Saturday, April 19, 2014

Seoul Day 2: Seoul Challenge 10k

Daddy's a running addict, and on our holidays, there's usually no running away (pun intended) from running. Here's his experience participating in the Seoul Challenge 10k. Enjoy!

It has been a bumpy training cycle since the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2013, and the niggling injuries finally recovered a couple of months ago. Tuning up for the Boston Marathon, I wanted to gauge my fitness with a tune-up race about a month before. The Seoul Challenge 10k seemed like the right race (click HERE for the official race website). It's organized by the same agency as the Seoul International Marathon and runs the final 10k of the marathon route. The weather was expected to be ideal, which will facilitate one of my long-term goals: to run 10 km under 40 minutes.

Holly's Coffee is a prominent landmark to identify the Dong-A News office building.

The bibs and race tees are picked up from this office on the third floor. There was a little queue today, but the staff attended to us quickly. It was the final day of bib collection and most were here to collect marathon bibs.

Finally got my hands on it. The excitement mounts...

After settling down at our apartment, I left the group to pick up my race bib from the Dong-A News Agency office. I's been here before so it was a quick affair, before heading down to meet the rest at Lotte Mart (click HERE for a report of our food-tasting session there).

The day before the race was anything but ideal. We walked a tad too much, but it was a holiday after all. In addition, it was our first day in Seoul, so what's a first day without all the good Korean food? 

Needless to say, I felt 'very full' on race morning', but I was ready to go. Will a sub-40 happen today? It was cold, definitely less than 10 degrees Celcius, and slightly foggy.

I can see the tents and starting gantry to the left from Ttukseom Resort Station on a cold foggy morning.

I got to Ttukseom Resort Station about an hour and a half before the start. There were many other participants making their way to the staging area, and like me, all of them were layered up due to the low temperatures. It felt nice to be racing again after some time off.

Outside the station was a coffee shop where participants were grabbing breakfast.

There were many traffic personnel, likely to facilitate the full-marathon course.

At the Ttukseom Pleasure Ground, I was pleasantly surprised by the race organization and cheerful volunteers.

There was hardly a queue for the toilets yet, but it would get more crowded later.

Medical Treatment Tent

Panoramic view of the admin tentage areas.

Got someone to get me a photograph with the starting gantry.

Bag drop vehicles. It's amazing the amount of resources devoted to an event like this. The volunteers seemed excited and enthusiastic to be part of it too.

These are large tents for the participants to get out of the cold and change into their running gear.

The warm up felt smooth and easy, and I was sure this was my day. Sure it was cold, but persuaded myself that it could work to my advantage by delaying the fatigue.

After mass warm ups, I placed myself ahead of the corral. A four-minute per kilometre pace was going to be brutal, but I was ready to give it a shot.

After the flag-off, everyone seemed to sprint and I felt left behind. It suddenly hit me that the cold made me stiffer than usual, and I seemed to have difficulty opening my stride. My high-mileage slow-pace training made it difficult for me to adjust to a fast start. I was disheartened to split the first kilometre at 4 minutes 20 seconds. "It's only my first kilometre and I'm 20 seconds behind schedule! Great." I thought to myself. Still, I didn't come here to give anything less than my best, and I made up my mind to claw back the deficit slowly. After all, we were going up Jamsil Bridge and there was a chance I could make it up on the down-slope and flatter parts.

Powering up Jamsil Bridge. (Photo Credits:

We cleared the top of Jamsil Bridge by the fifth kilometre and checking my splits, I was now about 45 seconds off my target. It had been a hard run up the bridge and fatigue was setting in. After the sixth kilometre, I tried my best to push harder on the downhill to make up for lost time.  This seemed to pay off with a few kilometre splits under 4 minutes. However, my lack of speed training was evident as my strides were clumsy and inefficient, and my muscles were starting to ache from all the pounding.

Entering the finishing area at Jamsil Stadium, I checked my watch and knew a sub-40 was going to be close but not guaranteed. I was already breathless but decided that having made it all the way here, there was nothing to lose and gave one final push around the track.

The final push at Jamsil Stadium. (Photo credits:

Approaching the finishing gantry, I caught sight of the time clock and it indicated a time under 39 minutes and 50 seconds. I was still some distance away and gave it everything I had. After I crossed the line, I was just glad it was over, but did I make it under 40 minutes? I forgot to stop my watch and wasn't sure. I guess I'll have to wait for the official results.

Collecting my bag without breaking a sweat in this cold weather.

Panaromic view of the Seoul Olympic Stadium and surroundings. It was like a fair ground!

Getting my picture taken with the Olympic rings.

Marathoners entering the final kilometres of their journey.

A happy camper!

The race route took us from Ttukseom Pleasure Ground, over Jamsil Bridge, and into Jamsil Stadium. (Picture credit:

I eagerly waited for the chip-times to be uploaded that night. It read: "00:40:03" for 17th place. It was a new personal best, but I was disappointed that I had missed out on my goal by a mere three seconds. It'll be a while before I get another shot, but for now, it's time to recover and plan how to move on from here. Still, I'm thankful for the chance to enjoy injury-free running in a well-organised race. I'm grateful to have a family that gives me so much support during the training cycle.

Now it's time to link up with them for the famous traditional Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup we've all been looking forward to (click HERE for a report on the wonderful lunch!)

Next stop: the 118th Boston Marathon.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Seoul Day 6: Seoul Children's Museum

Seoul Children's Museum is located within Children's Grand Park and after our experience with the closure of Seoul Zoo and Seoul Land, we decided to check out the Korean website before heading out. It was a good thing we did because the zoo within Children's Grand Park was also closed due to Bird Flu. Thankfully, the Children's Museum was opened so we decided to spend the day away there.

(Get out from Exit 4 of Children's Grand Park (Line 7), walk straight for about 150 metres and you will see the main entrance to the park on your right.)

Stocking up on snacks for the children's day out.

Main entrance to the Children's Grand Park

Huge space for the children to run around in.

We walked through the wooden pathway. Am very certain that the view along the pathway would look a lot more beautiful in summer when everything is freshly green.

Seoul Children's Museum

A cute pink dinosaur to welcome you

Space opens up once you enter. Lots of school children there on their field trips.

To ensure that you are eligible for free entry, do be sure to bring along proof of identification

Café on the first floor with free WiFi. The café serves up muffins and beverages. You would need to pack more substantial food if you intend to spend the whole day in the museum.

Being our first time there, we were unprepared when it came to meals. Besides the cupcakes we bought from one of the stores at the subway station and some buns and biscuits, we had nothing. We went to the museum hoping that they served up kids friendly meals. We had to look for alternatives and settled for cup noodles from the convenient store just outside the museum. We were told that we could eat our food in the eating area on the third floor. However, after getting to the third floor, we were told by the staff that no cup noodles were allowed. For safety reasons as they were afraid that the hot liquid would spill and hurt some children. We ended up bringing the children out in the rain and cold to have their noodles in the convenient store. It was quite an experience eating in the cold. it was so cold that as the rain fell, it turned to ice. Hail stones!! Our hands were all numb. Lunch with children was never that quick. Quite a start to the day - cold, wind, rain, hail.

Eating area on the third floor

The museum is divided into 4 different floors with each floor focusing on different themes. B1 focuses on Experiences and Sensory Play, 1F focuses on Space, Art and Nature Play, 2F on Stories and Books while 3F focuses on Science and Culture Play. Since we were on the third floor, the children started from 3F first and worked their way down.

Looking downstairs from the family lounge, we spotted a nice, safe, and cozy space for the very young to laze around with their parents. There were young toddler kids resting and even napping here.

Water play!

Water aprons provided for different ages group and sizes.

Kids all ready to get themselves wild and wet

Watch how the balls travel through the pipes

Fascinated by the how a stream of air blown upwards can make the balls hover in place!

The harder you cycle and the harder you jump, the higher the balls will fly. A good way to keep all the kids active.

Walking down the runway in international costumes at Cultural Play section.
Different international costumes to change into.

Learning about currencies

The kids spent more than an hour just exploring the level. We had to remind them that there are three more levels to explore in order to get them moving. And of course, no explanation fits better than the many photos we had taken of the kids enjoying their play.

Exploring shadows in Space Play section

Motion sensitive animation screen follows you wherever you go, with a superimposed alien face. 

Making a new friend through letter writing.

Drop the letter in the spaceship shuttle and see your letter fly (literally) through the pipes overhead

The letterbox (just behind the wall from the mail drop)

You can get into the thick of action by flying your own spaceship.
Braille experience at Beyond Sensory Play section

Learning the challenges of walking with legs of different lengths.

A world without sounds

Manoeuvring through the inconveniences of using a wheelchair

Walking the path as a blind.
The museum covers many different aspects when it comes to children's play and learning. The Beyond Sensory Play section on B1 was quite unexpected of a children's museum. Or rather, we have not been to one that covers important societal values such as empathizing with the handicapped. We are all handicapped in one way or another but being able to experience the different kinds of disabilities open up the children's world to what is more important than themselves - others. The parents were able to talk about the experiences with the children on the way back to the apartment and highlight the need to empathize, accept and to embrace everyone, no matter what shapes and sizes, colors and kinds.

The museum offers cooking and performance workshops too. You would need to register for it early as the workshops are very popular. We did not manage to sign-up for any of them while we were there as everyone was just so busy exploring. The museum is definitely a good option for families with young children.

Insert a scarf through one of the vacuum ports and watch it travel through the pipes and out up top, then try to catch it. The fun never ends.

As we had an impromptu lunch, someone suggested a nice, hot meal, and we returned to Ssamsarang BBQ restaurant at Chungmuro. One of our mummies was not with us as the previous sitting (click HERE to find out more about this gem of a traditional Korean BBQ experience) and we wanted her to try it too.

After the meal, some of the parents were re-energized and ready for more exploration after waiting on the kids all day at the museum. The kids were housed in one apartment while their daddies and mummies made a short round of Dongdaemun Street Market just a couple of stations away.

A family that plays together, stays together. After all, holidays are not just about exploring places, it's about being together too!