Fukuoka Marathon, 2016

Run - 04 Dec 2016

And there it boldly stood, like a beacon of comfort, freedom and desire. The KFC marking the 15km mark along the Fukuoka Marathon course offered a completely new challenge for me. It wasn’t so much the food I was craving at this point in the race, it’s more of a wild metaphor for what it was like to be in my head at that time: half focussed - half drifting - mind wandering, second guessing every step. Although, the fragrance of fried chicken wafting in the stiff breeze had a ushering type affect too.

So, back to this wild metaphor of mine. What was going on in my mind at this point? Well, there was the shoes being too small, the challenging wet conditions & my right calf twinging with every step. Shit happens in a marathon. The so called race plan is certainly more than likely that no to be thrown out the window. The challenge of being adaptive and relaxed as variables come into play, is a hallmark of what a marathon is about. I think, somewhere, in this paradigm of rambling thought is where the art of successfully running a marathon exists. It’s not linear or straight forward, it’s just one step at a time, time and time again.

For me the 2016 Fukuoka Marathon was unique in many ways. I use the word unique here because everything was different: the culture, food, logistics, travel and the race itself. The thing I learned here was to be adaptable before and during the race and not let the little things influence how my mind perceived the situation. This adaptive lesson is one that i’ll take with me as I venture across boarders to more races in the future.

So, lets get to the race bit and Japan.

It was the 70th year of the Fukuoka Marathon. The race itself is dubbed as one of the great world marathons, marked significantly by the fact you need to have a sub 2:40 marathon just to enter. There are two start lines; one kicks off inside the stadium for the sub 2:276 guys, and the other outside in a carpark somewhere. Both races meet up after 1500m or so, and collide into one big Japanese sushi roll.

My 2:26:19 from the 2016 Gold Coast Marathon was enough to sneak me into the stadium start. The classic Japanese traditions and formality were distinctly on show here, as the marching bands, the army patrols and guards lined the course for the full 42kms.

I also found there being something romantic about the Fukuoka Marathon. I can’t quite place my finger on it, and perhaps romantic isn’t the best work to use. But, as a lover of running, marathons in particular, racing in Japan, a country where they have a proud tradition and unprecedented depth of runner, means that when you race on their soil and see just how important running is to the Japanese, you become just a little bit overwhelmed by how special the moment is.

Oh, and right about here I have to mention the people. At every moment on the trip I was greatened and directed with such enthusiasm from the locals and officials alike. Their well-mannered custom I know is widely known, but as it was my first time to Japan, seeing it and witnessing it for myself was staggering. Many of the simple & well-mannered conversions I wish I could bring back and implement with me in western culture - especially in Australia and New Zealand.

Okay then, back to the race then shall we. The nuts and bolts looked a bit like this: 1:12:12 through half way, battled into the wind for a while, then held on strong to finish in 2:25:22. PB. Relieved to have made it.

So, Japan. With the mind games you enforced, the beautiful people & a historic race; I really did have one heck of a time.

I will be back to race again, now that I know what it’s like to want KFC at 15km.