Northwest of Sandefjord center, you can find the idyllic park of Bugården, with a community swimming hall, ice rink, several training fiels for e.g skating, football (sprry, I refuse to call it soccer), American Football, archery and volleyball, family activities like a play ground and benches where you can ghave a barbequeue, and (last, but not least), the Bugården Dam. Earlier the Bugården Dam had a swimming pool, but with increasing focus on stuff like, well, bacteria and the fact that they didn’t manage to keep the pool clean enough, it closed down way before I made my arrival to this world in the mid-seventies
Every youth who have gone to high school here, has a relationship with the Bugården Dam (in my case a quite ambivalent one), since it has a 1,2 km jogging track around it and it is a perfect spot for a 3000m running test.
Even though I used to really hate the Bugården Dam in high school, 8 have in my older days grown quite fond of it; especially in the early morning where only the many ducks and me are awake, before the mass invasion og all the ones wanting to spend some time outdoors.
This morning (or rather last night..) I had to get up at 4 AM to drive someone to the airport, which is way too early even for me. After mission was accomplished I strugglee for a bit between the choices of either go back to bed or to go for a jog in the park. I am so giving my back an imaginary pat for choosing the latter option and it felt really good to be done with the jog-of-the day before 7 AM.
For the first couple of rounds of the 1.2 km course, it was completely dark and not at all that fun being in the park alone, with only a few ducks to keep me company. After a while, however, the sun started to appear, and so did other earlybirds, and the powerful sunrise made the rest of my run rather magical.
With my 44 years I am one of the last generations to have had an analogue childhood but who is now more or less struggling with re-branding ourselves in the new digital world. We are talking about Generation X, those who are born between 1960-1980.
In this series of posts I will revisit some of the elements from the oast, and I will start with…. birth
A hot August day in 1974, my pregnant mom was dropped off at the hospital stairs by my dad on his way to work. There she was left on her own with a midwife from hell who traumatized her to the level that my mother was a complete wreck when I was pregnant 32 years later (so bad that she needed to meet my midwife to make sure I was in good hands). I mean, she was constantly yelling at the poor woman and actually tried to force me out by placing her very generous body weight on my mothers pregnant belly.
This was of course back in the days where smoking was allowed everywhere, so most likely the whole hospital was engulfed in heavy sigarette smoke. Probably the reason I didn’t want to leave the comfort of the womb voluntarily, but had to be dragged out with pliers.
My first meeting with my big brother
A couple of days later, I was brought home from the hospital (which literally was across the street, like 200 meters away) to meet my brother. The first meeting was, however, not exactly a great såsuccess. Being used to getting all the attention, my brother at the age of 18 months, was not willing to share his privileges. The result was that instead of a warm welcome and a hug, I got a slap in the face with the message that he did NOT want a little sister. Luckily his hostility did not last for long and he grew up to be quite protective of his little sister.
Currently Norwegians are entitled to 49 weeks of parental leave with full pay, or 59 werks with 80% pay. One of the world’s best atrangements, but still some are complaining saying that it is bordering child abuse to send your kid to kindergarten before the age of 3. Back in the 70’ies, the whole concept of parental leave was unknown and the mere thought of the daddy spending quality time with the little diaper-bearing creature was unthinkable (even though that in my case my father made up for the lost time, with interest, later on). My mother had the option of unpaid leave or giving up her job. She chose the last one and spent the next few years at home with us children.
There is a long way from the pedagogic kindergartens of today to the more or less detention centers we had back in the days. I hated that my mom went back to work, something that meant me and my brother having to spend several hours in a terrible place where we had to stay outside in all weather conditions and where we were hardly allowed to go inside to use the bathroom. Possible this is an unfair description of the conditions, but hey I was like 4-5 years old and this is all I remember.
We often hear statements saying “everythingwas better in the good ol’ days”, but I dare argue that at least I prefer the modern world of paid parental leave, the pedagogic fundamented kindergartend and the amicable and warm midwives we have today.
So let us be thankful and let us not take our privileges for granted…
Finally Abbott WMM have released the photos they took right after we crossed the finish line and were handed our Six Star Finisher Medal. I was at that point so exhausted I didn’t even bother to ask the photographer to take the shot from a higher angle to avoid the double chin that inevitably occurs when taking a photo from a low angle. But, you know what? I don’t care, so here is my official pic, major double chin and all…
It has already been a week sine I crawled over the finishing line in Tokyo Marathon and was awarded both the Tokyo Marathon finisher medal and the fabulous Six Star Finisher medal. A fantastic experience! In this post I have collected some valuable information worth knowing about if you consider running in the Tokyo Marathon.
The qualifying time for Tokyo Marathon is quite difficult to achieve, but no need to worry if you are not in that exclusive group, sine there are alternative means to secure a spot. One way is to enter the lottery, but with over 300.000 applicants (2018 numbers) the chances of winning a start place is quite slim. The results from the ballot are not published before September, meaning if you don’t succeed, chances of securing a spot are small.
One alternative to qualifying or succeed in the ballot is to buy a spot through a travel agent. Usually their program is quite professionally put together, but the disadvantage is that it is expensive.
What we did was to secure our spots through charity. The charity registering opened last year in early July, meaning a couple of months before we get the ballot results, and already a couple of days later, all the spots were taken. What you have to do is enter the homepage of Tokyo Marathon and enter as a charity runner (in 2019 they had 4000 charity spots), choose your charity, pay in the minimum donation of 100.000 JPY (approx. USD 800). It is important that you both enter as a charity runner and pay the specified JPY at once, or else your registration is invalid. If you have done it correctly, you will get a mail confirming your spot. Just to be safe, make sure you read ALL the information before entering as a charity runner.
2. Pre-Race Information
After entering as a charity runner in the beginning of July, we did not hear anything from Tokyo Marathon until the beginning of February, where we got the bib-number registration and the runner handbook. After that we received regular update mails up until race day. It is important that you read the runner handbook really thoroughly, since it contains information about what is allowed into the starting area, as well as an overview of cutoff-times.
We did struggle a bit with founding the expo, much due to us taking a taxi since it was raining heavily that day. The taxi driver, however, didn’t speak a word of English and managed to drop us off at the wrong place. Guess we would have been better off taking the metro instead. The expo was split between several big tents, which was not very practical in the rain. It was quick to register and get our bib number and then we were ready for some shopping. The main shopping stand for Asics were fortunately in a warm tent with a dry floor, but the rest of the stands were either in tents with watery floors or outside. In other words, not very tempting to shop, so I ended up just with a couple of T-shirts. One tip when it comes to buying clothes both at the expo or else in Japan, is to always try them on, since they are operating in Japanese sizes that are considerably smaller than ours. I ended up buying size XL instead of my regular M/L.
The opening times for the expo was:
Along with the bib-number we got a metro card, valid for 24 hours; a really nice touch. We chose to take the JR line (train) to the start line instead of the metro, so we saved our cards for them to be valid at another date instead.
5. Starting area
Then we have reached the race day. The starting area for 2019 was at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, and the nearest station was Shinjuku station. This is actually the worlds most buzziest station with over 3,5 millioner daily passengers and has 200+ exits. We were a bit concerned that we would get lost in there, but it turned out that it was nothing to worry about. From the moment we stepped out of the train, we were met by volunteers with signs showing us which way to go and they continued until we reached our gate (we were to enter through gate 3). At the gate we had to have our wristband scanned to verify identity and then our bags were manually checked for prohibited items. Luckily all this happened while we were still inside the station, so that we weren’t getting wet, at least not yet.
The first group of toilets were under roof and the lines were endless. But, it turned out that the lines were quickly executed and volunteers made sure the lines were in perfect order. One guy stood in the back of the line with a sign saying that the line started there. In the beginning of the line there were additional volunteers telling you when it was your turn and also which toilet to use. Unfortunately the toilets were of the squatting kind, so I managed with just that one visit to the bathroom.
Turning in my baggage went also OK. A smart detail was that our bib number was marked with which car to deliver your luggage to.
The Runner’s handbook contains a list of all the timings for the starting area. Make sure that you read and keep these limits or else you will not be allowed to start:
6. The Course
The course starts with about 5 km downhill before it flattens out and remain flat for the rest of the run. It takes the runners through both old and modern Tokyo and in multiple parts, you will see the quicker runners running in the opposite direction. A lot of interesting sights to view along the course, not that I would know since yours truly was more occupied with looking down in the ground and yelling at my legs to keep on going.
7. The Run
Then we are finally at the run itself. I started in the last corral (L), so it took about 30 minutes from gun time at 09:10 for me to cross the starting line. One major difference from other marathons is that Tokyo Marathon practices a course time limit of 7 hours from gun time and not from when you cross the starting area, meaning my real time limit was 06:30. They also have cutoff points approx. every 5 km and they are strongly enfored due to the need to open the roads for traffic again. To try to get as many runners to finish the race, the run had Finish Support-runners, dressed in golden colors and with gold balloons and if they ran passed you better speed up, because if your are behind them at the cutoff checkpoint, then you are out of the race. A lot of runners didn’t know about the mid-course cutoff places and some acted with rage when forced to leave the run (example). The link shows an American that doesn’t exactly take the defeat in an honorable way, but choose to yell at the volunteers and the whole thing is really embarrasing.
As mentioned, the gun time is at 09:10 and below you can view the cutoff times, which are to be found in the Runner’s handbook:
I have never taken a toilet break during my 13 completed marathons, much due to me running so slow that I have no time to spare. I did, however, hear about runners spending 10-15 minutes in line for the toilets along the course, so the best advice is to try to keep it in as long as possible.
From about 5 km you will find drinking station about every 3 km. All of these have water and every second has sports drink. At the various stations also gel, bananas, and other types of energy are offered. A complete list of what you will get at the different stations can be found in the Runner’s handbook.
The Japanese are from childhood trained in not throwing garbage but to bring it home with them and in Tokyo the streets are so clean you can practically eat off them. At each drinking station there were lots of boxes for discarding your drinking cups. In addition you had volunteers every 100m or so, holding up bags for us to discard our garbage. Even with these precautions, a disappointed number of runners managed to just throw their cups and gels on the street. I mean, I do understand the elite group not doing this, but it should be that hard for the rest of the runners.
8. Finishing Area
The finishing area was just as organized as the rest of the marathon and when we finally crossed the finishing line, we were promptly met by a water station and a goodie bag station, a station for aluminum blankets, one for the finisher medal and also a separate station for those receiving the Six Star Finisher medal (meaning you have completed marathons in Boston, Chicago, New York, Berlin, London and Tokyo). A huge moment!
Further on we were led to our baggage and then to a separate building for charity runners where we could change our clothes and warm ourselves.
I also heard rumors that those having registered at the expo that they were not to bring any baggage to the starting line, got a poncho and a fleece jacket. I did not, however, see any of those, since I had more than enough looking out for my self.
These are some of the reflections I made before, during and after the run and I hope they can be of help to others who are to participate in Tokyo Marathon, an adventure I would really recommend. 🙂
Friday was the departure date from Japan and I left Tokyo with somehow ambivalent feelings. On the one side, there was still so much to see (and eat), but on the other (and definetely the most dominant one) side, I was longing to see Christer (junior) again, after 9 days of Skyping.
I hour train ride, almost 12 hour first leg flight, sprinting through the airport in Copenhagen, another 1 hour flight and a short taxi ride later, we were finally home. Our luggage, however, didn’t sprint as well in Copenhagen, so they never made it to Sandefjord.
It was so good to see Christer again and he actually took it well when I told him that the Japanese candy I had bought for him was in my suitcase. Something that was definetely not in my suitcase, but where lying safely in my hand luggage, were my 2 new medals and my first order of business (even before taking a shower after 20 hours of travelling) was to hang them in their rightfulky place on the Wall of Fame. There is something so right about this picture, right?
As earlier mentioned, the trip home was a bit bumpy and I did notice (while sprinting through the airport) that my feet were not fully pn my side. Granted I felt a bit flubby from before after binging on delicacies of the fabulous Japanese cuisine for the last 9 days, but this was somewhat unexpected. Check out the size on my legs after the long flight (from last night and from earlier this morning)!! Have you seen worse?
All in all it was OK to be back at home, but what I don’t appreciate is the weather goods already messing with me and in the form of MORE SNOW!!! Now thatwe were finally gotten rid og the old one (sigh…).
Today is unfortunately our last day in Tokyo and what better way to finish off than with some sumo wrestling? To us westerners seeing 2 flubby men in a skimpy little outfit can seem a bit strange, but here in Japan it’s the national sport and the wrestlers are idolized.
We had hoped to see a genuin sumo wrestling match, but unfortunately none were to be arranged during our stay. Instead we settled for an organized tour, ordered through getyourguide.com, but arranged by a local operator. It included an introduction to the sport by some retired wrestlers as well as a show-match. A very touristy thing to do of course, but hey, we wanted to see sumo wrestling, and this was the only viable option to obtain that. The price was about USD 110 and the activity also included the option of going against one of the wrestlers (spoler alert: I skipped that…) and lunch.
We were to meet up in the Ryoguku area, famous for its many sumo stables. We had a bit of a hard time finding the placesince the entrance felt like just a whole in the wall, but we had predicted this, so we still had some time to spare when we finally reached our destination.
We were greeted by an amicable middelaged Japanese lady, who fortunately spoke English fluently. She took us to our table, located in a big room with a big mat in one end. Around the room we saw memoribilis of two wrestlers’ former glory.
Soon the show started and we got to meet the wrestlers (which names I heard, but managed to forget like 5 seconds later). They took us through the rules, warm-ups and techniques, all in Japanese of course, but the lady from before translated with
The wrestlers also did 3 show matches, where the big one (still do not remember his name ) won 2-1.
Before the lunch was served, we learned that sumo wrestlers cook their own food. They actually get so experienced in cooking that 50% of them choose the restaurant business as their second careere. They only eat two times a day, but then they eat a lot. The guy below revealed that when he was active he was able to eat up to 300 shushi pcs in one single meal, but now he is down to like a hundred.
The lunch was like all other food we have tasted in Japan; really tasty. We got a «Chanko Nabe», a real sumo lunch consisting of a hot pot with vegetables, proteins an chicken broth.
Unfortunately this was our last activity in the amazing city which is Tokyo. Tomorrow we go home, so tickets to the express train have been purchased and our suitcases (nearly) packed. So long, Tokyo, hope to see you again.