Ohtawara Marathon 2015
Net Time 3:16:40
This year I ran Ohtawara for the fourth consecutive year and finally got the result I had been working for. Finally everything fell into place.
The race, as you all know by now, is on the 23rd November each year. This year, the 23rd was a Monday so myself and my wife drove up on the Sunday evening instead of taking by now traditional Shinkansen. But that is where the deviation from tradition ended. We stayed in the Nishi Nasuno Route Inn and dinned in the classy Big Boy down the road as always. As I was settling in for the night, I got a message from Taro, that himself, Yuichi and Rie were in the Route Inn Part 2 across the road. We arranged to meet up in morning and go to race together. All three have been my inspiration for many a year and I was delighted to meet up with them on the morning of that race. They do many great runs around Tokyo and I really wanted to be admitted to their elite club. I even have a joke hashtag, #beattaro, to personalise things and motivate myself.
The race started at 10am. I had been feeling more relaxed than I had been for any of my recent races. My waking HRV and Resting Heart Rate were 80 and 45. Always a good start to the day. As I was standing on the start line my heart rate was around 80 bpm which is quite low for me at the start of a race. I was in the second wave and did not have to deal with the bottle neck as we left the stadium. In years gone by my first 1km was over 6 minutes but today it was 5:02 and I was soon in the zone that I had set myself, 4:30 ~ 4:45 /km.
The start of the race went well. Well it is downhill so it should. The biggest trouble was not running too fast. I really wanted to run in the zone for the whole race as too many races have gone awry by going out too fast. Several times I saw my pace inch up to 4:25 and I gradually turned it back so that I stayed within the zone. The exception was kilometre 14 which was nearly all downhill and I ran it in 4:23. The rest of the first half splits were under 4:40 until we started to climb.
At 18km I started to feel discomfort in my right hip. I had planned to take a gel and 400mg of ibuprofen at 27km but I decided to bring it forward so that I would not start to deteriorate. I had taken one ibuprofen at 7am after breakfast and as it was now 11:30am I knew that the affected were starting to wear off.
At 24km we started the long haul uphill to the finish. This is always the hardest part of the race for me. Normally the pace reduces as I head up the hill, invariably into the wind, and it has an impact on the rest of the race. This time I was determined not to let it be the case and my inspiration came from an unlikely source. Out of nowhere I started to hear a man shouting “Arigatogozimasu” to everybody who was out cheering. I appreciate the efforts of the spectators and volunteers as much as the next but this was damn annoying and was interrupting my concentration.
I decided to drop my pace a little and let him go on his merry way thanking everybody he wanted to. The problem, was that when I dropped my pace so did he and his appreciation became more loud. I knew I had to get away from him. I looked around for a strong man. Someone I could follow and who would shield me from the wind. I found him. Number B8655. He was running very well at around 4:30 ~ 4:35 pace and passing lots of people. I snuck in behind him and focused on his number. It worked. Soon Mr. Appreciation was a distant memory and I was back in the zone.
Number B8655 was running well. He passed many people with ease and never wavered from his chosen pace. I hung on. I wanted to get to 30km with him because I remembered there was a left turn and it would take me out of the wind. That was 5km I needed to dig deep and keep my pace at what it had been in the first half. It was hard but I managed it. At 28km I took my second gel and I felt the benefit immediately. Maybe it was the caffeine.
At 30km, the unexpected happened. Number B8655, who had run so well for so far, started to drift. I glanced at my watch and I was shocked to see that the pace was down to 4:50. There was only one thing to do. I pulled along side him and said, “Come on, let’s go.” I didn’t know if he responded or not, but I took the front and started to pass people and kept in the zone. About a mile later at 31.6km Number 8655 came up to me and said the only thing a Japanese runner can say “Fighto.” It looked like he had gotten his second wind and he took off.
I found it hard to stay with him and left him get ahead. Instead I focused on Number A7700. An older runner but one who was running strong and showing no signs of waning. At 33km, I caught back up to B8655. He looked in good shape and was still maintaining his pace. And then the unthinkable happened, again. B8655 stopped at the Special Drinks table to look for his special drink at 34.5km. Not having a Special Drink I passed him and went looking for somebody else to run with. Fortunately A7700 was still running strong and I focused on staying with him.
Towards the end of the Ohtawara Marathon there are 3 or 4 hills that need to be overcome and my pace oscillated accordingly – 4:48, 4:59, 4:42, 4:56, 4:43, 4:59, 4:51. All the while I was performing mental calculations. If I can just keep the pace under 5:00, I can complete the race in 3:17:20, 3:17:05, 3:16:50 …
I managed to keep the pace on the right side of 5:00 until the 41st km. I looked at my watch and saw that it was at 5:15. “Where did that come from” was all I could think. I put in the effort and managed to finished the km in 5:05 and then kick on to the last one. As I turned into the stadium for the last 500m I saw Akiko at the corner taking photos. It was a welcome sight. But all the drama was not over. I knew I could finish in 3:16, but I did not know the seconds. During the week, I had asked Philippe what was his PB. He replied that it was 3:16. I agreed that that was too tough for me and did not ask for the detail. Now that I was in striking distance I regretted my discretion and pushed on. In the last 100m, somebody tried to pass me. I never saw his face because I never let him go by. I literally sprinted for the end to finish in 3:16:40.
It was a PB for me by 5 minutes and almost 3 years since the last one. I felt great.