The 27th Hi-Matsuri Road Race

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OK the picture is Japan is suffering a heat wave not experienced in 73 years so it’s hot, no in fact it’s very hot! 40c and above in some parts of Japan, but I have been promised by Izumi that it will be cooler at the foot of Mount Fuji with the promise of a bearable 26 -28c we set off to Fujiyoshida a nice long drive through the mountains around a large lake and arriving early for the race ( I know! Mark early, it was just a freak accident, a one off ) anyway looking forward to 26-28c I was meet with 37-39c everyone’s moaning about the heat the brass band were falling over with different members having to take breaks in the shade which lead to a very comical and abstract brass band musical experience, now for more info an the event which started at sports stadium and was very organised as you would expect from the Japanese, there was a carnival atmosphere as there was going to be a big festival that evening called Yoshida Fire Festival there were at least 10 stalls selling sports wear and others selling sports drinks, lotions, etc… and there were food stalls and more all adding to the vibe. Me and Taiyo picked up our numbers, mine 1020 and Taiyo’s 9148 we got ourselves prepared joined the cues for the toilets to my horror there were only Japanese style toilets at the toilet we’d been cuing up at and no time to cue up anywhere else, well in for a penny in for a pound, enough said!

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The race began a 10.00 am in the blazing sun over 2000 competitors (translation = Fools) after a warning to save some energy for the last part of the course as it’s up hill, well at least we’re warned and the announcer has promised that the start is down hill so that’s fair enough. The gun goes off we start moving around the track doing 300 metres and out of the stadium down a ramp and around the sides of the stadium, down the approach road around to the right and we’re out of the stadium complex grounds which as promised has all been on slight downward slope, now we turn left and was that the promised downhill, with a feeling of being cheated out of a nice long downhill I start to dig into the long hill in front of me (well on the bright side, if that was how short the downhill start was we the uphill must be equally as short ? yer! (stands to reason) well after a while we hit a forest and a dirt track still heading up hill weaving in and out, up and up more weaving then we hit a bend turning left and wow! It’s not up hill but flat, here’s the first water station, a quick mouthful splash some on my the back of my neck and the rest down the front of my vest, hand the cup to one of the cup collectors and still on a dirt track it starts to go downhill, finally we hit tarmac again and it’s still downhill, so I start to pick up the pace trying to keep up with a guy dressed in what looks like spiderman compression bottoms, the thought passes through my head is the pvc meant to be so shiny or are they melting in this heat? I did mention that it’s hot didn’t I ? from behind me on the left I hear a repetitive “sume ma sen” looking over my shoulder a see a lady making good progress through the runners and past me, we pass under a bridge where the TV cameras are I can see them focusing on the lady as she waves to the crowd and the cameras, the thought of stealing her limelight and waving frantically at the camera did briefly enter my mind, but then again it meant lifting my hands in the air and that sounded like to much hard work “you know it’s hot out here”.

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Anyway, more up hills followed by the very odd short flat and even a downhill section a few more water stations at each I perform the ritual of sip then pour over my neck and the rest down the front of my vest and hand the empty cup to a cup collector, bowing at the same time as handing over the cup, regardless of whether it’s water or a sports drink if it’s cold and wet it goes through the same ritual. At this point you maybe asking how far as he run ? yes that was the exact same question running through my mind as there had not been any signs to say the distance run or if there had been it had all been in Kanji and the limited caricatures I recognize in Kanji had been no help what so ever, I’m running only with my cheap Casio watch so all I know is the time and it’s bloody hot and my feet are starting to burn up the problem I thought I’d conquered with the new way of tying my laces, but no it’s back and it’s starting to get really painful, now at this point I must point out my folly as at the start of the race you are handed a little plastic device containing a chip to record your time, it is tied into the shoe lace and at this point a must have tied my laces a little bit tighter than before, for a brief few seconds my thoughts are diverted as a runner charges passed me shouting out something about being lied to about there course as he powers on up yet another long uphill road, finally we go under a bridge turn to the right and a long a dirt track with a nasty step uphill section in the middle before turning left under the bridge this is the point I decide to stop and do a quick re adjustment of my shoe laces, standing up again I notice I now have dirty knees, so a quick rub down and I’m off again this is good as I turn to the left we’ve hit a down hill section just what I need as I try to catch up on the runners that passed me while I was agusting my shoe laces, getting half way down this hill and making good progress I have my first real runners eye opener, sure I’ve seen plenty of runners on this course walking and some sat down at the side of the road but this was the first time I’d seen a young fiscally fit runner sliding to the floor eye’s rolling as five marshals tried to hold him up unsuccessfully, I count my blessing and hope that I’ve done enough training in Japan to with stand the conditions because if you haven’t heard it’s damn well hot!

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After a few hills up and up oh and occasionally down, we cross over and down into the forest again so I must be near the finish as the start had a forest not to far away from it, all is not as promising as the first part of the forest as we weave up and down through the forest final coming out and down another hill getting a little time to recharge the battery’s an then we hit a up hill section it must be about 3k left to go it’s got to be, well after running about a 2k still winding up hill and now wondering why I can’t hear the noise from the stadium there’s another water station with banana’s as well a water what a treat, another 1k and there’s a sign with a 3 on it I quickly ask around to see if it means 3k left to run which is confirmed, cursing I keep moving legs are very heavy as it’s been up hill for at least the last 2k and of course there’s a lot more spectators as we are now running through villages, why are the always more spectators when you look like s..t and about to drop clutching your chest ? I don’t know if just me but it seems to me that as stagger past, sorry I meant to run past the spectators they all seem to reach for their mobile phones to phone the emergency services, wow! it’s hot and I’m now paranoid god the 2 year old child on the pavement is running faster than me, I’m now praying that her father will pick her up as it’s really embracing as she speeds ahead up along the side of the pavement, ah well at least I’m not like the guy in front who’s just stopped and is now knelling on the floor feeding money into drinks machine. Good news there are runners that have completed the race walking back down and clapping and shout their support, that must mean that the finish line is not to far away got to keep on up this bloody hill, I can see the entrance to the stadium so I just hold on at the pace I’ve been running up this hill for the last how long I don’t know but it seems like for ever, hitting the approach to the stadium I start to pickup the pace just a little we come round to the right with the stalls on our left, running around the top of the stadium I can now see into the stadium and runners making their last 300 metre to the finish, I enter the stadium and hit the track wearing my Mounts Bay Harriers shirt for everyone to see oh bugger! I’ll have to put on a show so that the crowd don’t think that everyone that runs for MBH are this crap, so I pickup the pace passing a good few runners on the 200 metres I hit the final bend for the last 100 metre just managing to go for a final sprint must take these last three runners before the line, which I managed to do but the forth guy was jus a bit to far in front to catch, away I cross the line, Izumi, Taiyo and Hana congratulate me as I take of the chip in my shoe go and hand it in for my T-shirt then to the drinks stand for some amino vital pro, god it taste foul! Anyway after drinking about 2 litres of water I a do a bit of stretching then go and offer some encouragement to other runners as they enter the stadium, what great feeling I came 498 and Taiyo in his 5k 16th over all and 14th in the boys, I did mention it was bloody hot!

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Mark Omori

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