Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Japan Marathon (4/50)

Japan Marathon (March 30, 2014)

Chiba, outside of Tokyo.

After a week of work throughout China and 8 previous flights, I landed at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan for my 55 minute layover before taking off for Denver and then on to Sioux Falls.

Despite my plans, the aircraft I was supposed to take to the US had technical difficulties and the flight got eventually cancelled. I was booked into a hotel for the night and got rebooked on the next flight to Denver for the following day 3pm. My 55 minute layover became a 22 hour layover.

I had a quick dinner at the hotel (not sure what most of it was) and after a brief call with my wife passed out quickly in the tiny hotel room (I’ve heard that everything in Japan is micro-sized; but I had no clue!).

Fortunately I had access to my luggage and decided in the morning to lace up my shoes and go for a run along the coast to take in the scenery. As it was raining constantly, not many people were out and about. This, however, lead to having a very personal experience while running through Chiba, Japan. Little to no traffic helped me enjoy the city before I reached the coast line. I learned very quickly that people there drive on the wrong side of the road and constantly had to remind myself to go against my instincts when crossing the road.

I saw a little single track trail leading away from the road and towards the water and after slipping through a fence found myself at the beach. I would not go swimming here as the water seemed littered with trash everywhere. I did enjoy seeing several fishermen, though, as they were sharing their daily catch with the wild feline population of the harbor area. One even drove up in a scooter, took out cat food and sat down to feed and pet the friendly and tame cats. During this I was thinking ------------>

Running on the beach took a toll as I kept sinking into the sand and it was draining my energy quickly. I haven’t truly run much in the last 3-4 months and didn’t know how long I could keep up running during this day. I ran closer to the water where the sand was packed and solid and this way I could last a couple of miles before finding my way back onto grass and later onto a paved trail.

After daydreaming through the rain for the first 5 miles I noticed that I had come to the end of the trail and turned around. On the next chance I turned inland and enjoyed watching people going about their business. One thing I have noticed that is the same anywhere I go is that people stare me down as if I was some weirdo for running around their neighborhood. I only waved and got the occasional smile/nod mixture.

Now about 8 miles have gone by and I feel that shouldn't continue further inland as I may get lost and due to my upcoming shuttle departure to the airport in 3.5 hours, I should really stay along a course where I can find the hotel quickly.

Once more did I return to the end of the trail and ran into a stray cat only to find myself meowing at him and telling him he reminded me of my own, Louie. ….Yes, you are right, I got dehydrated by that point as I had run out of my two water bottles and now I was speaking to cats. They can’t understand me. They speak Japanese after all!

As I slowed and contemplated walking back to the hotel I stumbled across an oasis send from heaven: a public water fountain. I refilled my bottles and drank water until my stomach gave a satisfying sloshing sound and I decided to continue on. I had roughly 14 miles in at this point and thought that with about 2.5 hours until the shuttle left, I may be able to add a few more miles.

Close to the hotel was a convenience store where I knew I could score some Coca Cola and sweets to refuel some energy to keep going. I admit, I enjoyed the stares once again as I, drenched in sweat in a sleeves shirt and shorts approached the counter with an egg sandwich, a coke, a red bull, two kit kats and a cinnabon type pastry, while asking for some of the deliciously greasy looking fries in the window. Perhaps I shouldn’t have skipped breakfast after all. I left the store and the rain really starting pouring down now. I didn’t care and wolfed down the food while keeping an extra kit kat for later. I calculated that I should run 4 miles out and 4 miles back in to get to roughly 23-24 miles, as I thought I can walk a couple miles at the airport later in the afternoon to complete the marathon distance. The coke and the overall sugar overload gave me an extra boost and the 4 miles out went by fast. The wind had really picked up at this point and I needed to put on my sweatshirt as I got quite cold. As nasty as the wet shirt felt, it did help warm me up and as soon as I was in a wind sheltered area of the coast I could take it off again. I had to switch into a slow shuffle at a few times now as my legs were arguing that I shouldn’t be doing this any longer and perhaps should flag down a taxi to take me back.

Fortunately, I couldn’t see a taxi (or refused to look for one). I hit the 20 mile mark at about 1 hour 15 minutes before the shuttle left. I turned it up a notch, put my head down and started my return trip to the hotel. The rain came in sideways at this point and I thought that this was actually pretty cool. I mean, who else would be out here in this weather running? Only now I noticed that the number of people running on the track had significantly increased. Wow, Japanese runners don’t care about the weather. (Wonder what they would think about South Dakota at -20F J)

I had the hotel within sight as I was at 24.5 miles and 28 minutes before the shuttle left. I put in the next gear and ran up to the hotel. Luckily I had packed before I left and really only had to take my bag if it came down to it. At the hotel the mile marker was 25 and I circled the block 4 times to the reach the glorious 26.2 before sprinting into the hotel and into the elevator. An awkward 30 seconds among well-dressed Japanese business men and I was off down the hall way into my room. Now I thought I couldn’t stopped .2 miles early as I kept running in the hotel and should’ve counted that J!

I had 12 minutes before the shuttle left. Quickly showered so I wouldn’t offend the other passengers and grabbed my bag with dripping hair, threw my keys on the counter down stairs and hoped that would suffice as a check out ( It did, I think J) and got in line for the shuttle for which I had an ample 3 minutes left. I guess I could’ve taken it easier during my run!

All in all, it was a fun 4:14h run in Japan and I can officially cross off the country as a marathon (4 down, 46 to go!). I saw enough that I know I want to come back with my family to explore more of the sights.

Also, please note, I had the option to shower at the airport as I got there 2 hours before the flight and knew the lounge has a shower service available. I wouldn’t be the jerk sitting next to you on a plane, all sweaty, with 13 hours flight time ahead of you J.
I had a couple of beer in the lounge and don’t remember the airplane taking off as I passed out prior to that.