Back in March, during the first weekend that I started living with my host family in the small suburban town of Isobe, my host mom barraged me with a volley of questions concerning my diet, my exercise habits and my general health; she is a personal trainer, after all.
Since I had told her that I was a frequent runner but had never raced officially, she inquired further whether or not I’d like to run my first marathon at Motosuka Beach with her and some co-workers from Renaissance (a local fitness center).
Quite honestly, my weeks since turning 21 had made a mess of my physical well-being so I told her that I would be happy to but it would take some time to get back into good running condition.
Little did I know how unmotivated I would feel to run regularly when I could be exploring the riveting, albeit bizarre, metropolis of Tokyo instead.
So when this weekend finally arrived, I realized that it had been two weeks since I had run and far longer since I had done any other form of exercise.
Needless to say, I felt very nervous about making a bumbling fool of myself when I woke up bright and early on Sunday morning.
Thankfully, the weather was on my side though; overcast, brisk and a little breezy… just like Tacoma.
I was first on our team’s lineup so after getting my number and other marathon necessities taken care of, I took a quick cat nap then warmed up by the beachside start line.
After I heard the words, “San.. Ni.. Ichi..” I went into what I like to call my “zen zone” and tuned everything out, relaxed, then thrust my whole body into the sand before me as a volunteer yelled “STAATO!”
The race was projected to take two hours for each runner, but most of us finished in around fifty-five minutes; I finished in fifty-eight.
Luckily, we all had each other for a cheering section; there were many times when runners with better endurance would pass me and I would feel like I needed to give up, until I’d hear my name called from a distant checkpoint, ushering me onward.
Something I hadn’t accounted for was the difficulty that the sand would cause.
Near the end of the race especially, it became very easy to slip on the finely-grated sand.
Once I had fully transitioned into the role of the encouraging spectator though, I realized that other runners were definitely having the same troubles as me.
Even the guy dressed as Spider-Man was faltering on the sand every now and then.
From then on, I casually watched and cheered for our team, ate some pre-packaged soba noodles from a konbini, rehydrated and intermingled with my host mom’s vivacious co-workers.
As the sun finally started to breach through the clouds, my host mom and her closest friend reached the finish line to an uproar of encouraging phrases and a tunnel of high-fives.
Then, after we took pictures and received some complimentary stickers and fliers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, we each returned to our respective homes, eager to take a well-deserved bath.
As for me, I just couldn’t wait to get home and watch my latest anime rental from the nearby video store: Studio Ghibli’s Mimi wo Sumaseba (Whisper of the Heart).