Friday, December 29, 2017

Year-End 33 K Barefoot Challenge

On December 29th I ran part of the official course of Tokyo Marathon 2018 that takes place on Feb. 25. I ran with two of my runner friends. This event had three meanings. One is personal. I wanted to prepare for some big races scheduled in the first two months of next year. The second is interpersonal. I wanted to share the joy of running with my friends who also like the sport. The third meaning is...well, it's still personal, because it adds to my pleasure. I ran because I wanted to understand the course at a deeper level. Why should I? Well, here is why. My friends are running the race, and I want to talk about the race with them after the race. If I know the course well, I can enjoy talking with them. That's my third reason.

My friends and I left Raffine Hibiya, a runner's base located in Central Tokyo near Metro Hibiya Station. We ran at a comfortable pace and reached our first destination, the Kaminarimo Gate in Asakusa. It's 7 K from the runner's base. We had some pictures taken by a rickshaw driver, who was also a runner and told us some fun stories from his younger days. 

Our next destination was the Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine in Monzennakacho, the official halfway point in the Tokyo Marathon. We got there much later than originally scheduled, due mainly to frequent stops at intersections. We had a bowl of ramen at a ramen restaurant to fuel ourselves with lots of carb as well as minerals lost through perspiration. 

After the meal the other two runners and I took different routes. While I took the official race route, the other two took a short cut to the west-northwest to hit the Imperial Palace and do some laps around it.

I embarked on a lonely journey first to the north, then hit the Edo Dori, also known as Route 6, and then went southwest to come back to where we started off earlier. But that's not the goal yet. I had 11 more K to cover that is made up of a shuttle route between Hibiya and Shinabawa. The sun was about to hit the horizon, and twilight was closing in. The surface was rather rough from Hibiya onward. It started damaging both of my soles. I found myself starting an inner talk with myself. Should I go on? Or should I quit and turn back before I'm too far away from the runner's base. I decided to move on, telling myself that I could always put on my aqua slippers as a last resort if I wanted to; I carried them in my backpack.  

Once I hit the Daiichi Keihin road and turn right, the condition of the sidewalk got much better. It lifted my spirit. The way to Shinagawa was not so difficult, with the course basically straight, and the road condition no longer presenting any cause of stress. Once I reached the turning point in Takanawa, I had no worries, because all I needed to do is just go back the same route.

The sun was not completely set, and the sky was beginning to be engulfed with the night. It's the moment when the Tokyo Tower is the most beautiful. I love running by it at that time of day in this time of year. I made a brief stop and took a picture.

In no time I was within 1 K of the goal. I was running on the western side of Hibiya Dori. The road condition was much better there. I regretted that I hadn't run that side when I headed for Shinagawa. Oh, well. What's done is done. Maybe next time I run, I'll run the better side.

At 5:19, almost an hour later than originally scheduled I reached the goal. Mission accomplished! And what's more, I renewed my personal best for the distance covered by running barefoot. My previous best was 25 K. Today I ran 33 K. So what am I going to do? Will I run my next half marathon without shoes now that I have proven to myself that I can go far beyond the half marathon distance? I don't know. Barefoot run is so much affected by the road condition. I really must test run. I'm hoping to do it either on New Year's Eve, or on New Year's Day.

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