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Bright Future for South Korean Marathon

Posted March. 16, 2003 22:34,   


Being a "late" bird, the boy had to run about 5 km every morning all the way to school.

Getting up late, he always missed the school bus. Afraid of being scolded by his teachers, he frequently skipped breakfast and ran all the way to school, which was 5 km apart from his house. It is this boy that has grown up as a new hope for the South Korean marathon society.

It is Ji Young-jun, who finished up the race for two hours, eight minutes and 43 seconds at second in the 2003 Dong-A Seoul International Marathon held yesterday. The first place went to Gert Thys (32) from South Africa. Ji was just one second behind. Under the chilly spring rain, Ji failed to break the South Korean record of 2 hours, 7 minutes and 20 seconds by more than one minute. Nonetheless, he got excited about breaking his own record (or 2H9M48S).

"Just for four months, I shortened my record by one minute and five seconds. I am really happy for this. My goal is to make step-by-step preparations for breaking the world record. I`m still young. So, I think I have plenty of time," said Ji.

His hometown was in Booyuh, a farming village in South Chungcheong Province. Both of his parents used to leave for the field early in the morning. Left alone, Ji woke up usually too late for the school bus. Thus, he would run all the way to his school about 5 km apart. In the process, he built up leg muscles and enhanced his body`s cardiopulmonary function. Being a "late" bird brought him two key elements required of a marathoner.

He first ran as an athlete when he was a senior in middle school. Noticing the potential he had, his physical education teacher "lured" him by promising good grades into running in a race. He ranked at second in the 800m and 1,500m in the municipal contest. In the following race hosted by the Province government, he won the gold medal, sparking his career in earnest.

In high school, he won each and every championship he took part in. Attracted by his performance, the late marathon coach Chung Bong-soo, a legendary figure in South Korea, scouted Ji in 2000. Since Chung died in 2001, Ji turned out to be one of Chung`s "masterpieces."

Last year, without proper training, Ji participated in JoongAng Ilbo Seoul International Marathon, and ranked at third. Thus, his potential was officially confirmed. For the 2003 Dong-A Marathon, his third trial at the full course, he had prepared a lot. He went over to China to make adjustments in the high land. Then, he had maintained himself well, and was confident in setting a record.

"I would probably have broken the Korean record without the rain. The rained pulled down my body temperature and stiffened my legs. So, I had a hard time deep into the race."

Ji reportedly cares a lot about his parents. He had saved all the prize moneys he had won, and bought them a house last year. He also cares a lot about marathon, a sport that has brought him the fame and wealth he enjoys today.

His next aim is to win the gold medal in the upcoming World Championship scheduled in August. Then, he plans to win the race in the Athens Olympics next year by making a record hovering 2 hours and 6 minutes, one that South Korean runners have not broken. With Ji having such dreams, the South Korean marathon society is full of bright dreams and future.