Recovering from Illness seems to get harder as I get older. It’s frustrating to remember how quickly I bounced back as a younger person, But I suppose that as time does nothing but march forward, I’ll just be grateful I can recover at all. I traveled within Ireland for 9 days. I’ll write more about that later, as yesterday something very exciting took place!
I ran the Tokyo Marathon.
Not in spectacular fashion for sure, (my time was just at 5 hours, which isn’t fast by any measure) but I ran, I didn’t stop (except for water and food) from the beginning to the end.
I woke up early, puttered through my usual race day ritual, got on my bicycle and headed to the train station. I arrived downtown at the starting point about an hour early, which gave me a comfortable amount of time to put my backpack in the “baggage hold”, find my gate and make friends with all of the amazing people around me. I met people from Australia, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Iceland all in the first 25 minutes of standing around with a smile on my face.
As we started running (It took 10 minutes JUST to get over the start line!) I looked up and noticed the governor of Tokyo was standing there waving and sending 36,000 of us off to run! It was a really fun moment to tell my daughter about when I arrived home last night.
By the end of the first five kilometers, I knew something was sort of “wrong”. I am usually totally warmed up and feel great after eight kilometers, so I decided to wait a little longer, and then make a plan for disaster. I was thankful the course was relatively flat for the whole 42.195 kilometers, and that there wouldn’t be any surprise stressors.
I arrived at the twelve-kilometer marker feeling tired, sluggish, and as though someone had set fire to my calf muscles. I squeezed over to the edge of the course and tried to distract myself with the people lined up to support and cheer on the runners. I thought maybe some food and water might help too, so I walked through the next aid station, and took in as much fluid as possible.
At the seventeen kilometer marker, I had to stop to take a short potty break and was so lucky to find no line in the women’s toilets! That felt like some sort of sign from the gods, so I continued to the next part of the course.
Twenty four, twenty-five, twenty-six kilometers, the crowd energy wasn’t enough anymore, so I decided to do what I said I didn’t really want to do. I put on my headphones. I didn’t want to be isolated from the people around me, but I knew I needed to do something a bit different. While I was in Dublin I rediscovered a lot of music that really makes the time fly by. I ran up and down the streets of Tokyo to old cranberries tunes, the Proclaimers, and some early 80’s dance club mixes. Before I knew it I was seeing signs for the thirty-five marker. Only seven kilometers left. That is the moment the sun came out, and an aid station drew near. When I arrived at the tables, I saw they had cream filled bread rolls to hand out, and my sad, tired little heart rejoiced, and I stuffed some in my pockets to be gobbled slowly as I kept running.
The sugar and carbohydrates were just the tickets to keep me upright. Thirty-seven, thirty-eight, and like a machine losing a belt, or the bolt breaking in an engine, something in my body went terribly awry. The pain started creeping up my lower back. muscles were contracting that weren’t supposed to be contracted. I leaned forward to try to get away from whatever was happening. I was not successful, but I knew I only had 4000 meters left. With no reason aside from the pain to keep me from forward-movement, I kept at it and crept through Nihombashi. Tom Jones “Sex Bomb” came through my headset and that bizarrely sealed everything. The trumpets woke me from the funk I was in, and I realized I was about to cross the finish line with some semblance of dignity. I became excited, and as usual, an emotional wreck as the cheers became louder, more fervent and more and more personal. “You’re almost there” was a reality. People I had never met in my life were reaching out to touch my hand as I passed through, in what seemed like an attempt to transfer their energy, so I could just get my legs to carry me another seven hundred meters or so.
I crossed the finish line and as you do, I stopped running. My hips began screaming, my back seized and that’s when I realized, I still had another full kilometer of walking to do. The volunteers were so wonderful, wrapping my big fluffy finishing towel around me snugly for warmth, wrapping me again like a pathetic taco in a mylar space blanket, and sending me down the chute for a finishers medal and to pick up my backpack. I got to the end of the line, changed into clean, dry clothes and remembered that not only do I have to get home somehow I have to ride a bicycle when I get there!
I don’t think I’ll ever forget this “first” experience. I’m anxiously awaiting the next opportunity to do it again, And I am convinced that everyone who can, should at least once in their life, train for, and run a marathon.