Nakagawa Half Marathon

Yesterday, I took part in the Nakagawa Half Marathon 中川ハーフマラソン, located in a beautiful valley of southern Nagano prefecture 長野県. I came across this marathon by browsing through, Japan's premiere website for signing up for marathons. (Very similar to in the states.) Unlike the Takaoka Marathon, which I've "run" twice now (Nov 18th, 2013, Jun 18th, 2014), this was much more laid back and treated as a community event, rather than an athletic competition.

They actually had a marathon expo prior to the event where people could do packet pick-up. I was unable to make it there the day before, so I went the morning of the marathon. Packet Pick-up was quite smooth. With each packet, you could enter a raffle to win several local goods. I won an apple.

Inside the packet was a bunch of advertisement, and coupons. Also included is the marathon "program" which includes a list of ALL participants. The Takaoka Marathon did this, too. Looking through the list, I was one of only 3 or 4 foreign participants, out of the entire ~3000 person list. They gave out 2 bibs, too. The front one contains the timing chip. The back one shows which prefecture you've come from.

Opening Ceremony errata

On the day of the race, the expo was open from 7:00am to 8:20am. At 8:30am, they had the opening ceremony.

This lasted 40 minutes. :/ The speakers didn't take all that long, but the special guests absorbed a ton of time. Musical guest: Parallel Dream came to cheer us on. This is an idol group from Nagano. And M高史 (Takashi), which is apparently some kind of famous runner, or a comedian, or both? I dunno.

They entertained the crowd, and then everyone did the morning exercise routine. I left and wandered around.

The race finally began at 9:30am. I really miss the 7:00am start times in America.

The Course

M高史 fired the starting pistol, and then started giving everyone high-fives as they ran passed him. It was SO congested, I don't think I started actually running until 1km in.

For the first 3.5km, it was completely uphill. We started at 470m above sea level, and kept climbing and climbing. At 3.5km, we reached the highest point in the marathon, 620m.

The view along the way was great.

Going downhill is so much easier. Gravity does most of the work. :) But, it was still too congested to actually glide down the hill. And now we were running against the people behind us still climbing the hill.

Just past the 4km mark, the last person went by, and road width essentially doubled. I launched myself into the other lane, and somewhat leapt down the hill. Stride, stride, stride.

We continued down through a neighborhood and past several bridges. The roads weren't completely shut down, so some cars would drive by, and try to make it through the packs of people.

Around the 8km, the "bottom" of the course became visible. The lowest point of 420m, which were flat farm plots. You were able to see almost everyone in front of you, and the direction of the course.

When running marathons, I really prefer to think about the course one mile, or one kilometer at a time. I like knowing which mile or kilometer I'm running, but being able to see the entire course is just too much to take in. "I need to run all of that?!" And there are so many people in front of me. Bleh…

On top of that, the course zig-zags around the rice fields, rather than going in a straight line. It's somewhat demoralizing when a course doesn't take the most efficient route. It feels like I'm wasting time, rather than getting to the finish as fast as I can.

It's quite beautiful, though. :)

The last leg of the course was an uphill climb to the finish line. At this point, it was nice to look back and see the course, and remind myself just how far I've traveled. Seeing the course here is way more rewarding rather than seeing it near the middle of the run.

Only a short kilometer or two remaining, until crossing the finish line. After crossing the finish line, they drape you in a large tower with the marathon's logo on it. Really nice. My time was 2 hours 40 minutes 13 seconds.

Not bad. :) I did a bit better than I thought I would. Continuing back to the expo hall, you could take some bottled water, fruit, and other post-race food. Like an actual marathon back in the states!

Overall, I really liked this race. It went through some beautiful scenery, and with the 3 hour limit, there were many more casual racers, rather than a legion of athletes. The race was nice and casual, and was very fun. This race was the most like any marathon I've done back in the states. Very positive, and fun.

I'll definitely do this again next time.

Update (June 25th): Man.. I have been 100% sick since doing this race. I've been coughing every day, and my lungs are constantly full of flem. Ech. I most've inhaled pollen or dust or something airborne during this race that has ruined my lungs. :(

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