"Chuck Norris Never Ran a Marathon"
Sung Jin Hong's letter to friends sharing his Miracle Marathon 2010 experience
Hope you are doing well and enjoying the holiday season. Adrienne and I recently returned from Virginia for Miracle Marathon 2010. It was beautiful and humbling. As usual, I could not have done it without Adrienne. She was there every minute. I’d like to share some of the good, the bad, and...
• Major shin splints — I’ve been having them on and off but was at its worst since Thursday before the race and considered canceling the race...
• You’d think it can’t get any worse, but at mile 8 is every long distance runner’s nightmare: the use of toilet for 3+ minutes... considered dropping out altogether...
• Dinner before Marathon: ate at Red Lobster (less than a block away from hotel) — all you can eat shrimp including shrimp fettuccini alfredo, which was my runner’s “pasta dinner”
• Miles 22 to 25.5: hit a “wall,” in running terms, and not many people from Richmond were present to cheer the runners when many needed it the most.
The course did not have mile clocks at every mile nor every two miles. It only had clocks at miles 6, 13, and 20. Even the Staten Island Half-Marathon had mile clocks at almost every mile. There were only three clocks during the marathon and hardly any Porto Johns.
• The people are so friendly. The closest thing to southern hospitality that I’ve experienced was from our very own One World Symphony Savannah Belles. Never experienced southern hospitality in the South before, and it’s all true.
• Weather was perfect all weekend — cool Indian Summer! Fall foliage was at its height. Part of marathon course was through some gorgeous scenic hilly roads and trees burning with fall colors. Adrienne and I didn’t get to enjoy it in NYC, so it was a treat.
• My favorite big signs during the race:
“Toenails are over-rated”
“Porto John Ahead”
“Chuck Norris Never Ran a Marathon”
“Papa John’s Ahead”
• Adrienne and I visited Colonial Williamsburg the day after the marathon — a beautiful place. Adrienne saw the whole village, while I roamed and crawled on all fours slowly and sat with the $10 mug of “all you can drink” hot cocoa, cider, and sodas all day with two large bags of potato chips and M&Ms (the healthy almond kind). I watched some historical shows and demonstrations by actors, musicians, and tradesmen in vintage costumes. Then, we went for some tasty Virginia BBQ at Pierce’s Pit for dinner. The local visitors were wearing shorts, t-shirts, and sandals in the gorgeous weather.
• Hotel was great — our room was similar to a spacious comfy studio apartment. Due to shin splints, I went to the pool many times before the race to shake the pain. Without the pool, I would have probably had to cancel. Breakfast was delicious, which included healthy servings of southern sausage biscuits and gravy
• Red Lobster: I haven’t been there in more than a decade, and to the detriment to my health, I’ve discovered that I love it. Returned for dinner after the marathon and the manager gave us $20 gift certificate and free dessert. Yes, all you can eat shrimp again with the addition of lobster tail and extra helpings of those addictive warm buttery biscuits. Again, the service was so friendly and positive!
• The food provided by the marathon during and after race was generous (cookies, gummy worms, fruits, jelly beans, beer). Papa John’s never tasted better at the finish line.
• The bands and cheerleaders from local schools cheering and playing during the race were helpful and supportive and the huge and phenomenal crowd at mile 12 was quite emotional and inspiring.
• When I was more than struggling after mile 22, John, another runner, ran backwards towards me and helped me through mile 24 to 25. He asked me lots of questions, so I didn’t focus on the pain. He was a classy, selfless, kind gentleman. I learned that his wife is also a flutist and I hope we will meet again in the next race.
• Adrienne was so helpful and amazing all weekend and helped me stretch after the race — my hero. I’m glad that we drove to and enjoyed Williamsburg, so she had something to do besides going to Red Lobster and Target and watch runners.
• The course has a reputation for being moderately challenging. With the lack of much human support at miles 22 to 25+, and the headwind on the long uphill climb on a lonely open bridge around mile 16, it had its challenging moments. There were around 5,000 marathon racers, and around 3,750 runners finished. The winner was a world-class Kenyan at 2:19, which is on the slower side.
• My goal was to improve my personal record (PR), which was 3:26. I was a mess before the race, so I had to re-evaluate my goal, and just crossing the finish line would be realistic. After all the Red Lobster, shin splints, and bowel issues, surprisingly and even ironically, I finished at 3:16 (7:29 min per mi) — a new PR.
• I raised around $4,000 for One World Symphony’s Community Music so far ($5,000 is the goal). Many have contributed.
Thank you very much!
WHAT I LEARNED
• Consider eating Red Lobster only after a race.
• Hyperpronation is root of some of my injuries. Adrienne said that she has never met anyone with feet so flat as an Asian pancake.
• My five-week training for Richmond Marathon was really for a half-marathon, instead of a full. Train longer and smarter and eat healthier for a full marathon.
• Learned some American history in Williamsburg. It is a treat to roam through the same space that George Washington and some of our heroic Founding Fathers have walked.
• Sheer bodily and mental strain comes to mind when most think about the prospect of properly training and completing a marathon. When I crossed the finish line, I would be lying if I said I heard in my head Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Instead, I probably heard Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. Am I running this race to push my potential to the Mahlerian limit? Is it to improve oneself, so one can better help others? Is that enough?
My friends and my wife continue to ask me why I place myself under physical and mental stress of a marathon. Everyone has activities or things to help them feel fulfilled in some way, whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, or daily rituals. Marathons can be a positive opportunity to encourage social and community awareness and service. On a personal level, my desire to run marathons is to reconnect with my grandparents. I feel their presence strengthening me during the course of my marathon journeys, especially when I hear that negative voice telling me to give up and quit during the most unbearable moments of a marathon. Their support helps me get past the moment of weakness and keep going. I miss them very much and am grateful for another experience.
Thank you very much for reading. Please do keep in touch. Adrienne, Cleo, and I wish everyone good health, safe travels during the holidays, and all the best!