2017 Ohtawara Marathon

Net Time: 3:52:10

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T’s Ramen in Tokyo Station

It is hard to know where to begin, so I guess that I should start where it all went wrong. One Saturday, 12 days I was due to run the Ohtawara 2017 marathon, I went to a friend’s Yamanote Line Run to celebrate his 40th birthday. The Yamanote Line is the 40km circle line around Tokyo. I have done this run before and really enjoyed it. Although it is very long, it is generally run at an easy pace and there is lots of fun. This time was no exception as we all dressed up for the big day.

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The motley crew running the Yamanote Loop

Although I had been out late the night before I was having a wonderful time running with friends through the streets of Tokyo. Then, after 7km, disaster struck. I tripped while running along a canal and came down hard on my left side. My knee was all cut and I had pain in my hip and chest. I tried to put a brave face on it, but it was too much. Actually, I was afraid that my ribs were cracked again. This has happened to me several time, most recently before the 2014 Ohtawara Marathon, and I know the feeling very well. I gave up and walked back to Osaki station before making my way home with my tail between my legs. As soon as I got home, I got down my old girdle and wrapped it round me for added protection.

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Me Girdle

The next morning I woke with trepidation. The litmus test for cracked ribs is getting out of bed. You immediately know as you go from a horizontal position to sitting on your bed. That dagger in your chest cannot be mistaken. Fortunately, on Sunday morning I felt no such pain. I was still sore and shaken after the fall but I did not feel terrible. I took it easy for the next 3 days and only started to run again on the Wednesday, 8 days before the race. I did a 3km warm up and then a 10km run at 4:45/km which is what I hoped would be marathon pace. It went ok. On Saturday I did another 16km run, but this time easy. I still was not feeling great but went ahead and booked my tickets for Ohtawara.

The race was on Thursday, 23rd Nov, a National Holiday in Japan, so I went up on the Wednesday night and stayed in my usual hotel, the Route Inn in Nishi Nasuno. I ate vegan ramen in T’s Ramen in Tokyo station and so when I arrived at the hotel I had nothing to do and went to bed nice and early.

In the local gymnasium I met the rest of the Namban Rengo crew. Everybody was in good form preparing to run the 10km and the marathon. It was raining but it was due to clear up later in the morning.,

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Before the start with the Namban Rengo crew

It was still raining as we lined up to start the race. I was beside Bob and Nick and both were looking in good shape. Nick took off very quickly and I ran beside Bob for a couple of km before he drifted ahead of me as well. At around the 10km point my left hip started to hurt. I am not unused to leg pain during a race but this was too soon to be feeling this pain, especially as my pace was around the planned 4:45km.

Gradually I got slower. Before one of the turn arounds, I saw Bob and Nick running together coming from the opposite direction. They both looked strong and confident and I envied their composure. I had not taken any pain killer before or during the Matsumoto Marathon on the 1st October and I had planned to do the same here. However, after my fall I decided to bring some ibuprofen with me and by the 20km mark I was glad that I did. I took 256mg but I cannot say that it had much effect. I kept running, still felt sore and kept getting slower.

The Ohtawara  marathon course is one big loop. It gradually goes down hill for 23km and then you turn a corner and gradually run uphill until the end of the race. More often than not once you turn the corner you start running into the wind, and so it was this year. I struggled on. I kept going and took the gels that I brought with me. Around 35km I started my walk/run war of attrition. This involves walking for 1 minute and then running to the next km marker. It seemed to last forever. There is a 4 hour cut off in Ohtawara but I was never in danger of missing that. I was just somewhere in no-man’s land hoping for it all to be over.

Finally, the stadium came into view and all I had to do was to run down the beautiful treelined street before suffering the 350m of humiliation as I tried to make my way around the track to the finish.

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I’m glad it’s all over

After running 3:42 at the start of October on a warm Matsumoto day, I had hoped to do something better in Ohtawara but it was not to be. Still, I finished what was to be my 18th marathon. Afterwards I headed off to the onsen to lick my wounds and to plan my next event.

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