Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tokyo Marathon 2010

A couple weeks ago, I ran in a marathon...

Sunday morning I woke up at 5:30. I was within walking distance of a race that was 3.5 hours away. I ate a quiet breakfast in the bathroom while my cheering section was still asleep in the hotel beds. Less than two hours to race time, I wandered out into the morning. I saw a man with a Tokyo Marathon bag, and followed him to the starting line. It was raining. We stood, stretched, and waited in the rain. I felt so weird standing in the middle of 35,000 strangers. I was a cold, wet, bundle of nerves. I did not want to stand next to these people. I wanted to run against them. I am generally a social person, but that morning the only way I could see communicating was by placing one foot in front of the other.

The gun fired and the clock started. Three blocks ahead I could see the confetti canons. We all cheered and slowly made our way forward. Upon reaching the starting line we could begin to jog. It took me a few miles to shake the desire to jog. It didn't feel like a race, the pace was far too relaxed. Anyone fast was way up ahead. I spent half the race trying to accelerate to my desired pace, and the other half maintaining it.

While I never took quitting seriously, it felt like an ongoing mental battle to stay in the race. My body was trained and was doing its job. Nothing was too sore. But my mind kept making suggestions. Everyone was having so much fun on the sidelines. I could be one of those people. No. I had to stay with it. Shut up mind. There was a sign to mark every kilometer. I worked out all the math of what fraction or percentage I had done. Converted it from kilometers to miles. Thought about what pace would put me where and what I needed to do to break my goal

It continued to rain. Rain can add some adrenaline to a five mile workout, but not so much to a twenty-six mile race. That's just wet. The greatest moment arrived as I turned up the street toward Shinagawa and I saw some of the leaders running back down the other lane. Right there it was evident how far ahead they were and how they were in a completely different league. I didn't mind all that. I was thrilled at the realization I was running in the same race as such world class athletes. I wasn't about to challenge any titles, I just want to share the same piece of asphalt.

In addition to the official race food provided along the course, families were handing out sweets and home baked goods. I never partook because I did not include food in my training, but the offerings to the runners were warmly accepted.

It was somewhere around my last few kilometers that the sun broke out. I didn't really notice. I just saw the road ahead. A few bridges into the Tokyo Big Site provided the only course inclines. I lost no stride pushing over them. I continued to count kilometers, but my sense of time as a whole seemed rather muddy. All of a sudden I was dashing through the finish line. After 3 hours and 50 minutes* I stopped running, and I experienced about ten seconds of weightlessness. Then it all got stiff.

Upon signing up for the Tokyo Marathon I set a goal of four hours. I beat that. In doing so, I also beat the time of my friend that encouraged me to sign up. He has informed me of his intentions to run again and beat my time. Once he does this we will go head to head in another race, likely in another country. We shook on this.

*3:50:43 from gun to finish line, but 5-6 minutes less from start line to finish line.

Patrick and I posing with a bunch of our cheering section. It was pretty great to hear my name and see a few familiar faces when I was in the middle of such a crowd. Big high fives to my friends that ran all over Tokyo and bounced from station to station to catch a couple glimpses of my run.

The medal seen around my neck is given to every person that finishes the marathon. I kept the medal around my neck for the following 48 hours, it only came off for showering.

1 comment:

hagstrbh said...

Fun to see these pictures D! Thanks for the post.