I made a marathon PR at Cherry Blossom Marathon 2017 race in Gyeongju, South Korea. I clocked in at 4:55:15. That’s about 2 minutes faster than my marathon race in Jeju last year.
I heard about the Cherry Blossom Marathon from our running friend Rodel aka Argo. He sent me photos for the event from the previous year and I was definitely hooked. I started to imagine myself running under a line of cherry blossom trees. I was excited.
A photo from VisitKorea website
What Gyeongju Is Like
We took a bus from Busan to Gyeongju. Gyeongju is located in the southeastern part of South Korean. It is once the capital city of the ancient kingdom of Silla making Gyeongju famous for its rich historical treasures.
The city is not as big and lively as Busan nor Seoul. Since we lacked the time, we were not able to go around to some of the tourist attractions in Gyeongju. But based on the travel maps and brochures, Gyeongju has plenty to offer. If you wish to look around the city, you would need 2 extra days to visit the tourist sites which can include some hikes to the mountains to see the rock-carved Buddhas.
At the Starting Line
I was with fellow Takbo.ph peeps. Rodel is running the 42K with me. Rico is joining the 21K and Marge signed up for the 10K. It was freezing cold at about 7-9 °C. We stayed in the car as we waited for the gun start. We are expecting a more comfortable weather. But Rodel already hinted that spring seems to be colder for this year compared to the previous year.
The atmosphere is a lot festive than the one I joined in Jeju. There are more runners joining the race. It seems like a popular marathon event in Korea.
Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon – The Route
The Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon starts at the Gyeongju World Culture Expo Park. It a big place to hold an event with a nice temple beside and a cool skyscraper. It is usually schedule every 1st or 2nd week of April, just in time for the cherry blossom trees to bloom.
Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon Route
The marathon route takes the runners around some tourist sights like the Bomun Lake, The Royal Tombs and the Observatory. And of course, the route has plenty of cherry blossom trees. However, the weather was quite cold this year. As a result, not all the cherry blossom trees are blooming. More than half are still in the bud. It was quite disappointing. It’s not like the ones I see in the picture.
I wish the cherry blossoms were more like the advertisement photo
The course is entirely on the highway. Policemen were in full support to take care of the traffic in each corners. Locals and spectators provided some cheers and entertainment. There are those dressed in traditional Korean dress playing music for the runners.
Music along the route
The water stations are 5KMs apart. There were 2 or 3 banana stations I think. And despite the cold, there were about 4 sponge stations. The marshals were mostly upbeat and cheering us as we passed through their stations.
The elevation is relatively flat except for the steep hill back to the finish line.
Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon Elevation Profile
Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon – My Race
The race started at 8AM. But it was gloomy with a forecast of rain at around 11AM-12PM. I decided to bring along my jacket just in case it rains hard. It was cold at the start of the race. It was 7 °C!!! I only wore a long sleeved shirt, a jacket, shorts, and a knee high compression socks. I wished I wore something thicker to keep me warmer.
With Rodel at the starting line
It rained a little at the start of the race. The roads were a bit wet and slippery so I had to run slowly to avoid an accident. As expected, there were lots of cherry blossom trees along the route in the first 5 kilometers. However, they were not blooming yet. There are a few trees that were bursting with cherry blossoms, but I expected more. Anyway, I can’t let that ruin my race.
I sticked to my plan to run 11 mins/mile. I am still following the 5-hour marathon training plan like last year. So far so good. I love the cold weather. The jacket kept me warm at the start of the race. However, it started to get hot and I was perspiring under it. I wished I left the jacket in the car. It didn’t rain that hard although there were areas that were wet already. Probably it rained before I reached that part of the route.
Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon Route
The first 17 miles went well. I was keeping a pace between 11:00-11:10 minutes per mile. But after that, I started to feel tired. I lowered my pace to 11:30 mins/mile instead. I continued to keep a steady pace until the hills came in close to the finish line. At Mile #22, I begun to struggle. My pace went slower to 12:00.
Luckily, the route was again flat on the last 2 miles that I was able to get back some lost time as I reached the finish line.
A Memorable Finish
It was the first time that Gab witnessed me running a marathon event. He was inspired by a book about a child who watched his dad at the starting line, at the route and at the finish line. Despite having to wake up early than usual, he braved the cold and patiently waited for me. While waiting, he was cheering for other runners.
Gab and Quennie at the finish line
As I crossed the finish line, I slowed down a little to find him. Among the crowd, I spotted my “mimi me” running towards me. As Gab got nearer, he immediately reached out his hand for me. It was as if he was pulling me towards the finish instead of me dragging him along.
Me and my Mini Me
I usually prefer to sprint to the finish. But this time, I ran slower to keep up with Gab’s pace. I already know I am getting a PR so I was contented to run slow and cherish this moment of crossing the finish line together with my son.
A new marathon PR!
Quennie insists the clocked at the finish line was showing a 4:56 finish time. But that’s wrong! My watch says it was 4:55:38 finish.
To my relief, Rodel showed me a website showing my official time of 4:55:14. I was actually eyeing for lower than 4:55 but this is something I am happy with.
My Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon Finish Time
Thanks to Rodel for once again being a great host in Busan! Thanks for all the tips and suggestions. Most especially, thanks for the tour in Busan!
Thanks to fellow Takbo.ph peeps Marga and Rico. I love the company guys. Thanks for taking our photos as a family. 😀
Thanks to Mr and Mrs Lee! They were our kind hosts in Busan. We rented their place through AirBnB. It’s a beautiful place worthy of a Korean telenovela. Thanks for being extra caring for Gab.
Thanks for Quennie for being my personal travel advisor. She planned most of our trip with Gab. Plus, she packed my bags and made sure I have all the things I needed for the marathon. Muah!
Thanks to Gab for being charming that we got a lot of freebies! Hehehe…
The next race-cation!
The Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon is my 13th marathon so far. I am looking for another reason to run in Korea next year. Any suggestions, Rodel?
After doing 2 sub-5 hour marathons, I hope to train for a sub-2 hour 21K this year. I was already close to that goal. My half marathon PR is 2:00:13. I hate that 13 seconds!
Or maybe 2 more marathons in Asia. Still looking for nice place to run.
See you on the road!
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