Marathon No. 14: Osaka Marathon
Hello. My name is The Bull Runner and I am a marathon addict.
Some women collect designer bags and shoes. Others are obsessed with jewelry, wine, and other finer things in life. I collect 42k medals. I sincerely believe that nothing can beat the adrenaline rush and emotional high of crossing the finish line of a marathon.
Why do I do it? I love the marathon journey. I enjoy starting a program, slowly building the mileage and witnessing my own growth each week, and discovering more about myself in each and every race. It’s only when I’m alone out there that I come face-to-face with my demons and conquer them with every step. At the finish, it’s as if I’m flicking the finger at life’s challenges saying: “F-you, suffering and pain! I win again! Ha!”
TO OSAKA OR NOT TO OSAKA?
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon then the Buffalo Marathon, exactly a month apart. By the time I returned, my body was telling me to rest, while my bullheaded brain was eager to run the next race.
I registered for the Osaka Marathon in June, undecided if I would race or not. I had time to ponder on this, since the race was still in October. I ran thrice a week, without pressure, waiting for my body to give me the go-signal that I was fit to run another 42k.
By August, I started to see those signs. My speed, which I think I left behind at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill in Boston, came back. The tightness and heaviness in the hip flexors and ankles slowly lifted. Anxieties over the past races had been replaced by confidence again. I was finding my rhythm.
With exactly two months left to train for Osaka Marathon, I committed to it. But I promised myself that this race would be all about enjoying the experience. No target pace. No lofty goals. Just enjoying running again.
I stood at Osaka Castle Park, the starting line, along with 33,000 other runners awaiting the gun start. The mood was festive and the temperature was a comfy 15°C. I felt great despite the butterflies in my tummy. No matter how much you train, you never know what can occur in any of those kilometers. You could have blood blisters explode in your socks at Km 19 (flashback to Buffalo), cramp at Km 31 (just like in Tokyo), or trip and land on your knees at Km 32 (Yup, that happened in Berlin. Thank God for handsome German runners who pull you up from your fall of shame!) Who knew what craziness could happen in Osaka, right?
The gun went off and I ran. The course took us through the beautiful, clean, and rolling city streets of Osaka. There were only two major climbs that I recall. First at 5k, which was long but manageable, and the second at a cruel 37k, which was around 200m long, steep and had some headwind. The rest of the course was flat or downhill, which made for a wonderful course. If you ask me, I’d take rolling courses over flat roads anytime. The changing course allows the legs to use different muscles and, I don’t know about you, but I just love gentle descents that have you screaming “Wheeeeeee!” if only in your head.
Spectators, sometimes three to four rows thick, filled the roads handing out food like sushi, bean buns, and fruits. Noticeably different in this race, compared with races in Western countries, was how quiet the crowd was. While hundreds of locals came out to support the event, there was none of the wild cheering and screaming you get from Western countries. It was all smiles, gentle words, and, as I mentioned, tons of food!
With the 15-minute wait to use the portalets in the Tokyo Marathon, I wondered what it would be like in Osaka. To my surprise, the portalets were plentiful and quite organized. It was the first race I joined that provided information on how many kilometers it was to the next portalet. Don’t you just love the Japanese?
I ran at a steady and comfy clip enjoying the sights and sounds of Osaka. Without any time goals, I didn’t feel the need to look at my watch. I felt no tightness in my legs, no blisters nor chafing—just no problems at all! Midway through the race, I found myself singing happily to the tunes on my iPod and smiled to myself at how lucky I was to be running this marathon.
I crossed the finish line in four hours and 45 minutes. Not my best time and not my worst, but it was truly one of the more pleasant race experiences I’ve had. I guess sometimes, it’s when you let go of your goals and expectations that you give yourself the chance to fly. I wore my 14th finisher medal around my neck thankful for yet another marathon.
My name is Jaymie, The Bull Runner and I am a marathon addict. On to marathon number 15.