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Marathoner Looks Forward to World Cup

Posted May. 26, 2006 03:02,   


The feet of marathoner Lee Bong-ju (36, Samsung Electronics) are uneven, riddled with bruises and bumps. They are also nearly flat. Ordinary people will easily tire on those feet. For past 15 years, Lee has run 34 full course marathons on such feet. The distance he ran in his fifteen-year marathon career would total up to approximately 144,000km, which equals to having run across the globe 3.6 times.

In high school, Lee wanted to join the soccer club, but opted for track and field because he could not afford anything other than a pair of shorts. Lee transferred three times in high school because the track and field team at two schools dissolved. He did not make good records in school. But luckily, he attended the National Sports Festival and finished third in the 10km event. That got him into Seoul City Hall track and field team after graduation.

“We used to play soccer on the city team. Once, I injured my right knee while playing soccer. For three months, I could not train or run in marathons. Luckily, the coach could not scold me because he played too," said Lee. Coach Oh In-hwan now has forbidden soccer on the team. “I like soccer too. But marathon and soccer are not a very good mix," said Oh. Despite a tight training schedule, Lee watched all Korea`s matches in 2002 World Cup on TV; and he plans to do the same this year.

Lee is busy preparing for his next big run. He jogs 20km every morning and evening at the Samsung Electronics running track located in Yongin City. Lee is a fan of Lee Un-jae, the Korean national team`s goalie. "As a marathon runner, I sympathize with goalies. It must be so lonely having 10 of your teammates in front of you while no one is behind you. You have to do everything on your own. I know what that must feel like,” said Lee. His face looks devoid of fat; it is dark and wrinkly. The blood and sweat he shed to achieve his stature as a runner demands respect.

Hwa-Sung Kim mars@donga.com