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home : sports : sports May 3, 2016

8/6/2013 12:54:00 PM
Running commentary
The Kanzigs have found a running venue in South Korea. photo by Charlie Kanzig
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The Kanzigs have found a running venue in South Korea. photo by Charlie Kanzig

By Charlie Kanzig

Editor's note: Deirdre and Charlie Kanzig are taking a two-year leave of absence from the Sisters School District to teach at Taejon Christian International School in Taejon, South Korea. See story at in the Education section.

The first thing runners do when arriving at a new location is to figure out what the local running options are.

So, on the second day here in Daejeon, South Korea, my wife Deirdre and I set out to explore the paths near our apartment.

Before taking even our first steps, we were coated with moisture from the terrific humidity that exists here in mid-summer. Daytime highs are similar to Sisters, but the temperature stays in the mid-70s throughout the night, ensuring a sticky start to the day.

For a city of 1.5 million, Daejeon has quite a lot of green space, especially along the rivers and on the many ridges surrounding the area. The population is quite active, so at any time of the morning or evening, walkers, joggers, runners and bikers are out, despite the humidity. About every mile or so on the river path, workout stations are set up, including sit-up benches and simple lifting and movement machines. One is a seat with lift bars that allow you to lift yourself up and down. Another is a circular platform that you can practice the "Twist" on.

Having no Korean language skills yet, we found that not being able to say "Good morning" in Korean has resulted in very little eye contact or interaction among the local people we have encountered on the paths. I did get an enthusiastic thumb's up from a passing runner on my second run, but mostly it has been quiet. I think that once we get bolder about saying "an young ha say yo" and learning to bow while running, things will improve.

This is not to say that the Korean people have not been welcoming and kind. We have been overwhelmed by the friendly nature of our new co-workers and neighbors.

Despite the lush greenness along the stream and river, wildlife is in short supply. Bird sightings have been limited to a few magpies, one family of ducks, an occasional (and beautiful) egret, and some sparrows. When I asked about this lack of wildlife, I was reminded that South Korea was environmentally decimated during the Korean War and even 60 years later, some impact remains. The hills were laid bare of all trees for use as firewood and in some cases, food. Near our school campus stands an old hardwood tree of some sort that looks to be about 100 years old, which a local claimed was one of the oldest trees in the entire region. The hills are once again covered with trees, but from what I have gathered, the war and the ensuing (and miraculous) re-development of the country have taken a heavy toll on the environment.

It appears, however, that systems are in place to make things better. The recycling system would put any place in America to shame. Every restaurant, all schools, each individual home and apartment follows a comprehensive recycling program, including composting. This is an absolute necessity for a country that is half the size of Oregon and has a population of over 50 million people.

I look forward to exploring more of the river paths and trail systems, including some single-track that is rumored to be nearby. I have been assured that by mid-September the humidity gives way to a beautiful autumn with crisp air and colorful leaves. Cross-country season will be in full swing so I will be following my son Izaak and the rest of the Taejon Christian International School "Golden Dragons" to meets around Korea, and even one held in Guam.

The running calendar for the region includes numerous road races from five kilometers to full marathons, and I am already planning some outings with our colleagues at TCIS who are also runners. I personally have my eye on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Peace Run near the border with North Korea in April.

Overall, the Kanzigs have been pleasantly surprised by the running opportunities here and will certainly venture further afield in the weeks ahead, but for the next month we will have to just fantasize about the cool air of morning we all love from Sisters Country.

It is my intention to continue to write about the local running scene in the Sisters area with a sprinkling of updates from East Asia.

If you would like to contact me, please shoot an email to

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