Sunday, October 30, 2011

Run out

Today I ran the inaugural Osaka Marathon. This is the first marathon I've run in over two years; the last one was the 2009 Tokyo Marathon - also the inaugural marathon in that city. Perhaps I'm going to only run marathons from now on when it's the first time they stage them in a particular place.

I hadn't realised quite how big the Osaka Marathon was until yesterday, when the woman who checked me in told me there were 30,000 participants. That makes it the largest event I've ever been in, and fairly close to London (36,000 runners); quite different from running in Tromso, when a large field was a couple of hundred runners. It's a bit more difficult to run your own race when there's that many people on the road with you as there's just not so much space to run into. On the other hand, a big race like this means a lot of spectators, and that really helps to keep your spirits up when your energy is flagging; when I ran the Gold Coast Marathon in 2008, I could partly blame my terrible time on running in the middle of nowhere, without a single human being to see for ages.

I couldn't ever get properly into a race mindset - I felt sluggish throughout the race, apart from a few little surges when somebody waved at me. This ended up being the slowest marathon I've ever run (just under the four hour mark) and a lot of that can be blamed on not training assiduously enough through the last three months - I never put in a 20 mile run, which really would have helped. Maybe then I wouldn't have ended up walking up the last hill at 37km. Or maybe I'd have still shambled that part.

Also, perhaps if I hadn't been in Japan there wouldn't have been as many people using as much embrocation as they did. I swear that I was running behind somebody at about the three-quarter mark, and breathed in so much embrocation that I had a coughing fit while running along - probably not an excuse for all my performance problems, but you grab whatever you can.

Still, this was a very well organised marathon. There were water and sports drink stops every five kilometres, there were more signs than you could have hoped for to tell you how far you had left to run, the course took you past almost every landmark Osaka has to offer, there were helicopters flying overhead, photographers in cherry pickers hanging over the crowd to get photos, and big crowds all the way to the end of the race. (Tokyo was similar, apart from the run of death out to Tokyo Big Site - basically, you ran the last four miles on a freeway, deserted of human life, just at the point where some encouragement could have come in useful.) Finishing, I got given a very nice towel, a medal, a banana, a can of cold spray to sort my muscles out / make me yell in shock and pain, and some kind of red bean jelly that I didn't want to eat. Before the race, everyone got a t-shirt and a placebo bracelet to 'arrange our auras' or something. It's a shame they didn't fly somebody out to Hong Kong three months ago to slap me round the chops and tell me to train properly, but you can't have everything. I wonder where I'll be running next.


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