Hirosaki Apple Marathon

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I think it was back in August that we all began talking about running in the Hirosaki Apple Marathon. Myself, Tori, Kimberly, and Ayu were sitting around and Ayu brought up the idea. I said that I had always wanted to run in a marathon, but never got up the guts to do it. I know, I know… I lived in Austin, Texas and they have marathon events literally all the time… But I had never done it. So I thought to myself,

“Hey Stacy! You’re in Japan! Let’s try new crazy things! How about running a 10k?”

I had no real perception of what it would be like to run a 10k, but why the heck not?

Ayu signed us all up on the website. A 10k (6.2 mi) is about the furthest you can run without truly going insane and pulling a half-marathon (13 mi/21 km) or a full-marathon (26 mi/42 km). And the 3k and 5k just seemed way too easy. I wanted a challenge! Maybe it was that former competitive athlete in me talking…

After the four of us signed up, I learned that our other ALT friends Mike and Claire were going to run with us too. We had a team! Tori came up with the idea to design a shirt and have it professionally printed by some friends. It was totally Tori’s design (creative people are awesome!) and the color was awesome because we had no trouble picking ourselves out in the crowds of runners.

I imagined that I should do some sort of training to get ready for the longest run I’d ever attempted in my life. Tori was totally hard-core about getting an actual training regimen and Kimberly was already a devoted runner, so… I just thought I would get in the habit of running as much as I could to build up some running muscles. This sounded like a reasonable goal to me.

This however was thwarted when I fell deathly ill with the worst cold ever only two weeks before the race. Spent the first week basically in bed and the next week still recovering. I think I made it out to run about twice in those two weeks before the race. Whoops… I wondered how I would feel on race day, with my cough lingering and my nose still running. It was a little hard to breathe sometimes with the cough and I got winded easily. I didn’t have very high expectations for myself, so I was just there to do the best I could.

October 2, 2011

I hadn’t slept well the night before, but I did myself a favor by feeding myself a big breakfast for energy. I felt pretty darn cool wearing our team tshirt, my new Lululemon Run: Inspire II running crops, and my University of Texas visor. I also wore my new Armpocket AERO iPhone armband that I had ordered from the US. I think dressing up like a runner helped me feel more like a runner.

I met Tori and Kimberly at 8:15am outside of our apartments and we left on bike to go to the registration center.

We joined with the other members of our group and went to go pick up our registration materials. This was my first time doing this, so I was pretty excited. I got a number! And a timer chip to attach to my shoe! And a free towel! And it was awesome!

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My new running crops, old shoes, and new racing number!

We all helped each other get our numbers on, put our bags away, went to the bathroom for the last time, and awaited the start…

The weather forecast was unfortunately correct. It was sunny and clear from about 8 to 9am, but then started to grow dark, cloudy, windy, and…. rainy.

 

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As we were walking to the starting point, it started to drizzle and the wind was miserable. I was only wearing a t-shirt and running crops, so I wondered if I would get sick again after this. Thank goodness my armband kept my iPhone safe and dry.

We lined up and let the super-hardcore-fast people in front.

 

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One last “team meeting” before the start. Tori made us all these awesome wristbands!

 

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The “before” picture.

At 9:30am, the race started! I pressed play on my marathon playlist and took off at a pretty easy pace. I saw Kimberly zoom off ahead of us! She eventually got so far ahead that I couldn’t see her even with our bright t-shirts. I knew Tori had trained well and knew how to pace (I had no idea about pacing), so I stayed behind her for the first few kilometers.

After that I decided to lengthen my stride (long legs are good for something, right??) and try to push myself. I eventually caught up to Kimberly and stayed with her for a bit before pushing on.

At that point it was getting harder for me to breathe. I made matters worse by attempting to pick up a cup of water at a rest station and trying to drink while running. Not a good idea. Cough. Hack. Ahem. Wheeze.

Whoever designed the race decided that there would be an “awesome” hill for the last kilometer or so. An epic song by Nightwish began just as I was running up it. I know my legs were burning and it was hard for me to breathe, but I couldn’t help smiling to myself. I thought of my sister who had given me the song the night before.

I pushed hard up the hill and rounded the corners down the streets to the finish line.

 

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I was so tired and out of it as I passed through the GOAL that I saw my time on the digital clock… and soon forgot it. My legs were shaky and I was kind of gasping while the nice marathon volunteers bent down to remove the runner’s time chip from my shoe.

I was handed a big red Aomori fuji apple and a sports-water-type drink called Amino Value. It was darn tasty. My stomach was not up to eating at that point, so I re-hydrated myself like woah.

 

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“Did I really just do that??”

Looking around, I realized that I had been the first one of our group to finish. I waited for Kimberly because I knew she wasn’t far behind me, and then Tori finished soon after. The three of us then waited for Ayu. We went to get our stuff from the storage area, then waited outside for Mike and Claire. Poor Claire had been much more sick than I!

When we all finished, we gave each other high fives, took pictures, and retreated to the rest room.

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Ayu and I with our prizes!

They had this booth where you could go and receive a printout of your time and place, so we all did that as well.

Here is what mine looked like! I think this means I was the 58th woman to place and 447th overall (men and women). 54 minutes and 35 seconds!

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They were also holding a raffle for each division (3k, 5k, 10k, half, full) and our raffle did not start until noon. We hung out in the resting room until it was time to put in our tickets.

 

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You’re probably thinking now that I wouldn’t take the time to talk about the raffle unless one of us had won something… And you are correct!

The sun was starting to come out a bit, but it was still quite windy (which is not great when you are wet and sweaty). They called tons of numbers and Japanese peoples’ names, but no foreigners’ names…
After quite a few numbers and names, I heard my number: 5050! Then they said, “外国の方…” (It’s a foreign person…) and looked up into the crowd. I could tell that they hoped they would not have to try pronouncing whoever’s name it was. But never fear, raffle announcer people! I understand Japanese numbers just fine.

I won a cheap windbreaker-type thing that said Hirosaki Apple Marathon on the sleeve and two very nice glass bottles of Aomori apple juice. They were wine bottle sized! I was so happy, because I never win anything at raffles. Seriously. Oh, but then Tori won a prize too! She won some rice crackers (senbei) and the same windbreaker-type thing. Awesome, awesome.

I was extremely grateful for the windbreaker at that time, because it made being outside a little more bearable. I think I would have frozen to my bicycle while riding home if not for that thing. I picked up some food at the store on the way home and had lunch at home. I showered and spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching stuff on my computer.

Sore, tired, but so happy. I loved the experience, especially doing it with a group of awesome friends. Can’t wait for the next one!

 

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6 Comments to “Hirosaki Apple Marathon”

  1. Wow, that sounds like fun! I love your shirts and armbands. Congratulations on finishing so fast, and on winning the raffle. Keep warm and dry and healthy!!

  2. I also can’t wait for the next one!

  3. Awesome job, 5050!

  4. Hi, I am going to be going to Hirosaki, Japan and want to run a full marathon. Where can I find out about this run? And when does it happen??? Please let me know! Domo arigato!

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