This year nine Namban Rengo runners participated in the 40th Tateyama Wakashio marathon on January 26th. It seems to have become popular in recent years as a late January event convenient to Tokyo. One main attraction of the event is that if you get a mild, clear winter day then you can gaze at Mt. Fuji across the bay as you loop back to the goal.
Unfortunately, we did not enjoy Mt. Fuji views as it was cold, grey and raining steadily. Many of us caught a 6 a.m. bus from Shinjuku, where the weather was also fierce. The bus dropped us directly at the park for the start, which is a couple of kms before Tateyama Station, so it was very convenient, although we were then standing in the rain with over two hours still to go before our start. It was a bit funny watching lots of folks try to keep their fluffy, fragile Nike shoes out of the mud. Terry brought a small tent in which we stashed our gear, although the official luggage drop was also conveniently located just next to the start.
The Tateyama area is a rugged, coastal part of Chiba a far cry from the suburbs closer to Tokyo. Unfortunately, the area became famous for bad weather after getting absolutely hammered in last fall’s typhoon season. We saw many roofs still damaged and covered with plastic tarps. Due to the impact of the storms, and potentially fewer volunteers, the event sent all number cards/chips ahead of time by mail so we were already prepped upon arrival and did not need to do any additional registration. Hopefully the influx of participants for the event was a boost to the local spirits and economy.
Most runners started the race wearing a trash bag or raincoat. It took a little while to get warmed up, but I found the 6-7C temperature ok once we got going and threw away the trash bag I had been wearing after the first 5km. The first half of the course follows the coastline and it was quite blustery for a stretch after 10km. Once you pass the halfway mark, from 23-32km the course cuts inland and is a bit undulating. None of it was too steep, but the down sections added a bit of pounding to the legs. All of which made the last 10km back along the coast to the park tricky to save enough energy for, particularly with a nice headwind. The course is actually quite pretty with the ocean and then the undulating hills. On a clear, cool winter’s day it should be even nicer.
The event was very well organized with friendly volunteers as you expect in Japan. The delicious tonjiru soup back at the park was a magic elixir after feeling chilled. There were about 6,000 runners in the full. As it is not a flat course and has modest cutoff times, maybe there are not so many people going all out for a top time as in Japanese races with strict cutoffs. But the age groups were very competitive. A particular highlight of the Namban contingent was participation of Nick Coyle’s younger son in his first marathon, which he completed in fine style.
Namban runners: Alan (3:07), Yu Hang (3:33), Terry (3:38), Nick (3:43), Andrew F (3:44), Meeks (4:05), Jacob (4:17) and Taras, plus Ashley in the 10k (40m). Thanks to Alan Cannon for this report.