Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Miller Time in Japan: Part 2: Tokyo Marathon

I, love, running.

For the majority of my life, I hated it. It was always punishment for the sports I was involved in (ie. You're late? RUN 5 LAPS!!!), and the fact that I had sports induced asthma didn't help. I remember having a very very deep hatred for Storms (my freshman year basketball coach) when she decided running a mile before the occasional practice was a good idea. I was always last. Anyway, shortly after I started college, I no longer had regular sports practices and Madison happens to have amazingly gorgeous running/biking paths around campus. I decided to try this 'recreational running' thing out. I quickly became smitten and eventually fell in love. It just allows me a chance to clear my mind and the post run, endorphins flowing feeling is amazing. I (almost) always feel better after a good long run.
I participated in some short (5km) races in Madison, but pretty much only for the free food and experience. It was never about actually 'racing'. But, I realized I loved that too! Loved being around a gajillion (give or take) other people all excited and ready to run. About a year ago, I ran a half marathon in Annaka, Japan and it was one of the best experiences in my life.
I've always been amazed by people that had done a full 42.2 km run, but never thought I'd have the time, patience, or will power to train and do it myself. It had been in the back of my mind for a while though, so when a bunch of 1st year JETs decided they would fork over the $150 to sign up and train through the winter months Rocky style, I hopped on the band wagon.
18 weeks of training later, I was in the middle of Tokyo with 30,000 other people ready to pound the pavement. The training, by the way, really wasn't that tough. Since it was winter, I had hardly any other weekend plans to work around and could take the time needed to eat, rest, and recoop without missing out on too much other stuff. I didn't fall victim to any injuries and only had to battle with the wind, bitter cold, frozen snot face syndrome, and most difficult I think was trying to occupy my mind for 1-4 hours. The paths I chose were gorgeous, but it does get redundant and music can only take your mind off the fact that you're stilllllll running for so long. But, it was never like torture and almost always enjoyable. Plus I had a great support system here and at home. I don't know if I could have done it without Mom's amazing shipments of my self-selected, supremely picky, and hard to find nutrition and energy bars. Mmmm.

Nobody cares, this is boring, get to the BIG DAY! Alright, alright.

Kristin woke up extra early to show her support on race day. Nice!

Five other people from Gunma were running that I knew of (none of which were Japanese though, because they apparently have a 'lottery' which only foreigners get accepted through... lame). Cynthia was running the 10km, so we headed out together.

The course went ALL over Tokyo. We started off at the Tokyo Metropolitan buildings (arriving 5 minutes prior to check in time) and ran through the areas of Iidabashi, the Imperial Palace, Hibiya, Shinagawa, Ginza, Nihombashi, Asakusa, Tsukiji, Toyosu, and ended up at Tokyo Big Sight. 42.2 kilometers (26.6 miles, for us Americans) of pure big city gloriousness closed down for running.

It was a total rush from the start and just like the Annaka 1/2 marathon, the crowd's support really keeps you going. Having the entire city closed off just so I (and 299,999 other people) could run around it was an incredible feeling. It was really weird, but awesome, to see the city and so many of the landmarks and places I'd been before shopping, eating, clubbing, walking, from the viewpoint of a marathon runner. Really amazing.
Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures myself of the race, so I stole some from Helen.
I think she didn't really care about me as much as she did the awesome people in costumes.
I was scoping for my support crew pretty much the whole race... so much so that I even got a little headache just staring into the endless crowds and faces that lined the 42.2 km of people. I wasn't discouraged though and knew there must be SOME explanation (other than their going to breakfast, such was the case at the Annaka marathon). I was truckin' along just fine for about 35km, feeling good, feeling great. But around kilometer 37, I started to struggle a bit. It was raining and had gotten much colder, and I hadn't seen any of my friends. I felt like I was crawling... and then, as I turned a corner and began the final ascent (yes, uphill!!!) to the finish line, I heard my name being shouted! They didn't forget about me after all! The energy pumped back into my body and I even managed a little jig for the cameras. It felt soooo good!

I had this semi embarrassing moment after I passed the finish line where I started to tear up a little bit and took a little 'stretch' break to stand by the river and just thank God for providing me with a body that allows me to do all the physical activities I enjoy so much. I really respect my body (except sometimes when I forget to put sunscreen on and get sun poisoning and then my body hates me), and hope that by staying active and healthy now, I'll get to continue doing all those outdoor physical activities until I the day I die.
Inside Tokyo Big Sight, I got me this sweet medal, heaps of food, and got out of my now drenched clothes (from the rain of course).
Most pleasant surprise: hot foot baths!

These were my final times. Given my pretty constant times and the fact that I was grouped with the other G's from the start and we had to wait for all those before us to start up, I figure it took about 12 minutes until I passed the start line. That means, I finished in just over 4 hours. My goal was to finish without dying having run the entire time, so I was very happy to have a somewhat respectable time on top of that.

After that, I was reunited with all my awesome supporters.
They even made/reused signs for me:)

Ran into Simon (our local lepruchan who was signed up but didn't end up running due to 'injury') and Ronan (who finished in just over 5 hours, after having coffee for breakfast and no dinner the night before... oh, Ronan!) in the meet 'n' greet area.

So, am I gonna be the next Larry Macon and aim to run 105 marathons in a year? Absolutely not. But, Kristin and I did make a loose pact to meet up at least every 2 years to run a marathon together. Here's looking at you, Paris Marathon 2011!

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