Net Time 1:36:17
I had never heard of the Inzai Smile Half Marathon when one of my colleagues, Saito san, suggested that we run it together as preparation for our Tokyo race at the end of February. Of course Saito san lives in Inzai where the aptly named race is held and he could leave his house at 9am and still be on time for the 10am start. I, on the other hand, live in Kanagawa ken which meant getting up at 5am and leaving my house shortly after 6am and then hanging around the start of the race for 90 mins with no coffee.
But I do not mean to gripe. This is a well organized and fun event with 6,300 and I was very happy that Saito san dragged me half way across Kanto on a Sunday morning to participate in it. There are lots of food stands and a book of discount tickets for shops and insensitive. For those of you who have not been to Inzai, there are two things that you should know. One, it is really flat, and two, it is really windy. The Inzai Smile Half Marathon has the most direct course of any race that I have ever run. It starts at Inba-Nihon-Idai station and goes 10.5km straight down the road that runs parallel to the Narita Sky Access Line to just after Chiba Newtown Chuo station, crosses the train line and then runs all the way back to Inba-Nihon-Idai station. It is the complete out and back race. The good thing is that it is very flat and direct, the bad thing is that the road that you run is sunk into the surrounding countryside and there is not much in the way of scenery except for modern train stations, bridges and fields of solar panels. However, if the elements are favorable it would definitely be a PB course.
Unfortunately today the elements were anything but favorable. There was a 9m/s wind blowing from the start of the race, straight down the first half of the race, and it seemed to be amplified by the chute that we were running through.I had run 1:35:37 three weeks previous in the Chiba Marine Half Marathon and my goal this time was to get under 1:35. I hoped to go out between 4:15 and 4:30 pace and if I could maintain that to the turn around point, the second half would be a lot more easy with the wind at my back. This was not a great plan and I was not able to follow it, at least for the second half. I fought hard into the wind and managed to stay within my desired range, jumping from group to group every time the people I was following slowed down. I passed many people and felt things were going well but once I turned the corner to head back it all went pear shaped. I found it harder and harder to maintain pace and gradually saw all the people I had passed in the first half overtake me.
One of those people was Murakoshi san. I had worked with him for many years and after 5km of the race he came up to me and said hello. He also lives close to the start of the race so I was not too surprised to meet him but it was great to see a familiar face. I think that this was the first race I entered with no other Namban people. We ran together for a while before Murakoshi san told me that the pace was faster than his plan and he dropped back. It was good to know he at least had a plan. At 16km he passed me again and this time I could not stay with him. However, I noticed that he was not making much progress ahead of me and he remained about 50m down the road. Game on! I knew I was not going to make the time that I had set myself at this stage but I could still beat the two people I knew in the race. I kept Murakoshi san in my sights and got up to him at the 20km mark. He stayed with for the best part of a kilometer but as the end came into site I gradually eased past him and he finished right behind me with a half marathon personal best.
We then proceeded the long march back to get our bags and to find a text from Saito san to say that he had finished his first half marathon in under 2 hours. Things are looking good for him in his first full marathon in Tokyo in two weeks.
I enjoyed this race and the organization a lot and will probably come back again next year, if only because I have a habit of doing the same race year after year after year.