Valentine’s Day has come and gone and I hope everybody had an exciting weekend with their lovers or friends or well…televisions, I guess? Anyways, how did you spend the day after Valentine’s Day? Brunch with some sweety? Walk of shame back to your apartment? How about a day long relay race? That was me…If you’ve read my post on my village’s relay race through Totsukawa, you’ll know that these events are pretty big in Japan.
This time the JETs of Kansai and a few of our friends teamed up to win!!
Ok, no we didn’t. We did, however, go to participate. That’s what the JET Programme is all about, grass roots internationalization. What says that better than two teams of foreigners racing against 53 other teams of Japanese high schools, junior high schools, running clubs, and neighborhood groups. That’s right, 55 teams competed in this and each team was comprised of 6 team members, not to mention substitutes. Each team would be given an orange sash that the runners had to pass off to the next member of their team in between each leg of the race. The legs were as such:
1区 3.6km a little up and down
2区 2.9km flat and a little up and hard up
3区 3.9km down and flat
4区 4.5km 1km hard up and down and flat
5区 4.0km flat and a little up and down
6区 3.7km flat
Not too terrible, but my team was still worried for a few reasons…
We had decided to dub ourselves Team Porqueeee because we had no idea why we voluntarily subjected ourselves to this race. Let me set the seen for you:
The race is on a Sunday, the day after Valentine’s Day. All of us had already planned on going out that night in Osaka to celebrate and only one of us is an actual marathon runner. Just keeps getting worse right? Apparently, we’re gluttons for punishment :(.
Well, let me introduce you to the team:
1. Running our first leg of 3.6 km is our English JET Mike!
Starting off with the entire crowd could be a bit intimidating for some people, but not Mike! He blew past people and handed off his sash to me as one of the first 10 people to finish leg 1! What a champion!
2. Next up was me! Running the second leg of 2.9 km didn’t seem so bad, at first.
When I got to the last 1.5 km of my leg which consisted of nothing but a 60° vertical angle hill, it was hell. Every runner, no matter who they were, started walking and panting on their way up. What was worse is that the neighborhoods seemed to strategically place themselves so that they would just pop up around corners and start cheering you on. I’m telling you guys, it was the weirdest feeling in the world, a combination of shame and adrenaline to start running and not disappoint these random strangers….bless them.
3. Reaching the top of the hill I passed off to my fellow inaka (rural) JET, Jorge with the 3.9 km leg!
Now, if you read my previous relay race blog, you’ll know that Jorge had the absolute hardest leg of the Totsukawa relay. 7 km ALL up hill; he is a freaking saint. Luckily, this leg was only 3.9 km down and then flat. He deserved this!
4. Feeling the power, Jorge rushed past another runner at the end of his leg and passed off to our marathon expert Oscar!
Oscar is our ace, this dude can run. By taking the longest leg of 4.5 k with the first kilometer being entirely up hill, he had definitely gotten the worst one. But, like a pro, he beared down and finished in plenty of time.
5. Breezing through to our next teammate, Oscar passed off to our Nara Knights Rugby captain and resident Kanji Master, James.
Showing his team spirit, James didn’t forget to get a high five from us as he ran past, ready to win. That’s a team captain right there!
*SIDE NOTE* Found this little gem at the 5th leg…definitely coming back6. Our final runner was the our fellow inaka JET, Jessie. Sadly, at this point I got a little lost…like a lot lost. In order to photograph each runner, we had to drive to each of their locations through the incredibly narrow, labyrinth like streets of Japan. Because of those insufferable one way streets and traffic jams, I wasn’t able to get there in time.
But don’t worry, we booked it to the finish line and made it just in time to photograph Jessie rocking her way to victory.
Ok, we were pretty much one of the last teams but who cares! It was an awesome run and we all actually ran! Team Porqueee had done it and burned off all the drinks from the night before! Two birds with one stone!
Afterwards there was to be a closing ceremony (this is Japan after all). I had to leave early, but one of our friends who ended up running for another team as a substitute got first place and a freaking medal! How chill is that. This was another successful race and I can’t wait for the next ones. Eventually we will be able to stand up against the local teams :). If you are a JET in Japan, as well, have you done anything like this? Any advice would be pretty killer :).