Running in Tokyo/Japan - Marathon/Clubs/Track Races


Ometakamizu trail-run - The whole store (Thanks to Jay Johannessen)

A dozen Nambanners participated in Sunday's Ome-Takamizu trail run. It was a gorgeous day for running on the scenic but brutally hilly course. After the run most of the group enjoyed a splendid Hanami pizza party thanks to Teruyuki. Also much thanks to Keren for organizing Namban's participation, and Asuka for her logistics support.
Below are individual times and comments. Full results can be found at:

35-kilometer run

Keren 3:39:35 136 out of 873 starters (247 were listed as DNF)
My worst result in one of my favourite races for three years (last year
2:50 for 30km). This year the distance of the long course was increased
by 5km to 35km. This gave me a great excuse not to train seriously for
this race as a PB was not possible. But this turned out to be a mistake
as I found the extra 5km has taken this race to a higher degree of
difficulty and is now much tougher. It is now a race for serious trail
runners and some decent trail running practice is needed. There seemed
to be many more well fitted out trail runners this year who carried
packs full of food, drinks and all sorts of survival gear. One chap wore
a huge backpack that looked to be suitable for a climb up Mt. Everest,
but he still managed to hurtle past me with about 3km to go. I hope that
the pack was full of newspaper. And I saw two runners being medivaced
out by emergency helicopter. They didn't look to be seriously injured,
but they were deep into the trail were there is no road access.

But even though it was very tough, it is still a great race and it was
held in near to perfect conditions (clear, sunny and not too warm).
Strangely though I think the course has been greatly improved. It is
much brighter due to some tree clearing and an additional up and down
road section was added. And one long section that was two ways is now
one way which makes for an easier descent. And I say this after every
trail race, but I do need to work on going downhills at high speeds as I
have to move to the side to let most others fly pass me. I will be back!
Congats to Jay for his 13th placing and sub 3 hour finish. And a big
thank you to Teruyuki-san for arranging the after race hanami. The beers
and pizza plus the nice weather and cherry blossoms made it a great

Rie 4:08:44
This time I succeed in releasing trauma experience. Yes, I retired from this race because of stomach trouble last year. This year my time was very slow but it was very fun and I am satisfied with this result.

I still haven't got the trail running. I was filled with apprehension on downhills because it was so scary. Please does anyone show me the ropes!

Mark Feeley 3:49
The Toughest Race I Have Ever Run
Coming into this race I expected it to be tough - what I didn't realise was exactly how tough it would be. I've run a few trail races in Japan - Takao (18km), Jinba (21km) and Mitake (15km) and they have all been tough. With trail races I've come to expect lots of climbing and lots of steep downhills. I don't mind the climbing, or running along ridges, but I've always taken the descents very carefully, happily letting other runners tumble recklessly past me like lemmings on suicide missions. Takamizu didn't disappoint with lots of climbing and lots of precarious descents.

My finish time was 3:49, which was about 49 minutes slower than I originally predicted, but in the end I was just happy to finish.

The weather was perfect and the scenery fantastic winding through the hills of Ome past small mountainside houses, cheered on by local residents and many hikers. At one point there was even a guy with cow bells and a sax. Thankfully there were also plenty of food and water stations offering bananas, brown sugar, umeboshi, candy. They saved my life on the way back.

Until just before the half way point I was feeling reasonably comfortable. I had been surprised to see so many people walking up hills early in the race, but coming up to the half way point I begun to understand why.

Just before halfway, there was a long climb up to the temple. I reached the temple in 1 hour 45 minutes, but the last climb had taken a lot out of me and I was thankful for the bananas available at that point. At half way I decided that in order to finish I would walk the uphills and freewheel the downhills, to try and conserve my energy. Even then I wasn't feeling confident about whether I had the energy to get to the finish.

On the way back, even walking the uphills was tough and I found I was getting passed by a lot of other runners, and using ropes where possible to help pull me up the hills. With 7km to go there was a long, winding road climb. Luckily there was a food station at the start of the climb and after eating as much as possible at the station I found myself not only running up the hill, but running quickly, fighting cramps in both quads and passing lots of other runners who were walking.

I thought the race was never going to finish. Even the last km, which I thought was going to be straight downhill threw up some small climbs, enough at that stage to bring you to your knees. It was so nice to finally see the finish line and a crowd of Nambanners cheering me home. I was so relieved that I managed to put on a bit of a spurt to the finish, squeezing the last drops of energy out of my legs, and as I crossed the finish line my quads seized.

Overall, the Takamizu trail race is a tough race, but I wouldn't want it any other way. Despite the pain, I had a great day and I'll be back next year to have another romp through the Ome hills.

Teruyuki 3:24:01 80th overall


Gerard Frahill 4:15:34
Thanks to Keren for getting me a late entry into the Ome trail race,
though not particularly feeling like running 35K on Sunday morning I
persevered, I couldn't let Keren down! Ome is a great spot on the
outskirts of Tokyo and as a first timer there, it was good to get out of
the city.

I was feeling pretty stiff from the track on Wednesday (must be age
related) and a swim squad on Thursday (first pool session since Christmas
in Australia), I toed the start line......literally we entered from the
front, typical Gaijin! The first 3 to 4 K was OK, slightly uphill and a
relatively wide track. Once we hit the single track at about 5Kish, that's
when the fun started. What was explained to me as steep is a misnomer,
this was a goat trail more suited to our four footed friends. There was
some respite when we hit the concrete road at the first drink stop but
that was short lived, time for a drink and to get some food in, it was
back on the trail and uphill again.

Without any trail markers, it's difficult to know where you are on the
course, and your watch is the best guide, but with slow up hills
(walking/climbing), your pace is not consistent. When the 15k front
runners went by, there was a realisation that fitness and running strength
are relative, these guys could move. Apologies to Gerard for slowing him
up! but it was good to hear a friendly voice out there. At just over 2
hours on the trail, I made it to the shrine. It was great to get to the
halfway (I hoped), by the time I got there, the runners were taking a well
earned rest, there was plenty of fruit and water available. After a short
prayer at the shrine (to whoever was listening), it was back downhill
again. Going back was easier than the climb up, but my 85Kg frame is not
designed to go down hill fast, not upright anyway.

On the return route, there was lot of walking wounded, that explained what
the backpacks were for! there were runners taping up ankles, knee's and
applying various spray's etc, etc. The climb's were now down to a crawl,
at some points, you had to wait for the runners/climbers to move ahead as
the trail was that steep in places. (a good time to rest). The highlight
on the return leg was coming across the rescue squad, and helicopter,
apparently some runners were injured and had to be taken out by
helicopter.......mmm, that's a worry. Once the clock hit 3 hours, I
realised that this was going to be a long day and that a 4 hour plus run
was on the cards. Once I accepted this, it was then a matter of pacing to
ensure I got back in one piece without running out of energy.

Getting back on the wider track with about 4 K to go was great, you could
run again. This is where I picked off quite a few places, it was all
downhill from there and to finish in one piece was great. All up, the run
is the toughest I have ever done. Marathon training does not come near
this, if you dont have good leg strength, you will be in trouble. I was
counting my blessings that I had been doing weight training for a while,
otherwise I wouldn't have made it.

Thanks to Terry for the Hanami party after the race, there's a great sense
of relaxation after a run like that especially once you've had few beers.

Jay 2:59:23 13th overall

I ran surprisingly well. Twice before I had run this race. Two years ago when the course was only 30 kilometers, I finished in 2:30. The extra 5-kilometers added some beautiful trail sections, but made the run significantly more difficult. I am not sure how I managed to improve on my previous effort given my recent lack of mileage in general, and lack of trail running in particular.

As usual, I intended to go out slow and enjoy feeling stronger later in the race. But I joined Keren, Gerard and Teruyuki near the front at the starting line and after the gun went off I quickly settled into the top 20 as we climbed the initial hill. By about 8k I felt worn out and wondered if I was in trouble - an uphill portion of the new section was so steep that I used ropes to help pull me up.

For almost the entire 3 hours I found myself passing a group of 6 other runners on the flat, uphill and paved sections and then watching in dismay as they simply blew by me on the steep downhill trail sections. When we arrived at the temple at the top of Mount Takamizu I made a point of ringing the gong and admiring the scenery (as the familiar group passed me yet again). At this point I was in 20th place. I suffered various cramps and stomach discomfort and sore thighs and hip pain and a wrong turn, but none of these slowed me down tremendously, and having done long triathlons I have grown more accustomed to working through various mid-race issues. For the last 15-kilometers I concentrated on working through one section at a time, uphill, downhill, ridge, etc., and managed to pass and maintain my lead over the group around me (including the fastest woman and a 52-year old guy). I was completely drained by the time I hit the finish.

I was one of the few runners not carrying water. It was a warm spring day, but the six aid stations were adequate replenishment for me. If I could find a really small, tight water belt I would probably wear it on a day like Sunday, but am glad I did not lug my current belt which drives be crazy bouncing up and down. Maybe next year I will carry the handy water bottle holder we were given by race organizers (see Shoji's blog for great pictures). I did carry 3 gels and a power bar in the pockets in my running shorts and was diligent about eating every 30 minutes which seemed to help.

I seem to be more competitive overall in trail races than road runs, yet within the trail races my strength relative to the other participants is overwhelmingly on the flatter and/or paved sections.

I very much recommend this event to other Nambanners (of course with a warning about the challenging terrain and distance).

15-kilometer event

ジェラルド  1:06:45 10th overall
Yesterday's race was interesting。Some of the time the slopes were very steep but I gave the run my best shot。My time:1.06.45。Well done to all the nanban runners who competed at the event, you all did well。 After the raced we all viewed sakura and relaxed with a wine, beer and a slice of pizza。

Ed Clease 1.15.27 (20th of around 350 guys)
Not the best kind of race for a 1m 87cm, short sighted, cowardly man from a
country with (almost) no mountains, so I am pretty pleased to get top 20.
If I do it next year think I will go for the full 35km - the 15km sprint is
a bit mental, especially when you have to go off-trail to avoid the
backmarkers from the 35km.

Mutsumi 1:28:22 - 4th overall female

Yuka 1:42:21 (13th / 179 Women finisher)
This was the 2nd trail race for me. I am a person who is really weak on up-hill running. But I felt my back is stronger than last year because of Michael's Yoga. The course was of course tough but we could enjoy a break several times because there were long lines and should have been waiting about for 10 minutes for up climbing. I had a confidence for down-hill but there were other monkey women on the mountain. I decided to buy a pair of trail shoes. Thanks Terry for taking care of us for Sakura party

Chika - 1:44:40 - 15th overall female
The weather was perfect for this trail race and HANAMI. I love this race but because of my upcoming event, Nagano Marathon on 20th April, I couldn't involve this race much, as last trail run' work out before the race. I thought it would be no problem for just 15Km as I ran 30Km in last year. But actually I had a problem..."down hill". It's so much scary thing to me, yet >:'( So, it happened again in this time, ran with very slow pass for down hill and saying "Dozo Itte kudasai (please go ahead of me)", "Kowaiyo! (I'm so scared)" or "Chotto matte!! (please don't be pussy)"... I was thinking even people passed me by at down hill, I would catch up or pass those people by. This is my favourite moment and expected much so in this time as well. But unfortunately my favourite up hill wasn't exiting because the pass way was very narrow and couldn't pass people by. We just moved in line. That's not a trail run race like but hiking!! Anyway today's race was just good work out but not exiting as 30Km in last year. Probably I will do 35Km race in next year.
Apart from the race, Hanami was very good, having nice piza & beer under warm weather surrounded with pink little blossom. Thanks to everybody and many thanks to Keren, Terry, and Ed's wife

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Comment by Jon Holmes on January 4, 2009 at 8:42am
Hmmmmm....interesting....I wonder if there are 'age' categories.

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