Your guide to some interesting running routes in the Seoul area
We love the Han River. Who doesn’t? But, we aim to provide alternatives to the well beaten tracks us Flyers own, bringing you recently completed location reports on new and interesting routes in and around Metropolitan Seoul. Gone, but not forgotten, Mr. Martin Cooke provides an overview of running in Seoul Olympic Park…
Way back in 1988, when I was young and you were younger, the city of Seoul hosted the athletes of the nations of the world in the Olympic Games. Every true athlete longs to qualify for this event – all the runners, weightlifters, cyclists, and long-jumpers, all of those who do the types of sport which actually make you sweat. Some other sports you might like are not included (darts, pool, international drinking games).
There may sometimes be a debate over the events which should be included as ―Olympic-class, but the list is now mostly settled. Some sports have been phased out over time (croquet, tug of war), others never really belonged and maybe never will (squash, rugby).
For runners though, as both participants in, and fans of running, the Olympic Games are always a time to look forward to and remember. We may enjoy watching the gymnasts and swimmers and even the fencers, but the big events are on track and field. Win a gold medal in the Olympics for the marathon, or the 100m, or any distance in between, and your name will be revered and remembered long afterwards, long after your record is broken, long after you die.
So long as you‘re not fixed up on any of the other performance enhancing drugs which true athletes should stay away from, in which case you‘ll be held to shame forever (after the IOC finds you out). One or two of those cheats got their moment of shame here in Korea, whilst many more honest athletes reached their own pinnacles of achievement here too, becoming famous for the rest of their lives (in their own countries, if not the world). The games left a legacy that lives on. A great part of that legacy is Olympic Park.
The road toward Olympic Park from Jamsil Station is a wonderful sight, lined with fine examples of sculpture, commissioned prior to the games, to immortalise images of the sports which the world would eagerly see taking place in Seoul (it was the best-participated games to that date). A few of them are quite brilliant (such as the high jumper), though I doubt there are so many – ahem – testicles on display in any other 300m stretch anywhere outside ancient Athens, on depictions of humans‘ or animals‘ (look for those on the horse, it‘s quite a sublime touch).
Running in Olympic Park is best done early in the day, though you‘ll see runners at most times, especially in groups from Korea Sports University. The park can get busy, especially toward summer, but if you turn up around 7:30am on a drizzly weekday you might start thinking you‘ve got the whole park to yourself. In such a highly-populated city, moments like those are often priceless. There are several paths running around and through the park. A few go up steep hills, such as those toward the Mochon Tosong fortress which was excavated during the 1980s. Some go around the perimeter of the park, past hotels and museums (there are several within the park area).
Sometimes there‘s the backdrop of apartments and officetels and sky-scrapers, whilst if you run for another minute or two, it‘s almost as if you‘re in a park in England or some other part of the world, with all signs of industry hidden from view by lush trees and rolling, green hills of the Microsoft screensaver variety. You may want to stop for a moment to take it all in, though if you‘re too close to one of the many speakers which dot the park, the lesser-known tunes of Sinatra or some other crooner might be drifting through the air as you try to admire your surroundings. Having said that, the park is mostly still quite well-lit after dark, and it‘s safe.
It‘s easy to do a good few miles around the park – many of the surfaces are rubberised or otherwise good for runners, whilst the other paths are wide and at many times of day won‘t be packed with cyclists, skaters or slow-walking sightseers, except around the Olympic Peace Gate where skaters seem to circle continuously from sunrise to sunset. You‘ll have to visit a good few times before you know every diversion you could possibly take. There do always seem to be other runners, but if you‘re a runner and live in Seoul, where‘s better?
The Han River is (of course) not too far away if you want to run a bit further, though you may need to wait to cross the street to get to the track which runs toward it, and there are a couple of other tracks which extend away from the park close to Olympic Park Station – although these do turn into dead ends after a while. If you want to run toward anywhere else, it‘ll be through the populated areas, which isn‘t always bad so long as it‘s not too busy. For Seoulites, and Seoul Flyers especially, that‘s a case of either getting up early, or staying up late…
Getting there: : Get off at Mongchontoseong Station – line 8, exit 1, or at Olympic Park Station – line 5, exit 3. With Jamsil close by, it‘s easy to get a bus too, and the Han is close by should you wish to cycle or run there.
For more details on what you can see and do in the park, visit Korea Sports Promotion Foundation