The Seoul Runaround

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It’s roughly midnight, and I’ve been asleep for two hours.  Well, was asleep.  For reasons unclear to me, my body thinks it’s time to to wakeup.  Clearly, it’s confused.  Nonetheless, traffic continues to bustle outside – a never ending surge of cars, busses and taxis 14 floors below my room.

I manage to fall asleep though, bringing me to about 4AM.  This was longer than the day before, but by only 30 minutes.

At this time, the streets are largely deserted – a far cry from a few hours before.

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Lacking anything better to do, I plot a run.  On Tuesday morning I went ahead and just went to the hotel gym at 4:45AM.  This time though I wanted to get out and explore the city.  But as much as I wanted to do that, 4AM didn’t seem like a wise time to do so.

So instead I watched Gangnam Style YouTube videos (parodies).  After all, the video was specifically about people living in the neighborhood I was now occupying – the Gangnam District.

Eventually the sun started to rise and it was time to hit the road.

The hotel has little runner map cards that show you a couple of easy to follow routes, so I grabbed one and figured I’d give it a shot.

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Interestingly, just in front of the hotel lobby was a bike station.  While similar to bike stations I’ve seen in other cities (like Washington DC), this one actually had full blown all encompassing lockers for your bike.

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With the bike station detour complete, I headed out.  Only about half a kilometer later I’m down on a bike and running path.  This particular area isn’t terribly scenic – but it is free of traffic and congestion.  Though at 6AM there wasn’t much congestion even in the city.

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After running along a feeder canal, I hit a bit more open water, and merged onto a far busier bike path.  Based on my various vehicular trips over the past few days, this particular path goes a heck of a long ways.  Like, a gazillion miles or so.

This morning it was packed full of folks bike commuting, as well as plenty of locals out for a walk or jog.

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Interestingly, along the path there were numerous little 7-11-like convenience stores.  Some were near other parks, but I saw others that were simply by themselves – including one that was actually a legit mini 7-11 on a bike path nowhere near any parks.

Quite frankly – this is brilliant.  Who wouldn’t want a trailside Slurpee on a hot day?

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Regrettably, at this time of the morning, it wasn’t open.  And even then, it was a bit chilly out – so a Slurpee (or similar) probably wouldn’t have been too appropriate.

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And then I found a giant fish head.

Naturally, it required a photo.

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The fish head actually had information about the fishing rules for the area.

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And right behind the fish head was a fish ladder of sorts.  It wasn’t clear if folks were actually allowed to fish in the fish ladder, which would seem to be sorta like…uhh…shooting fish a barrel.

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Fish heads behind me, I looped into a rather gardenesque area of the path – which even had flower and plant markers along the way.

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For those curious about technology, I was running with the Alpha optical HR watch, which was transmitting the data via ANT+ to the Garmin Fenix.

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The Alpha worked great the entire time.  The Fenix, not so much.  It randomly crashed twice, causing me to wait for it to wake up again.

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As I made my way back, I decided a change in plan was required.  Anytime you see an Olympic Stadium, a diversion should always be in order.  I dipped through a bit of a tunnel and found my way into the Olympic Park, home of the 1988 Olympic Games.  Inside, the well worn informational map of the park:

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From here I ran up the ramps to the actual stadium.  I was somewhat surprised there weren’t any sort of blockers here – but it was pretty cool.

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As you can see above, the stadium has a bit of a running path/track looping around the outside of it.  Well, most of the outside of it.  It makes a u-turn at one point where a baseball/softball field seems to have been randomly placed.  They were courteous though enough to make a smooth turnaround rather than just end the path.  Nice touch!

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As I thought about my little running route card, it was a bit funny that they didn’t include something as important as the Olympic Stadium on the route.  Seems perfect for any runner!

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As I wandered around, I ended up below the edge of the stadium (thus below where the photos above were taken).  In doing so, I found the warm-up lanes for both the long jump, as well as four 100m long warm-up lanes.  Pretty cool.  My photo is horrible below, mostly because it was pitch black down there and I had to use my camera’s flash.

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As I exited the under-stadium area, I entered a warm-up/practice track.  You can see the entrance in the stands behind me in the photo below.  This full sized track also included a full sized field inside of it.  I did a single loop simply to say that I likely ran in the same place as virtually all of the Seoul Olympic game runners (doing their warm-ups/pre-event workouts).

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I headed back under the bleachers (to where the warm-up lanes were) and found the below.  Clearly, there was no way I wasn’t going to take a photo of it.  Those characters were everywhere around the Olympic park.  I believe they were the Olympic mascots that year.

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After enough running wandering around (about 10K), I decided to leave the Olympic Park behind and head back to the hotel.

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As I crossed one last bridge, it was hard not to notice the mountains to the north bathed in sunlight, and wonder what goes on just a few miles beyond that into North Korea.  One thing’s for certain though: I’m guessing they don’t have a gigantic Olympic Mascot randomly peeing on a doorway.

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Another short kilometer later and I was back into the city and navigating the busy streets and tall buildings.  My satellite signal held well though.

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And before I knew it I was back up 14 floors above it all, looking once again on the world flying by below.

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With that, I’m about to fly for 14 hours back to Paris for the weekend.  Thanks for reading all!

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13 Comments

  1. Steven

    I love the travel posts, Ray. Almost makes me feel as if I’m there. Thanks for making the effort.

    Reply
  2. Cool pics Ray, It amazes me the amount of money that goes into the Olympic stadiums and then they just sit idle after it is over. Seems like a huge waste of money.Hopefully it gets used for something.

    Reply
  3. Love these city runarounds. Very inspirational, great read. Thanks for a truly solid blog!

    Reply
  4. Funny to read this while on a business trip in Suwon, some 20 miles away from Seuol :-)

    Reply
  5. Runner map cards are a great idea! I never ever seen one (or maybe I wasn’t looking for them) and plan my routes with google earth in advance.

    Cool pictures you took.

    Reply
  6. Those hotel running route cards are fantastic aren’t they?!
    I love Seoul and am lucky enough to get to visit it every couple of years for work. That mascot is not the Seoul Olympic mascot, but the Seoul city mascot – I’m amazed you didn’t discover it earlier as it was everywhere throughout the city last I was there (early last year) but then I did get quite a bit of free time to be a tourist and visit the sights.
    To wrap things up the mascot for the ’88 Olympics was the tiger that you captured in the Stadium entrance photo.

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    Hello Ray

    if you have a little time in Seoul You have to see this place.
    (37.526063, 127.038713) These coordinates are google.maps.

    This area is called “Apqujeong”. The subwaystation is also called “apqujeong”.

    This is a beautiful place with lots of small shops, bars and a
    New Balance store. Here you can buy yourself the new RC 5000.

    Ah yes, the nightlife is also great here. Especially Friday.

    regards,
    Predes

    Reply
  8. is the Fenix’s software that bad?

    Reply
  9. Jos

    Nice to read and see your post on Seoul. I have also been there a couple of times since I live in HKG, but usually stayed in the hotel gym. It is a good idea to get the map at the hotel. not every hotel has one though. Next time in Seoul I will get myself a map too and leave the treadmill behind!

    Have a good trip back home!

    Reply
  10. Matthieu in Taipei

    love the running cards and the lockers. both are such a great + simple idea.

    Reply
  11. I love the running route cards, great idea Hyatt! and the bike lockers are amazing… especially since you can get out of the weather to change gear and load/unload.
    But I especially like the multi-use path 7-11!
    I am constantly frustrated on the W&OD about the lack of services for the trail users!

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    I was in Seoul in the mid-90s for business and drove by the Olympic stadium several times. Many of the locals told me to stay away from the area, they had pretty much abandoned it right after the Olympics and the area was pretty rough. They were talking of additional funding to clean the area up, finish the conversion of the Athlete’s village into housing and to refurbish the stadium. Nice to see they did that.

    Reply
  13. Chris

    I actually got married in Olympic Park! Will be returning to Seoul in a couple months. Can’t wait! Some of the best running spots I’ve ever been to and most are subway accessible. Just lace up your shoes and go! Not to mention there is usually natural spring water locations on the mountains.

    During the Seoul Marathon in 2001 (or 2002, can’t remember) I ran from noodle tent to noodle tent to stay warm. It snowed through most of the race and there is no where to hide as the route follows the river. Great hosts kept us warm, and full of shots of soju, finished in 5 hours with a beer in hand!

    Reply

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