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Obuse half marathon with Namban Rengo report

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The day before:

Big crowd departing for this three day weekend from Tokyo station. I arrived early, 30 minutes before my train’s departure. It starts at platform 22, facing the 23 where we take the train for Yamagata and Zao for ski vacations. Platform 22 3/4 goes to Hogwarts.

As usual, I dream of leaving the city more often. A Yamabiko train just arrived from Yamagata/ Zao.

Departure, Kanto, cities, suburbs and suddenly mountains. We passed through Karuizawa after a long tunnel. Looks quite chic. We went on down towards Nagano. The race course is only at 350 meters of elevation.

It still raining. The typhoon is very strong and I’m quite happy to be active this weekend.

I arrived at Nagano, one hour and thirty minutes from Tokyo. I go pick up my bib in a lost place with trains every half an hour. Tomorrow, trains will start at 5 exceptionally. I’m alone, not seeing members of the club who must have come by car. Cars are more friendly but the return may be tough.

The hotel in Nagano may have been built for Olympic games but looks better from the outside. Today, it seems full of runners and everybody will be up at 4. Breakfast at 4:30, great isn’t it?

Typhoon went over southern Kyushu and will be between Shikoku and Osaka tomorrow morning. As we are protected by 3000 meters mountains, we will have rain but less winds.

I pick up my bib at Obuse. It’s quite far from Nagano. THe Ose temple is famous but not very impressive. Well, tomorrow, after the race, I’ll have time to visit the city and the Hokusai museum that makes it famous.

I came back to Nagano by train with a colleague impressed by my bucho title. It’s amazing how a simple title is perceived.

We met part of the crew who came by car in less than 3 hours. Shinkansen took 1:30 and the local train 30ish minutes.

In Kyushu, typhoon poured 500 millimeters of rain. Trains and planes are stopped in Shikoku.

The team gathers at 18:30 in the hotel hall to go for a pasta party in an Italian restaurant nearby. Some are already toasting the occasion. I stay sober as I want to do well. After a raid on a Seiyu for a breakfast food refill, we go to the Zenko-ji temple in the night. Empty streets and traditional houses are reminding me old Japanese horror movies. The main temple is impressive in the night. I found an Omamori vending machine. I add to my collection a blue, a white and a red, French flag oblige. Back at the hotel à 11:00.

Race morning:

Night is short but fine. The hotel is calm. The typhoon is south of Osaka and will be over Tokyo tonight. We’ll get the rain but not the strong wind.

I’ll run with a friend, who’s targeting 2:15. My PB is 2:30 based on my watch splits in Tokyo marathon.

Crowd for hotel breakfast at 4:30! Incredible. But only two Namban runners. Others planned breakfast in their rooms.

Rain stops, good omen. It’s not great to wait for the run start under the rain. It may rain later,it will refresh us.

SO, I did my bowel movement, I get ready to meet the crew to go to the train station.

The race:

It’s not raining, no wind but cloudy, perfect conditions for a mid July race.

At Obuse station, volunteers directed us to the gymnasium to change into running clothes. I had my short and singlet ready with the bib below my jean and teeshirt.

I joined the Namban Rengo crew and we walk to the start line, almost in front line.

First personal best: 8 secondes to cross departure line. Previous record was 14 minutes 😉

I start far too quickly of course, trying to follow Chiba san who’s targeting 2:15. The first three kilometers are done among vines and rice paddies. The road is rising from kilometer 4 to 8. I apply soon my technique: run one kilometer, walk one minute. Water stations are positioned every kilometer from third kilometer. It’s really great. Volunteers are very cheerful and very kind. Kilometers 9 and 10 are downhill along the river. At kilometer 9 station, I found oranges, bananas and caramels. It’s better organized then Tokyo marathon. At the next station, fresh apple juice. Extraordinary.

Musicians and singers are positions all along the race, it’s really great.

1K: 5:05:70. Too fast
2K: 5:01:49. Much too fast
3K: 6:05:59. I slow down. Jazz singers
4K: 6:05:59. Same time as I missed the 3K pannel.
5K: 6:54:71. Up hill. Some rock and roll.

First 5K: 29:13:08 PB on 5K road

6K: 6:33:99. Still up
7K: 6:45:49. Almost there
8K: 6:25:81. Up there
9K: 6:16:33. Down hill fast. Singers
10K:5:40:79. Orange, banana and caramel are helping

Second 5K: 31:42:41
10K: 1:00:55:49. PB on 10 K

We keep going in the village, we go in the fields, with a slippery passage on grass. We turning in the streets and the public is great. They are in front of their houses, supporting the runners. It’s quite cool. A farmer is giving fruits, another concumber with miso. A wine producer offer wine tasting! We run along chicken hens and horses. People are taking the time to read the kanjis on my singlet and say GO NAMBAN or GO NAMBAN RENGO. So cool.

We then go for the long 4K straight return along the river, tough as you realize that you’re not yet there. We go below a bridge, down and up and again on the side of the river. The finish line is in a nice park. It’s tough to finish but it has been a good race.

11K:6:26:24. Fun run in the fields
12K:6:51:18. The sun is inviting himself. A flute player.
13K:6:44:47. Let’s go
14K:6:25:63. Some jazz on the left side of the road
15K:6:21:65. Last turns in the village

Third 5K: 32:49:17
15K record : 1:33:44:66

16K: 8:48:34. Some rest and start of the long return
17K: 6:55:37. Back in rythm…
18K: 7:17:88. Down to the river and up on the road
19K: 6:45:42. Last long line
20K: 7:13:52. Up and down

Fourth 5K: 37:00:53
20K record: 2:10:45:19

Finish: 9:33:33. The extra 1.1 kilometer.

Half marathon PB: 2:20:18:52

For a cancer survivor, not bad. I liked the distance. Fun and cool. Great racing challenge. By working the 15-21Ks I can significantly improve my time.

Upon arrival, we receive a large bath towel, drinks and food. I found my bag quickly as the organization is remarkable. I even collect a printed certificate of completion with all details: 2:20:41, 1577th finisher (on 4800) and 441th in my age group and maybe first cancer survivor. I have colleagues running with the yellow band “Livestrong” of Lance Armstrong foundation. I do appreciate their attitude.

I find the crew and change quickly.

I’ve sun burns. Always beware. My cap protected my head by I see my singlet printed in white and red on my shoulders. I had sunburn cream with me 😉 I have only one blister on the side of the left foot.

After race events.

We then went for a good bath in a public bath in the hills above Obuse with the Namban Rengo crew. The rotemburo color was deep green, quiet suspect, I guess colored. The pH was 7.0, as volcanoes are quite old in the area. It was good to get a good bath and change in dry clothes.

We later came back at the center of Obuse. I visited the Hokusai museum, the painter of numerous famous Ukiyo-e, such as the 33 views of Fuji san. A great talented artist. The museum is small but extremely interesting for two original paintings for floating temple. The phoenix is wonderful. To see again as soon as possible.

We then had a lunch in a restaurant located in an old sake factory. Huge wooden jars ornate the restaurant. We then went to the sake bar. I tasted all three types and they were good.

I did a refill for the evening with 3 Burgundy bottles. Each contribute to the party that will follow the dinner.

e then went to an old ryokan by bus along road 66 !!!

Before dinner, I went to the bath (ofuro) then to the rotemburo. It was great to be there naked, under the rain, next to the rushing waters of the river.

For the dinner, Gary and Mami, our fantastic organization team, had invited the Obuse mi ni marathon organizer! Sarah Marie Cummings is a very dynamic young american lady who is really doing a great job at giving more live to the city and at organizing the race.

After dinner, we had a small party to celebrate the day. We discussed many topics. At the end, I explained why I run (or jog) slowly (cancer, radiation and chemio therapy). We had a last bath in the rotemburo past midnight. Then, we went to bed…


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