's the best keeping-me-honest buddy I could ask for. He's also convinced that I'm going to win the half marathon. Oy.
Did I mention the grand prize for finishing first in the half? A plate of Kimchee. Mmmm. That's the very last thing I want to see and/or smell after finishing a half.
So, I've been chased by men, children, dogs (yes, the woof-woof kinds) and eyes. I know every little street, alley, road and rice field in my little town. I've been there when someone turned the stoplight on. I've raced and passed tractors, "cyclists" (traveling at a wobbly 2 or 3 miles per hour), time and sunlight. Running is my rock. Running is my constant. And here, running is my fame. Holla.