Korean American on His Cross-Country Run

Myongku Kang (Photo via Korea Daily)

Myongku Kang, the first Korean American who crossed the country alone and on foot two years ago, related his story about all 125 days of the 3,200-mile, coast-to-coast journey in a new book written in Korean entitled “The Very Special Trip in My 50s.”

Calling himself a “below average person,” Kang said during an interview with Korea Daily: “I never received the ‘easy-to-get’ athletic award in Korea when I was in elementary school and, when I was serving in the military in Korea, I was even hospitalized because I wasn’t able to walk more than two miles during the six-mile training walk.” Despite his unathletic personality, the reason he decided to run in his 50s was to heal “an immigrant man’s middle-aged growing pain,” he said.

Kang started running by himself to prepare for his long journey and slowly developed an athletic ability. On his first marathon race (sub-four: running a full course in under four hours, meaning a marathoner needs to run an average pace of nine minutes and nine seconds per mile ), he won second place, and with his third race, he qualified to participate in the Boston Marathon. For a 50-mile mountain marathon, Kang completed it after only his second trial. From there, Kang wanted to move on to a larger goal.

“Some people didn’t even believe it when I said that I would cross the country by myself and on foot without any sponsors,” he said. “They were very cynical, calling me crazy.” Despite the skepticism and, sometimes, discouragement, Kang made the successful journey, from Santa Monica State Beach in Los Angeles County to the United Nations headquarters in New York City, within four months.

He felt he escaped death on the way across the Mojave Desert in California, and there were times when he thought he might have to give up the journey because of serious injuries to his ankles, Kang wrote in his essay. He had to walk farther than the distance that some migratory birds fly. He was afraid of giving up, but never gave up.

Kang immigrated to the Unites States in 1990 from South Korea, but, after years of running small businesses, he never felt like he achieved enough of the so-called American dream. Throughout the 26 years of his immigrant life, he never took even a single vacation day. “My life became impoverished. My mind became desolate. I felt like if I didn’t relieve some of the heavy and complicated emotions that were continuously suppressed during my immigrant life, my mind would explode. I had to get out,” he said. “Like me, many people haven’t realized their potential. I hope that more people can have an experience of awakening their potential by challenging their routine and accomplishing something they are longing for.”

After his journey, Kang decided to go back to Korea, permanently, and resettle there. But, his journey isn’t ending there. He is planning to take another long trip across 15 countries in Eurasia this fall, starting from The Hague, in the Netherlands, and completing the trek when he arrives in Seoul, if possible, through North Korea.

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