Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fukuoka Race report

Saturday I went for a short shake-up in the Ohari Park, which is considered a "cult" place for the Japanese running movement. I read somewhere that hundreds of High-school and University runners gather there every day for their sessions.
The park itself basically consists of a lake with a 2km road around it. In the typical Japanese sake for organization, the lanes for walkers, runners and cycling are clearly marked and everybody seems to respect it ...
the running lane is marked every 100m, with markings embedded in the asphalt ...

I got really impressed by a scene that clearly reminded me of the particular honesty of the Japanese: a woman arrived by bicycle, removed her tracksuit and started running, leaving the bike unlocked and the tracksuit hanging from the handlebar.
I did have to reflect on how many other countries/regions you could leave your bicycle and clothes unattended and go for a run ....

In the evening there was still time for the welcome buffet for the athletes. It was not exactly a "pasta party" since it also offered sushi/shashimi, fried tempura and beer. Japanese runners looked very keen in intaking carbs in the form of Beer ... it must be the secret tip for running so fast...
I also had the pleasure to chat with Brett Larner, who is the author on a very interesting Blog on the Japanese Running scene. Brett was very kind on giving me some useful tips about the race.

Night: I slept almost 6 hours ... with the help of some Melatonin

Morning: I started piling up in Voltaren and Ibuprufen to avoid pain in the right leg. At the end the count was around 200mg Voltaren and 300mg Ibuprufen. Not to repeat in the future ....
I also went for a walk to kill the time before the noon start and digest somehow the breakfast.

it is time to move to Ohari park for start ...

Weather: practically perfect, temperature in the 14/15C range, RH around 50%, very light wind

Pre-Race set-up: it was all very much runners friendly. Changing room available and also a "last minute" clothes drop-off point was arranged 50m from the start line. Basically it was possible to warm-up and pit-stop at the toilet until 5min from the start.
The start arrangement was obviously very organized: the runners were ranked based on their qualification time and aligned in rows by 12. A judge would check one by one that you were in your own assigned spot (!!!)

The Crowd: unbelievable crowd support. All the 26 Miles were lined up with people, cheering the runner with "Ganbare" (Do your best) and I even heard several calling my name.

At 12.10 the gun went-off and here I was .... running a marathon in Japan ... whose time limit is 19'30" for each 5k ... after months of early morning runs in the dust/pollution of Dongguan.

first 5k: After 2k I was amazed to see that while running at 3'40"/km (under 6'/Mile) we were still densely packed ... hundreds of runners going so fast
5k in 18'34", I kept always an eye on the HRM to avoid going more than 166bpm

up to HM: the section was largely uneventful. I tucked into a small pack and tried to run relaxed, avoiding overstriding, enjoy the crowd. HR always around 166/168bpm.
10k: 37'15" (18'41' split) , 15k in 56'00" (18'45"), 20k in 1h14'44"(18'44"), HM 1'18'57"

from 21k to 31k: our pack was starting to break apart and my right leg was giving signs of tension, affecting the stride. So I decided to slow down the pace a little, I was much ahead of the 2h40' target pace and it was still a long way to go.
I hit many kms at around 3'50" and at 27km mark, I started to really feel pulses in the right buttock ... so I took another 50mg of Voltaren pills that I was carrying with me...
Personally I really find these Miles from HM to 32km the most difficult, it is very easy to lose concentration and go off pace.
25k in 1h33'38" (18'54") 30k in 1h52'34" (18'56")

31k to the end: the 31km marks the turning point and the long return to the city center and the finish.
It was now a 10k race ahead of me and to may amazement, the body was still able to pick up the pace to 3'45"/km. I felt like making a tempo run ... unfortunately the right leg was tightening especially while extending the leg behind the body, so I adapt my stride to run with very short steps (I was probsably looking like one of those Japanese or Chinese female runners ... their stride is so characteritic).
The HR was responding to the increased effort and went into the 175/177 range.
In the last 7k, I caught up at least 50 runners and I still felt in control of my body.
the 40k at 2h30'10" (18'42" split) gave me the certainty that a sub 2h40' was sure.

But running with altered stride was putting a lot of repssure ont he abductors and when we entered the stadium, the legs were gone and I started to feel cramps everywhere.
I took the last 550m on the track as my "personal tour of honour" a good reward for all the sacrifices done.
by 100m to go, I cramped without remedy but it was only a short shuffle to the finish line.

Post-race: 10 minutes later after I crossed the finish line, the Asashi Shinbun Newspaper was already distributed to the crowd with a special 2-pages edition with results and commentary !!!!!
I made my way to the changing area, with several spectators bowing at me in sign of congratulations ... very EMBARASSING ... I was 30' after the winner ... nevertheless I thanked everybody with large doses of bows and "Arigato".

In the evening, award ceremony and farewell party: after many speeches in Japanese, many awards being presented to Wanjiru and final buffet dinner with the opportunity to mix with the top runners and taking pictures together.

Overall: I am very satisfied with my race. Good training plan, good race and outstanding final 7k. I guess that my special "long runs with intervals" paid off.
I ranked 154th out of 312 who finished within the time limit. Full results here.

Fukuoka is a "dream marathon" for a runner: the course, the set-up, the organization all together make up for the ideal setting to run at your best. It is totally runner-oriented, without all those trade-off with commercial interest like most of major marathons.

My thanks go to the organizer for setting up such an event and special thanks to Mr Ogushi and Ms Yuko for taking so much care for a "gaijin" a bit "lost in translation".


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on a well run race, a pr and a good report.

Sling Runner said...

congrats, i guess you should buy me a bottle of wine (jusy kidding)

Mike B said...

I have few minutes to shave off of my marathon PR before I can run Fukuoka! Congrats on a fine race and smart running.

Mike said...

So glad to read this report. Congratulations on a courageous run. You kicked 2:40's ass.

Eric said...

Huge PR! I guessed right (2:39), or close to right, anyway! Excellent race, especially given the problem with your leg.

Recover well.

Mark said...

I guessed 2:39 on your poll and impressed that you beat it. I was having some reservations after reading several of your posts just prior to the race.