Nothing in this country ever seems to be easy but it always makes a hysterically good story afterwards. I guess that’s all that matters in the end.
About a month and a half ago I found out about the Masai Barefoot Marathon and thought it sounded so cool! It’s not a real marathon, it’s only 7km, but it’s up a mountain and (surprise!) you walk the whole thing barefoot. How fun is that? The purpose of the Barefoot Festa 2011 is to remind people about living in harmony with nature but also to learn about all the health benefits associated with walking barefoot. I’m a believer. Given all the feet problems that I have I had a bit of anxiety about walking 7 km barefoot (up a mountain), but my feet didn’t hurt at all afterwards! (And that’s a big deal for me since I have two busted feet!)
Honestly though, I was sold by the marketing video. Sadly, I’m not smart enough to know how to pull it from their website to post here so you will have to go to the actual website. You might get a Korean pop-up on the left, just scroll down and click the “X” in the bottom right corner. The video should start automatically.
We originally had group of about twelve people signed up but by the morning of it had dwindled down to five. It took place early on a Sunday morning so if I hadn’t been the organizer I might have chosen sleep over it, too. Either way, Kate came up from Gwangju for the Marathon and we meet Maggie at the train station at precisely 8:26 where we were to catch the bus. (The time is important here.) A Korean gentleman caught us as we were looking for the bus stop and directed us where to stand, saying the next bus would be here in about ten minutes. (We believe this man was working with the marathon because we saw him later that day…we think.) The bus was scheduled to do a pick up every ten minutes and there were already several (maybe 40?) people waiting for it when we arrived.
The bus never came.
No one seemed frustrated or impatient so we think the Koreans knew something we didn’t. That is a common problem when you don’t speak the language. At 9:05 we were the first to leave the bus line and decided the catch a cab since check-in for the event was at 9:30. Our taxi driver seemed a little confused by our request of Mt Gyejok but he talked with another driver and seemed to understand where we wanted to go. Apparently he still did not. He took us to Mt Gyejok (which means “mountain that looks like a chicken leg” for those that are interested) but took us to the wrong entrance.
We suspected this was not the correct location but when you are on a mountain you really only have one way to go…Up. And up we went. We hiked up nearly 90 degree vertical trails in flip flops, sang and told stories along the way, and stopped every few steps to listen for music or get a little glimpse of a trail of 5000 barefoot hikers. Two hours and two very helpful Korean men later, we were able to find our way to meet Emily and Steven on the trail.
The barefoot trail was really a 3.5 km trail up and then back down. We met them at the turn-around point of the hike. Let me give you an illustration…
They hiked the red part. We hiked the purple part. It was rough. Kudos to Kate for being such a trooper. This was her first time on a mountain. The three of us definitely did not plan for this hike when we left our respective apartments that morning. And this trail was not intended to be hiked by amateurs. in flip flops.
I was really impressed that each of us kept in good spirits the whole two hours since we weren’t always sure that we were walking in the right direction. We couldn’t have actually gotten *lost* on the mountain because we never veered off the trail. However, we weren’t really sure how long it was going to be until we found our group and we had a limited supply of water, Pringles and Snickers. We never would have made it through the night. But Maggie watches Survivor. She could have found us dinner had we needed it.
Because we weren’t there for check-in we didn’t get our marathon numbers but Kate and I were not leaving without proof of being there. Dedication to the cause (and my super sad blue eyes) helped us acquire medals for participating in not only the 7 km, but also the 13km run. I feel confident in saying that we walked 13 km that day. We earned it.
After the marathon, we trekked across the river and about caused Kate to have a heart attack… I think this was the roughest part of the day for her.
The water level is far higher than normal due to recent rains and the wind was blowing pretty hard that day. It was a little nerve-wracking.
After we all made it safely to the other side, Lee Ann joined us as we went to fix our funky barefoot marathon feet…at Dr Fish! (It’s always a good time for Dr Fish!)
Maggie and Kate were the newbies this time. It was awesome fun!