Last month I flew thousands of miles around the world so I could run 26.2! I raced the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in Oita, Japan. I wasn’t sure what to expect, running a marathon in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. Turns out, running is pretty universal. Once the gun went off, I felt like one of the pack.
I traveled from Austin with another local athlete, David Fuentes, in a sort of foreign exchange program with our hometown marathons. Austin and Oita have been sister cities for 30 years, although the runner exchange only started a couple years ago.
We spent four full days in Oita for the race. For the first couple days, we kept ourselves busy acclimating to the food (I ate raw fish… every day!), getting over our jet lag, and getting our legs ready to race. We also got to meet the Oita Mayor–he looked great in the cowboy hat we gave him! I was delighted to see he had a pair of longhorn horns displayed in his office too.
The race boasted a beautiful course, running out-and-back on an oceanside boulevard. It was a little warm, but the flat elevation profile almost guaranteed fast times for the racers. I thought I could run close to my PR, but after a fast first half I bonked big time. I ran a 1:25 first half (6:30 per mile) and a 1:41 second half (7:42 per mile). I wanted to drop out, but I wasn’t injured and decided I owed it to Oita, Austin, and my friends back home to finish! My race time was not something I was proud of, but the overall journey was such an incredible experience that I can’t be mad!
After the race, we recovered in the local onsen (hot spring bath). Not quite a massage… but sitting in the open air bath, looking out at the mountains, was a relaxing experience for the body and mind.
I had never traveled abroad before this, and getting to experience another culture as an invited guest was an honor. I can’t wait to help host the Oita runners next year at the Austin Marathon!