Tag Archives: running


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On Sunday, I participated in the annual Fit for Charity 10k run.  It wasn't too bad – I've recently started practicing jogging again, trying to get in shape for next year's Tokyo marathon, so I wasn't too wiped after the run.

However, one of my office colleagues got sick and I was suddenly "invited" to take his place in the 400m relay race!  (4 people, 100m each).   It was quite the experience.  I'm NOT a fast runner by any means, I prefer the "slow and steady" pace, so this 100m dash was completely new, but I have to say, very exciting!  This shot is one of the runners – he looked quite fit and in shape..

I am quite wiped out though.. and legs are protesting fiercely (^^;

#Japan   #FitforCharity   #Tokyo   #Running  ?


2011 Karuizawa half marathon

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I’ve finally gotten around to posting some pictures of a recent marathon that I took part in, which can be found at the usual place.  My participation in this marathon was completely unexpected; two weeks before the marathon, a colleague of mine at work (a dedicated runner) came by my desk and asked if I would be interested in taking his place in a marathon he had previously signed up for.  An unexpected business trip had come up and he would not be in Japan on the weekend the marathon was scheduled to take place.

With not a little trepidation, I said I would try – “try” being the operative word, since I hadn’t participated in a real run since last year’s Tokyo marathon!  I managed to get about a week and a half’s worth of practice, though only running about 4-5 km each practice run.  The reason for this was because I had decided to run in my new Vibram Five-Finger shoes, and it was taking me longer to adjust to “barefoot running” than I had expected.  Seriously, running in those REALLY work out your calf and… tibialis?  soleus? whatever the muscle directly below the knee facing front is called.

On the day of the race I was still worried because I still hadn’t gotten to run for more than 5km at a stretch, and I had also chosen to rest for the 2 days just before the race to give my legs a chance to recover from the practice.  However, I woke up at 04:30, showered, and headed out (also managed to get a few shots of a lovely early morning sunrise from my balcony just before I left).  I got on a shinkansen to Karuizawa, and within an hour and a half I had arrived.

Everything was in Japanese, but luckily I didn’t really need to know much – I just followed the hundreds of people wearing running gear all getting off the train.  (also, as far as I could tell, I was the only one wearing Five Finger shoes).  The race started at 09:00 and off we went.

I kept to a very slow pace during the entire run – in fact, I don’t think I ever got winded throughout the entire 21km.  My feet and legs also held up surprisingly well for the first 10-12km, but gradually after that I really started to feel the burn in my lower legs.  The last 2km were the worst… my feet, lower leg muscles, and whatever one calls the muscles located on the outer side of the knee were on fire… I’m pretty sure I completed the last leg of the race on adrenaline alone!

Finally, after 2hrs and 25min, I crossed the finish line.  Towards the end there were volunteers handing out paper cups of water to runners… I swear, nothing ever tasted so delicious in my life.  When really tired and exhausted, nothing beats good ‘ol water!

It had started to drizzle during the last stretch of the race, and shortly after finishing, the drizzle turned into a full blown storm.  I didn’t even bother changing out of my runner’s clothes since I didn’t have an umbrella and my dry clothes (thankfully my clean clothes were in plastic) would just have gotten wet.  Instead I hung around the finish line, grabbed a quick bowl of ramen from a nearby stall and after slurping it down I trudged over to a mega-outlet that was located near the train station.

There, I changed into dry clothes, and sat for a couple of hours reading and sipping a cup of decadently rich Godiva hot chocolate.  Mmmm…

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After a wonderful rest, I grabbed another shinkansen back home, showered, and fell asleep instantly.

I have to say, I have never recovered so quickly from a race – ever.  Every race I’ve run in has always required that I rest up for a week or two so my knees would recover.  This time, all pain was gone in 2 days.  The only thing I can attribute the quick recovery to is my Vibram shoes – I guess that the emphasis that these shoes place on a front and/or mid-foot strike may be doing me some good, and I definitely plan to continue running in these to see how things go.

Well, there you go, the story behind the pictures I’ve posted in my gallery section.  Sadly the picture selection is rather minimal since I only took pictures after the race.. but still, I had a great experience! 🙂



Gorilla toe shoes (aka Vibram FiveFingers)

I’ve always been fond of five-toe socks, and have been wearing them pretty much ever since I came to Japan.  I find that they’re comfortable and help keep my feet dry and warm.  Actually, I don’t like wearing “normal” socks anymore because they make my feet feel sweaty!

Early last year, I learned about a new kind of “shoe” produced by Vibram – a funky type of footwear named “Vibram FiveFingers” (I still don’t get where the “Fingers” come from, I’d think “FiveToes” would be a more accurate naming convention).  For one reason or another, I never got them last year, but last week I finally broke down and purchased a pair of “Bikila” FiveFinger shoes.  Today, I finally put them on and wore them throughout the day.

My experience in them so far has consisted of jogging from my apartment to my station (about 5 minutes), jogging from the Takadanobaba station to the park where I do taichi (another 5 minutes), and normal walking for an entire day.  Despite this relatively minor exertion, I’m definitely feeling a little footsore tonight.

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I’ve got some pain from chafing on the back of my left heel.  This started after the first 5 minute jog, but luckily I had thought to bring along some band-aids and socks, both of which helped tremendously.  Most of the soreness though, I attribute to the adjustment of walking all day virtually barefoot.  It was rather interesting to note how walking/jogging in these shoes really forced me to modify the way I walk.  When I started my first jog to the station, I initially ran the way I usually would when wearing regular shoes.  However, after about a minute or two, I noticed my feet automatically compensating for the loss in padding around the heel area (which is the normal design of typical running shoes) and I started gradually striking more with the ball of my foot.  This felt good, but after a couple of minutes, I was already feeling the strain around my forefoot and ankle area.  Luckily, the jog session was very brief; I can tell that I’m going to have to carefully ease into using these shoes.

I definitely really liked doing taichi in the FiveFingers though.  I freaked out my teacher a little with my “Gorilla toe shoes”, but nevertheless I felt that the FF’s gave me a greater sense of stability as I could feel the ground under me and grip appropriately.  I will absolutely keep on using the FF’s for taichi.

As for running in FF’s, I think I’m going to hold off on that for a little while until I’ve really gotten used to them.  I believe it would be all too easy for me to strain my ankles and calves if I push too hard while my feet are not used to this new footwear.  So, I’m just going to start off by walking around with them as much as possible.

Surprisingly, despite my feeling extremely self conscious when I went out, I don’t think many people noticed what I was wearing!  In fact, the only odd looks I got today came from a cute little toddler on the train.  I could see her staring at my feet and could almost see the question marks floating around her head (just WHAT is this guy wearing???). 😛

Overall, I enjoyed wearing these new shoes.  I’ll keep on using them for taichi, and eventually will give extended jogging a go in them as well once I’ve given my feet a chance to adjust.

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Just because I’m proud of it :p

Here’s a better image of my “finisher’s” medal for completing the Tokyo Marathon. 😀

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I actually recovered very quickly – within 2 days I stopped feeling muscle pain aside from in my right knee.  At the moment, I’m planning on just doing small, short runs to try and get my knee back to full strength.  I think it’s working because I couldn’t even jog to the station (a 3 minute jog) a week ago without my knee starting to hurt.  However I recently jogged to a nearby supermarket and realized that my knee seemed fine.

I’ll take it slow, but I really do want to get back to running again – my waistline has DEFINITELY been increasing in size and that’s not something I’m happy about. 🙁


I made it! (and OW it hurts…)

I can now scratch off one of my resolutions for the year – that of completing a full marathon. 🙂

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It’s the first time I’ve EVER done this, and I’m feel pretty proud of myself (feeling pretty sore too).  My time wasn’t that great – I came in around 6hrs 41mins – and the cutoff time was 7hrs.  To be honest, I barely made it.

The primary reason it took me so long was because my bum knee kicked in at around the 12km mark.  I started off slowly, but it just started hurting again at a quarter of the way in and from that point I was forced to run/walk/run/walk the remainng 30km.  It was incredibly frustrating.

Another reason I took so long was because it took my “block” 20 minutes to even get past the start line!  With so many runners (30,000+) I guess it couldn’t be helped, but next time I hope to be placed somewhere closer to the start line so those 20 minutes aren’t lost.

The final reason I was so slow was… call of nature.  At around the 12km mark, I figured I’d stop and line up for a bathroom break, and give my knee a few minutes to rest up at the same time.  Bad idea.  I ended waiting at least 20min to use the bathroom, and that was the reason I barely crossed the 15km line before cutoff.

There were multiple cutoff points along the route – 15km had to be completed in 2hrs 38mins, and as you can see in the table below, I made it with NO time to spare.  In fact, I was the last one across that line as I dashed through just as the officials were roping off the 15km point – if I’d been 30 seconds slower, it would have been the end of race for me.

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That actually put more pressure on me, since I didn’t have any more of a “buffer” between the cutoff points, so I just kept going on – no more bathroom breaks for me!

I think the hardest period was the 25km to 30km period.  By then I was tired, legs were burning so much that I couldn’t feel the knee pain anymore (since EVERYTHING hurt), and I also started getting lighted-headed as energy levels were dropping.  I recall staring intently at every single eating spot I ran by (some of which were emitting some wonderful smells…).  Luckily I had some energy gels that my coworker had given to me, and those helped carry over that rough patch.

From 30km onwards, I knew it was in the bag.  12km is about the equivalent of 2 laps around the Imperial palace so it was just a matter of taking each kilometer as it came.   At that point, it was really a matter of willpower.  I think I even managed to speed up (from a walk to a hobble) because my legs were so dead I couldn’t feel much.  That, and the end was in sight. 🙂

Though it was bad for the runners (it was raining and very cold), the spectators probably had it just as bad as we did.  At least the runners warmed up from the physical exercise.  The spectators though, had to stand there, huddled under umbrellas, and cheer us on.  I’m really grateful to all the people who held out snacks of chocolate and crackers – particularly towards the end, those snacks gave me the last bit of energy I needed to keep going.  It was incredibly cheering to see people (including families and children) shouting “Gambare!” “Fight, fight!”.  I even pet a dog that one man was holding up. 🙂

All in all, it was an incredibly challenging experience.  Would I do it again?  Probably!  I do plan on training a little better this year though – AFTER my legs recover.  Despite the pain, it’s just something I can feel proud of doing, of pushing myself hard, and making it to the end.

For those interested, you can click on the link below and enter 6hrs 41min (as shown in the image) to see a video clip of me as I cross the finish line. 🙂


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Tokyo Marathon!

Course Map I  can’t believe it’s already been 10 days since my last post, heck I can’t believe we only have 2 days before February is over!  It has been a busy period recently, and I’ve been too tired to do much in the way of posting.  I wish I had more energy though – I will hear, or read, or see, or experience something and I will often think of writing about it… only to put it off for the above reasons.

I just wanted to mention quickly that the Tokyo Marathon will be taking place this Sunday.  I and 5 other folks from the office will be participating!

To be honest, I’ve done little to nothing in the way of practice this last month due to a knee injury I sustained during a 20km practice run in early January.  So I’m actually a bit worried about how I will handle 42km… my only “strategy” is going to alternate between walking and jogging, hopefully with more of the latter.

My only goal is to FINISH.  Though the 8,000,000 prize money would be something spectacular, I don’t care if I’m dead last, I don’t care if I have to limp or crawl the whole way – as long as I cross the finish line before the cutoff time, I will be satisfied.

Wish me luck!


*gasp* *wheeze*

It looks like I’ll be tackling one of my new year resolutions sooner than expected – that of running a marathon.

One of the folks in the office was lucky enough to have friends in the right places that were able to pull some strings – all the people (who wanted to) in the company running group will be joining the Tokyo Marathon… including me! :0

Information for the Tokyo Marathon can be found here, and as you can see, entry is EXTREMELY competitive.  It looks like over 272,000 people applied – but only 32,000 spots are available.   I actually applied the “normal” way first, by submitting my application online, but didn’t win the “lottery”.  Out of the 6-7 people in the office who applied, only 1 made it.  However, thanks to “connections”, we were lucky enough to be able to apply again (shhhh) and make it in.

So… this means that I’ll have to seriously practice again since the race is in less than 2 months!  After 3+ months of slacking off on running, I’ve got my work cut out for me. (^^;

Actually – I just found out today that I had applied to (and forgotten about) a half-marathon in Shinjuku (21km).  I just got the entry card today, and after a few minutes of head-scratching I remembered that I had applied for this over 2 months ago.  That will be on the 31st of this month.  Good practice for the full marathon on February 28th!

With my weak left knee, my goal is not to win (would probably cripple myself if I tried pushing myself that hard), but rather to feel the satisfaction of actually having been able to run 42km non-stop.  Wish me luck!

Experiences health

I’m illegal!

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Sorry for the lack of updates recently.

It’s been somewhat stressful at work (not the work itself which is busy but nothing I can’t handle – rather… the “environment”) and in between that and still going to look for furnishings during my spare time has meant that I’m pretty wiped out when I get home.  I often just get home, change, start to do some cleaning… and wake up around 2-3AM wondering why all the lights are on.

I’ve even stopped exercising for the past month or – no running, no taichi… 🙁

But – I ran 10km last Friday!  I’m sure that wasn’t the wisest of ideas, but… heck, when have I ever claimed to be wise? 😛

The run was actually the Odaiba summer marathon – a yearly event where people can apply to run in a 10km run around the Odaiba dock area.  Since it’s a fairly “easy” run, and it’s in a fairly accessible spot, the Odaiba marathon is quite popular and there’s a lottery that people have to sign up for in order to see if they can get in.

I lost.

Actually, I lost last year as well, but that didn’t stop me from joining both this year and last.  Last year, 1 colleague won the lottery and this year that same colleague plus 2 more won.  (you probably understand why I never buy lottery tickets – I’ve been fortunate enough in very many areas, but gambling/lottery is not one of them. (not that I’m complaining mind you – while it would be nice to win a bajillion yen, life could also be so much worse!)

Anyway, to get back to my story – last year both myself and another colleague decided to participate “unofficially” to encourage/support the 1 colleague that did get in.  What we did was mingle amongst the official participants and use them as cover so that officials wouldn’t see that we didn’t have any running numbers pinned to our shirts.  We joined in the 3 laps, then veered off to the side just before reaching the finish line.

Last Friday I did the same and participated again as an “illegal runner”. 😛  To be honest though, I don’t think that officials would do much even if they did catch us.  It’s not like they would halt the entire race to kick us out, and of course we don’t get any official time records or the Odaiba marathon T-shirt.

I’m happy to say that even though I hadn’t run for a month, I made pretty good time, coming in just under 56 minutes.  But BOY HOWDY did I feel it.  The run consists of 3 laps and by the end of the first lap my lungs and chest were already burning.  By the second lap my legs were dying on me, and by the end of the third lap, it was all I could do to just keep up a semblance of jogging.  I did it though – didn’t stop once, but kept on moving the whole time.  So a thumbs up for me. 🙂

After the run, 3 of us went to a nearby onsen – it’s a really nice one (at 2,000 yen entrance fee it better be!) and after about 40 minutes of soaking, a bowl of miso ramen, and 2 bottles of whole milk the self-inflicted torture I had just imposed on myself was already already fading.

Needless to say, I slept well that night!
(though I did have to get up after only 5hrs of sleep to go back into work – but let’s not talk about that)

Sights & Sounds

First Run of 2009

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I went running yesterday – my first run of the year 2009!  Have to say, it was harder than usual to get started; it’s just so cold now and thinking of the cold wind really saps your motivation, gotta say.  However, writing the previous post kind of forced me to do it!  Self-motivation, right there.  🙂

I started “seriously” running (ie at least once a week) at around the beginning of last year.  I had been stressful at the time, even gotten sick and lost weight (which actually needed to be lost, so that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing!), and decided that I would try to be more healthy.  So I joined the running group in the office.

We’re usually a small group of people, typically only 3-4 “regulars” a week, and we head over to run laps around the Imperial Palace.  We’ve also participated in a few marathons, most recently the FIT For Charity run.  I must say that I have definitely noticed an improvement in my physical condition since I started a year ago.  I’m nowhere near the level of my more experienced colleagues, but little by little, I’m getting slowly better.

And it feels good!  It’s been a ridiculously busy week at work and I’ve been getting more and more tense and stressed as the week progressed.  However, I did a leisurely 1-hr, 10km run last night (solo, since the people in the office are even MORE busy than I am!), and I felt really good after finishing.  The tension in my shoulders was gone, and my head had cleared a little.

Also tried to take pictures, but I’ve found that running and picture taking do NOT mix.  You’re panting, heart is thudding… no way to keep the camera steady.  Even when trying to balance against a pole or tree, 90% of the pictures came out blurry.  However, you can see the whopping 3 pictures I took. 😛

2 pictures are of the area around the palace, and the 3rd is the sento where we go to change and wash off after the run.

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