As I have stated many times, I have gotten really into running in Japan. You may remember that I did a costumed half marathon in May, and a 10 k last year. Well, I had so much fun last year that I decided to run the Gunma Kenmin Marathon one more time. I trained very well, and was in excellent condition to run the race. Then I had the experience of the second half of the month of October, and all that conditioning went right out the window. I wonder if there are any studies that show how much muscle is lost during a trans-pacific plane flight. Now what if you make that trip 4 times, get sick, don't sleep more than a few hours for days at a time, increase your intake of junk food by 1000% and excercise a total of two times during a 3 week period. You get weaker. I can assure you. Still, after October, the physical punishment of an untrained for half marathon didn't seem so bad. So on November 3rd I showed up at the race. Yuma-chan, the mascot of the prefecture where I live, was there to greet me.
Here I am at the starting line.
My goal was two fold. I wanted to be the first foreigner to finish, if I was going to finish. I also wanted to pretend that I was Pac Man and gave myself a point for every runner I "ate" by passing. I started off at a nice jogging pace in the middle of the pack, and then started to speed up by the 3rd kilometer. Soon I was racking up the points. At around the 8th kilometer I hit "the Wall". Way too soon. Still, I didn't see any reason to slow down. With winter on the way I am not going to be able to run until spring anyway, so what did it matter if I got slightly injured during this race. After 14 kilometers my muscles reached the limit of what I normally ask them to do. Oh well. At around 17 kilometers I spotted a foreigner in front of me, and I set out to pass her. I did. I finished the race with no energy left, using the last of my energy to go to where Yuri was waiting and telling her to prop me up against her body because I was about to faint and I didn't want it to look like I had fainted. I didn't want to get in an ambulance again.
I re hydrated, walked to the car (which took me an hour, and it was only a km away). We went to eat, strecthed, took a nap at 4pm and didn't wake up till 7 the next day when I discovered that I had pulled both of my hamstrings, my glutes, my calfs and had done something bad to the bone in my right shin. It was awesome.
Now all of this injury stuff may seem bad, but you have to consider this fact:
Previous Half Marathon Time: 1 Hour and 55 Minutes
Gunma Kenmin Marathon Time: 1 Hour and 40 Minutes
A 15 minute improvement. Holy cow.
In the end I was the first foreigner after all.
By the way, here is an interview of me at the Heso Matsuri which took place back in July. I finally got it online!