満濃公園八十八キロ・リレー – Manno Park 88km Relay

The other weekend, I joined Soeng and Ryo for a late birthday BBQ at our mutual friend Ohira-san’s house.  The three of us have all worked on his chrysanthemum farm once or twice and have also gotten to know him too.  He’s a genuine guy who laughs a lot and bears every trait of a good host.  We were at his place because there was a bit of drizzle and he could offer us a covered patio.

We had an abundance of meat thanks to Ryo and slathered the massive hunks of pork with some ‘kato sauce’.  These tender nuggets of meat were the highlight for sure, but the chicken and other veggies were good too.  We had some whale steaks that we completely forgot about, which was a shame, but were soon satisfied all the same.

Ryo’s Vietnam style squat with some ‘sexy’ pieces of meat.

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After the air cooled off a bit, we moved the shindig inside his incredible house.  By incredible I don’t mean lavish, bit rather just old and Japanese.  His abode is loaded up with tatami floors, sliding doors, and long passageways around the rooms.  We eventually took a seat at one of his knee-high tables to chat, sip some cognac, and also sing a bit of YouTube karaoke.  When we started getting tired, we spread a few futons and then slept in preparation for the following day.

We woke up a bit earlier than my norm and then set out of Manno Park.  We stopped along the way from some food at a conbini and also to meet a few people at the train station.  Once the team was assembled, we drove towards out final destination, waited in a long queue of cars, and then met some others setting up our camp.  The plan for the day was to run a 88km relay marathon with a team of mostly foreigners.  Suitably, out team name was registered as Los Embajadores.  Some of us set ourselves further apart from the plebs by donning costumes.  For this I selected a Doraemon suit, which while unrecognizable to the people back home, is known by 100% of the people here.

We also had Spiderman and Human themed runners as well

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After a short warm up that consisted only of standing in a circle and picking who would run first, we moved to the stating line to see our lead man off.  Looking at all the other people made it very obvious who was actually there to run, and they looked nothing like our  jeans clad runner.  The race was afoot at precisely 9:30.

We returned to the tent to relax, but it wasn’t long before runners were finishing their 1.3 km loop and making the pass to the next runner.  After a few runners it was my turn to give it a go.  As I ran, I was encouraged by the cheers of the spectators on account of my costume.  There were a lot of people who smiled and took photos as well.  I completed the course in 5 minutes and something, but because we weren’t yet paying attention to seconds I wasn’t sure just how awesome I was.  I was sweating and on fire thanks to the thermodynamics of the costume, but indeed I was physically sound.  About five days before the event, I decided to get out for a nice little training run.  Now the better part of a week later my legs were just forgetting about that hellish torture, which probably meant that I had attained ‘in shape’ status.

After my loop, the rest of the 16 member team took their turns as well.  While I waited for my next run to come around, I had to contend with a number of children incessant on following me and grabbing my tail.  These kids were unshakable throughout the day.  When we asked about where their parents were, they responded with uncertainty but postulated that their dad was in the car.

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The day carried on, and I ran a couple more times.  I also slept for a good while in the tent, except for when these same kids came to bother me.  As we were coming up on the end of the 67 lap campaign, we started to realize that the 7 hour time limit was going to be a problem.  The team last year was not able to finish in time, so were were determined to attain greatness.  In order to accomplish the feat, we needed to boot anyone incapable of  a 6 minute loop from the roster and stick to our running starters.  I guess I was good enough to be included, though my previous two laps certainly weren’t.  With this added pressure, I was able to manage my best time of the day with a 5:24, which if extrapolated would equate to about a 6:25 mile – right in line with my middle school gym class time.  This feels a bit disappointing actually, since only being on par with a 14 year old me feels pretty pathetic.  I am however more of a Clydesdale, the Cadillac of runners.

Towards the end of the event, the number of runners on the course had grown a bit sparse

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Then, for whatever reason I was selected to represent the team as the runner of the last lap.  Though I had already divorced the idea of further physical effort that day, I decided I needed to step up.  Spurred on by all the random Japanese people rooting for my costume, the cushy 8 minute limit was doable.  When I rounded the bend towards where we had our team staging area, my peers joined me so that we could cross the finish line as a team.  We managed to finish about two minutes before the start of the seventh hour, so that’s something to be proud of, I guess.  Despite a couple weather scares, things stayed nice enough and we all had a great time.  As an added bonus, my training regimen completely prevented any and all soreness in my legs.  We went on to celebrate with sushi.

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