土曜日, 3月 05, 2011

Run for your life! *Updated*

Before I get started, lemme ask: Do YOU have a blog? If you do, please leave me a link in the comments section, or "follow" mine and I'll follow yours back. I like this means of keeping in touch!

You may or may not know, but Hiroshima City is the headquarters for MAZDA (zoom zoom).

Did you watch the whole video?!? I actually understand what they're saying, and I couldn't bring myself to. SO CORNY!
But seriously, Mazda and companies that supply them, make up 30% of Hiroshima City's job market (not an exact number). They have their own hospital, and enormous manufacturing plant, and they even sponsored the building of Hiroshima's spiffy new Ball park!

Their compound is amazing and huge and no outsider is allowed in, Chocolate Factory style...EXCEPT for the first Sunday of March every year. What happens on that day? The MAZDA 駅伝 (Ekiden). Translated as "Relay Race" this is a short race (less than a half marathon) and divided into 6 legs that are run by different team members, who pass off a sash (not a baton) to the next person at the end of each leg.
A river runs through it...

There are two divisions: Mazda employees, and everybody else. Anyone can register a team, or just come watch, and my workplace, the Hiroshima International Center, has entered a team every year, partly because 3 of our members are dispatched FROM Mazda. In fact one of those three, the president of the International Center, is the CEO of Mazda himself! But his title as President of the HIC is in name only, as far as I can tell.
 Since coming here I have been volun-told, as my brother Bill says, to join the team, and both times I've run as anchor. It's only 2.2km, but it definitely comes with a lot of pressure, since everyone who passes me is guaranteed to directly affect our final score, and everyone I manage to pass improves it!
The Full Course (I run the highlighter-yellow portion)
My first year i was pretty nervous. I had never run competitively for any distance, and had no idea what was expected of me. I asked what our team's score was the year before and when they said 100-something-eth I was a little relieved.

We ended up coming in 67th! I think mostly because we had a marathon runner on our team doing the longest portion, but we have also had a 70-something man named Mr. Tanimura doing the shortest bit (1.2km) every year, but I did manage to pass about 6 more people myself, and was only passed by one person who I made sprint for it at the end! I felt even better about our score when we went in the auditorium for the closing ceremony and it turned out the winners were the Yamaguchi University track team. I remember thinking "Are they even allowed?!?" It seemed unfair at the time. But last year, even though I personally only got to pass 3 people during the final leg, we came in 39th place! (Out of 160+ teams)
Click to enlarge
Afterwards, we always go to yakiniku - grill-it-yourself indoor bbq restaurants made popular by Korea, but loved by all Japanese people - and undo what little health benefits we might have gotten from it, but last year, while we ate, the table next ours' smoke-intake lit on fire (it was also covered in grease after all), everyone had to leave the restaurant, and we wound up walking 30 minutes before we found a new place to start over! This year, we went to a Hiroshima-teppanyaki restaurant, which was fine with me, because I just ate yakiniku with my friends Kelly, Joe, and his father visiting Japan, last Thursday!
Joe and dad and glorious, glorious yakiniku

So I showed up at 8:45am on the dot, even though the race didn't start until 10:30, and waking up early was easily the biggest struggle of the day for me! :P I did have a good breakfast though (Bananas and some pork and potatoes). We got dressed out, and put on our blue Happi; the runners pinned numbers to them, and after the opening ceremony in the auditorium, we walked to our positions.
Notice I am rocking my Vibrams this year! ↑
Judging by our fastest runner (a marathoner we had run the 5km portion first) and our 5th runner, my higher-up Mr. Maekawa, who passed the sash to me for the final leg, we were around 60th place (out of 160 non-Mazda teams) for the entire race.
Greg time.
By the time I got the sash it had started drizzling. I had no idea how that would affect me since I've NEVER run in the rain EVER, but once I got the sash, and saw people with yellow tags in front of me, I started running hard. Harder than I thought I would be able to keep up actually. I kept second-guessing my breathing. Was I breathing too hard to keep up for the full 2.2km (That is almost 1.5 miles btw)? I didn't want to pass a bunch of people just to have them all pass me at the finish line, but I couldn't help myself. My competitiveness had kicked in, and I started reeling them in. In the first few minutes I had passed four people easily. Then a high school boy blew past me and I thought "that's okay, you're still up by 3" and kept my eyes on the next group of "marks" further down the road. They were clearly only ahead because their teammates before were faster than mine, but my team was better balanced. I passed them around the halfway point of my leg, and could see a few more ahead of them, so I pressed on. I had become oblivious to the rain, and as I passed the next two, I saw three more in the distance. I first thought that I they were too far to catch up with, but I could see the incline on the way to the bridge over the river was slowing them down, so I decided to run faster up the incline. I was on their heels as we reached the final straightaway, so I hit my final burners, charged all the way to finish line and improved my team's score by 11 positions to finish at....
I was gasping for breath as one of my bosses (one of those who was actually dispatched to work at the HIC from Mazda) found me at the finish line, congratulated me and we went back in the auditorium to change and wait for the closing ceremony. That was my day yesterday. March, 6th, 2011.
This year's runners and support team (All Hiroshima International Center employees)

3 件のコメント:

  1. I'm gonna stir the pot here. I guess I have some catching up to do on your blog haha. I'm running in the Osaki ekiden pretty soon. I ran the first leg last year (about 2.8km, a big hill up and a small decline at the end). I'll run it again on March 20th!

    I totally know what you mean about passing people. Last year, I decided to pace myself in the beginning but half way through I wasn't even winded and so I started passing people with a ferocity not often seen in Japan. Spectators I didn't even know (as well as most of the people I passed) congratulated me on my final sprint. I heard a lot of "足長いけえ," haha.

    How are the shoes working out? They still look STRANGE, haha. It's great that you are bonding outside of work (all though this is probably akin to a work party--as in "non-mandatory" but very essential for the team).

  2. I'm soooooo glad your documenting this journey of yours! So many cool experiences! And that food looked awesome.

    So, running in the individually toed shoes- how was that?

  3. good! I have jogged 5-6km in them a few times before, and walked around when the cold winter days' weather permitted, and I much prefer them to shoes or "foot coffins" as the "barefoot" shoe websites like to call them.