Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sagamihara Half Marathon

Today was the day of the "International Friendship Marathon" at Sagami General Depot (one of the numerous mysterious grey areas full of khaki-clothed foreigners around this region on google maps - but don't worry, I'm not really giving away any secrets, it's all officially on line here).

There was not a real marathon on offer (a Japanese "marathon" is basically any long mass-participation run) but there was a half (also a 5km and 10km, the second of which jules had entered), and I was hoping to improve on my previous effort.

The couple of weeks before, we were in Vienna, with neither bicycles nor a handy 10km run to work, but we did have a canal within easy reach so I went there each morning for a jog before the conference. At least, that was the plan, but extreme fatigue set in after a few days. I also managed a very pleasant 18km along the Donauinsel on the morning of the Vienna Marathon (which of course we had been far too late to enter even if we'd wanted to, with our travel plans only extended over the weekend at rather short notice). Along with several longer runs in the previous month or two I thought I was generally better prepared than last time, though the recent long journeys and jet lag had interfered with this a bit.

I was worried about the heat which was possible at this time of year, but it turned out cold and rainy. In fact it was so wet and miserable that jules decided not to go for her 10km which was scheduled for an early start, but it was forecast to ease up in time for my run so I trudged off by myself in the downpour more in hope than expectation. There was a big queue to get through the security at the gate (as was complained about a few years ago). Usually I'm pretty sceptical of security theatre, but under the circumstances I can hardly complain this time. I got through in about 30 mins, but the queue was growing rapidly behind me.

The 10km was underway when I arrived, and indeed most of the runners didn't seem to be having that much fun in the conditions. However, the rain did ease off as promised, and by the time I had taken my place at the start 10 mins before the gun, it had almost stopped, though it was still pretty cold. And then they put the start back by 15 mins to let more people get in. Oh well, at least we were well rested, and it's probably sensible to start off gently warming up for the first couple of km.

The run went well and I finished in 1:26:53 (by my watch - no official times yet) [update - results are in, I got an official clock time of 27:07 and an elapsed time of 1:26:56, putting me exactly 20th out of just over 1000 in my decade class and 102 out of 3146 overall]. I was pleased to take more than 2 mins off my previous mark. It didn't seem too hard - I even decided to pick the pace up from the 18km mark, which lasted all of 500m before I blew up horribly :-) But it was nothing like my previous half marathon when my legs more or less stopped working towards the end. Presumably the longer runs made the difference.

The promised American-style food after was a little bit disappointing, with some stalls apparently out of food. I only found BBQ ribs, pork skewers and chicken. I had the ribs which were good, but I had been hoping for a juicy burger with a hot-dog on the side, neither of which was anywhere to be found. Of course the whole site would have been more fun if it wasn't sopping wet. The course was about 99.9% tarmac but the tents and stalls were all on grassy (muddy) fields. Overall it was a well-organised event that I'd certainly be happy to enter again, though the poor people who didn't get through security in time might feel differently.

Pictures weren't allowed on site, not that stopped plenty of people with their mobile phones. But it wasn'y very photogenic, especially since jules wasn't there to take pics of me running. So here are some azaleas from the walk home:

Oh, and just to prove I do occasionally get both feet off the ground together, the official photographer's shot at the finish:

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