Keren Miers 1:30:26 - 104th
Had no intention of doing the Mitake 15km Mountain trail race again this year. But due to a communication mix up with the race organizer when I tried to enroll Jay after the deadline and ended up getting enrolled as well, I found myself on a 6:16 train the morning after the bonenkai. And there was some early panic as even though Jay had left the party early, he missed the train that we were going to link up on and arrived at the foot of Mitake-san only 30 minutes before the start.
I went 1:30:27, which was only 18 seconds slower than my time from last year. But I was very content with this time in a tough race that I had decided just to cruise through, and it felt much easier than last year. And due to the large number of entries this year they broke the field into two waves of 500 (10 minutes apart and non-seeded) and unfortunately for Jay and I we were in the 2nd wave. This meant that after about 1km we had to continuously thread our way though back markers from the 1st wave. With the trail being very narrow and rough in sections, it was difficult to pass others which slowed us down greatly.
All in all It was a perfect, cool and clear day in a very scenic mountain area. The race organization is impeccable and the hot bath after the race at a mountain minshuku only adds to the experience. Very glad that I did the race again, but the clash with the bonenkai makes it hard to commit.
Jay Johannesen 1:28:22 (78th overall)
I certainly recommend the Mitake Marathon. I particularly recommend it to visitors to Japan seeking a quintessential Japan athletic experience. Mitake contains a number of wonderfully Japan running elements:
1. A brutal climb - Other countries have hill climbs, but a 1,000 people at an obscure local race on a December morning?
2. Scenic - Where else in the world does a course takes participants through a Rock Garden where we leap from rock to rock, past waterfalls and moss-covered stones, and along ridges with sweeping views of a city's 30 million residents?
3. Crowd support - People of all ages in the most remote areas yelling out the ritual words of polite encouragement: "nice fighto desu" and "gambatte kudasai"
4. Shinto Shrines - The marathon finishes at the 2,000 year old Musashi-Mitake Shrine
5. Onsen - This is the real cool part of the Mitake experience. All participant's race numbers correspond to one of the numerous onsens near the finish line. After a hard trail run on a brisk December morning everyone is welcomed at an atmospheric inn, and within minutes of finishing the run is soaking in a steaming hot springs bath.
I did OK. The first couple kilometers are absurdly steep, but since they are the first few kilometers of a race everyone runs hard. I decided it would be almost as fast to walk. My thinking was I would pick it up when I got to the top. Unfortunately we ran into the tail end of the first wave, so I could only pick up the pace so much. But this allowed me enjoy the scenery more.
I had been warned about the steep downhill plunge at 13k, but it did not seem so bad. I held onto the support ropes as much as possible on the way down to avoid plummeting to my death (or at least avoid the embarrassment and bruises Eric Fitzpatrick suffered coming down this cliff last year).
Bizarre as this might sound, I was disappointed to realize the race was ending. I actually wanted to run farther. Partly because I felt I had energy and could pass more people. Partly because I was simply enjoying the course. Somehow the varied terrain of a trail run allows me to run much farther than a flat paved course.
I hope to do the Ome-Takamizu 30k trail run on April 1st.