Caren Ware's Blog

February 27, 2012

Tokyo Marathon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 12:08 am

A marathon is definitely one branding way to see a city.  When would you otherwise be afforded the privilege to run down the middle of the street past shops, temples, towers, and the 10,000,000 people that live there…traffic free?  You  take in more of a city than any double decker bus tour for sure.  And you leave feeling like you got to high five it.  High five was a specialty of Tokyo.  The city and the people made it a celebration.  The Japanese love costumes.  The runners came in all creative themes…men in business suits with briefcases and their bibs pinned on front.  I saw Santa with a helium balloon sack of gifts and even Elvis. The spectators clowned even more. The entire 26.2 miles was lined with people who were equally as adored and creative and sincere in their cheering us on.

The day prior to the marathon, a ‘Friendship Fun Run” was staged to welcome the foreigners.  It gave school age children a chance to greet us.  The day was wet and cold.  Rain and bitter wind shrouded Tokyo.  I went to the hotel lobby and …heard an exuberant group.  Those spiting the weather had formed in the lobby. Most the “noise” was coming from an exuberant person named Mohan from Singapore who tooted on a whistle and snatched everyone’s names, some instant information about them, and introduced everyone to everyone…creating an instant family. There were some from the Hawaiian Islands.  A group from Russia.  And Singaporeans. Mohan was a character on purpose. His Facebook is Mohan marathoner and he must have as many friends around the world as there are people.

He shared with me on the train that he was an ultra-runner.  One serious race he was unable to finish and had to be shamefully driven back in the sag car.  He felt hardened.  Since he was unable to finish, he decided to change the mood and went to the finish line and cheering every last runner in.  He said the ‘cheer’ that cheering gave him flooded him with more energy that he could ever muster personally through hard core training.  Since then, he has been all about meeting people and energizing them to have fun and fulfill their goal to just finish a marathon.  When asked how fast he runs a marathon?  As long as it takes to help someone along the way get to the finish.  I saw him the first few miles of the marathon running up and down, back and forth among the runners and spectators, tooting his whistle, and everyone was laughing.  His touch was contagious.  I was enthralled by his effect and the non-competitiveness of his actions.


As the miles worn on so did I. I survived by the beat of my iPod.  Music is too rare in my life so I liked the concert and  contemplative words in my ears.  I kept the sound down so I could hear the cheerleaders and bands, but was thankful for the company of the iPod.  You could actually get very lonely in a land of so many people.  The Japanese are a quiet people that stay to them unless prompted.  The marathon was an exception that gave some Japanese spectators an excuse for fun, noisily motioning us on.  But the runners seemed deeply into their quests and themselves.  Especially at the start.  We stood in formation for nearly a half hour and no one, except the foreigners, were talking.  The Japanese stood in respect; each giving the next just the right amount of room to fit properly into each start choral.  I sat down cross-legged on the pavement right in the middle of the thousands.  This became a meditational position of examining running shoes as varied as the number of people.  And not one shoe was moving.  No stretching. No stomping feet.  No jumping up and down.  They just stood in place, quietly waiting their turn. When the cannons finally went off and our turn came 14 minutes later to move forward, everyone did so politely.  No pushing and shoving.  Not one properly positioned person bumped into the next.  The system was so efficient it lacked personality, but shone in character.  I wasn’t sure what to conclude of it.

What I did conclude, was 26.2 miles is a long way no matter the opportunity to tour a city and its people.  I fell into survival mode about the 32K mark and dug deeply into my survival shuffle and the iPod.  And then I remembered Mohan.  I had disciplined myself to watch the people and sights along the way, but had done so from the center divider lane.  I moved to the curb and stuck my hand out.  The spectators roared. And a line of hands stuck out.  They giggled as I slapped each one of them, especially the little kids who had politely stood on the sidelines all morning.  The spectators down the row anticipated my arrival and created individualistic cheers and handshakes.  Miles went by and I hardly noticed the cramping in my shins, screaming in my cement pounded arches, and the knot in my glut. I ran Mohan style.

I dove out at the 26.05 mile.  195m from the finish, as I was given permission to run, but not receive a coveted medal. They had been provisionally allotted. For someone that has an office wall of coveted medals,I didn’t need it. The medal will be the memories for me.  The people met.  The lessons learned.  I was just thankful to  run. To be healthy enough to run.Well, thanbful until… Until I had to walk a mile and a half around the buildings with the spectators while trying not to cramp up on the staircases.

So precision was the conduct of this marathon, that they closed down segments of the course at set times.  On the nose of that allotted time, a rope was thrown across the road and the misfortunate ‘too slowers’ were directed off the course.  The media showed runners balling at not making the cut off. There was four of this type of cut off points on the route.  So clean conscious was the conduct of the marathoners that we never fought through slippery cups thrown on the street at the water stations.  Everyone politely took their cup, drank it, and placed it in a trash container including the food wrappers. An army of trucks and street sweepers followed the marathon leaving the city in their original state of no visible trash. 

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