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  • Fukuoka Marathon 2017 Write Up

    Posted on December 29th, 2017 Michele Sun No comments

    First marathon of the year, WOW!!

    As we approach the holiday season, I can’t help but thinking “what a big difference this year has been.” Spent the entire first half waiting for foot to heal without going  too crazy,  and patiently and painfully learned how hard it is to be sidelined. Broken right foot not only stopped me from what I love — running, but also put impact on my social life as well. I couldn’t even find friends to go to movie with since most of them were either having long training runs or racing at stupid long distance at some ridiculously beautiful places. >.<  Then I spent the second half of this year slowly getting myself back into running routine without being too rushed, too fast, too aggressive.

    In Aug, after completed couple half marathons in July without major foot problem, at slow pace, I decided it’s time to sign up a full marathon to have a goal, to motivate myself moving forward and leave taunting memory of injury behind. I picked Fukuoka Marathon as my fall race, my THE race of this year. Reason is quite simple but a bit unusual to most people maybe?  I have never been to Kyushu before, and I have heard about the earthquake from runner friend Tatsuru when we had lunch before my AR50 last year. I have seen some of the pictures of his parents house post earthquake,  and I want to do something to to boost the economy for the locals.

    Training for a marathon certainly is nothing new to me, and I have faced more serious health issue in recent years, however  the combination of new challenge isn’t easy: weaken muscle and core, heavier body weight, and  the worst is the fear of re-injury. I knew coming back would not be easy; one loses fitness level faster than gaining it back. But at the back of my mind I always remember that fatal fall at Yosemite and how painful it was trying to walk down the icy trail before it got too dark and too cold. And how horrible my foot look on the X-ray.

    I stick to Tue & Thur morning runs to build a good foundation, anywhere between 5 to 7 miles, Wed core & strength at Orange Theory, Thur Taiko drumming for aerobic benefits, and gradually built up my mileages on Sat. Sunday was usually my fun-run days – pacing at local races, volunteering, hiking and exploring out of town trails…etc. This training cycle I was not aiming for fast time, instead focusing on coming back injury-free, having fun running and supporting local running communities, knowing I would have more races at longer distance ahead of me in 2018.

    Sat Nov 11th, did my shake out run from the hotel in Hakata toward the harbor, on a very windy and cold morning. Every time I visit a new place, I like to pick a river and run along it to see the city and people, and always fun to admire the bridges and architecture. Often a bridge separates the old and new of a city, and you will see very different living styles.

    Today my shakeout run was along the Naka River, quiet & chilly, too early to have any sightseeing cruises,  and very peaceful and pretty in fall. I found people would respond to me whenever I started a conversation even though I am a stranger. And when they realized I am a foreigner with limited Japanese, no problem and all — we still kept talking 🙂

    Showered, had a hot and awesome Japanese style breakfast, then  headed out to Hakata station to pick up my JR Pass and reserve Yufuin-no-Mori train seat. Now time to hit the Expo!!

    The Expo was held outdoor, and it’s an absolutely beautiful day to walk from Hakata to Tenjin, also a good way to get myself oriented since this is where the Start would be tomorrow. Given the marathon was capped at 12,000 runners, it’s a smaller race I have done in Japan, relatively speaking, however it’s still a good size marathon to run as a destination race. Upon check-in, I showed my passport and got my swag bag, bib, finisher shirt and the warm and enthusiastic “Gambatte” from the volunteers.

    I walked around the small Expo, and there was the usual GPS watch, compression tights, Asahi Dry Zero beer, and then couldn’t help but laughed when seeing them giving out sample of Salonpas spray and a popup poster right next to it showing where the Saponpas would be on course. Ahha, must be strategically placed I bet!!

    Sunday Nov 12th, weather was nice and cool in the morning, and I walked to the start area in less than 15 minutes, great warm-up;   didn’t feel that I needed my jacket actually. I handed my drop-bag to the volunteer on Nippon Express truck and walked with the excited and nervous crowds toward the Start line.

    It’s not as crowded as Tokyo Marathon, or as majestic as Mt Fuji, and it definitely felt like a super-sized local race 🙂 I would say it’s more like Kobe Marathon, but even more low-key.

    The race started from Tenjin area and finished at Itoshima, and course covered some metro areas, beautiful campus of Kyushu University, breath taking coastline, sandy beach with palm trees, and amazingly beautiful blue sky. The smell of BBQ and locals playing guitar and just chill was pretty awesome, totally new Japanese race experience for me.

    I even saw the smallest and most unique torii gate standing and guarding  in the ocean. I felt protected 🙂

    The course was not flat; runners needed to climb over couple hills along the beach and made our way into towns; I definitely felt the weakness in my legs when reaching top of a steep hill (from sea level to 40 meter). Thanks to that guy shouting  “sanjukilo” (30K) and waving and cheering on me when I was a bit huffing and puffing.  Only 12K left, yah!!

    After the Salonpas A/S, which I really appreciated it, the run continued on and so was the sun. Getting very warm! The course windy into town with rice fields, shrines, drum club (not Taiko), and small streets lined with young and old spectators. Saw several obaachan that look just like my grandma!! The height, the blouse, the hair style.. and the way they walked, OMG, grandma everywhere! And  I laughed so hard when seeing those masked volunteers!

    The A/Ss were well stocked with the usual water, sports drink, fresh fruit like bananas, oranges, and the very sweet persimmons which are in season now, plus Japanese sweets and snacks .. etc. The locals also came out to support runners with chocolates, cookies… all sorts of homemade treats. I truly love how Japanese showing their supports to runners, at every race!

    I love to interact with children at A/S or those spectating on the course; I high-five those short little ones with their cute little hands. Little kids screamed at the top of their lungs “gambatte” tirelessly, and they brought so much energy to the race, absolutely.  All the gambatte, fighto and nice job not only gave me so much energy boost but made me smile all the time. Domo arigato!!!


    Marathon always goes by faster when it’s in metric system, weird, huh? When I spotted that simple arch in couple hundred meters,  I was deeply moved. I thought about my broken foot, my hopping around in crutches, and my swollen foot again after my first 1 mile jog in May… all the unpleasant memory came back and then faded away with each stride. At this moment, right here, my goal is to cross the finish line with my best effort, last push, for the locals and for myself. I didn’t know anyone in the crowds, no friends or crews, but I ran my fastest to appreciate their supports!

    The volunteer handed me my medal and a finisher towel, and I smiled and said “issho ni shashin” with hand gesture. The obligatory finisher photo with the kid.

    The finishing area was at a “Koryu Plaza Shima-kan“, so assume it’s a city hall plus community center? Runners got to use the office area and restrooms to change. I retrieved my drop-bag and went into the lady’s room to cleanup myself and change into a dry shirt. Still didn’t dare to do the foot-bath though, soaking my feet with whole bunch of runners still not my thing :-p

    Some staffs that I grabbed at the finishing area —

    And a very interesting chewy cake made of rice, grilled mochi, with soy sauce, very tasty after race!

    The finishers village is also quite interesting and unlike any others I have ever been, a festival for runners to gather with friends and family celebrating their accomplishments. I blended in perfectly with all these Japanese that I don’t know, just sitting under this beautiful blue sky and enjoying live music with drink and food provided by local shops, clubs, schools..etc.

    I had homemade kinoko gohan (Japanese mushroom rice), winter-melon soup, chocolate truffles..etc, all freshly made with local produce and ingredients, and everything tasted so good. I have never had a picnic style post race celebration like this.

    What an amazing race experience, and what a wonderful day! Subarashi



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