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In South Korea, a run with a view

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Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization

(Read caption) Runners compete in the Gyeongju Cherry Marathon.

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Few marathons are as pleasantly situated as the one held in this ancient royal capital of temples and kings’ tombs every April when the cherry trees are in bloom.

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The Gyeongju Cherry Marathon, on South Korea’s east coast, doesn’t attract the top world-class long-distance runners, but 15,000 people sign up every year to run along a course around Bomum Lake, lined with blossoming trees. After the race, runners and walkers visit historical sites dating from the era more than a thousand years ago when Gyeongju was the capital of the kingdom of Silla.

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This year’s marathon had “a special meaning,” since it came so soon after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March, says Charm Lee, president of the Korea Tourist Organization. The scenic setting offered relief from the stress of the disaster to Koreans and tourists alike.