Osaka Marathon 2016: My International Debut

OSAKA MARATHON is one of the hottest marathons in Japan today. Its theme called “Making a Rainbow Together” featured seven charity themes based on the rainbow colors, including green for a clean environment and navy blue for children’s future. The 2016 edition happened last October 30th.

Back in May, my friend and fellow 2015 TBR Dream Marathon finisher Arlene Cao who kept on encouraging me to join. She knew that I wanted to join marathons overseas at all costs. Heavy workload has been an obstacle for me to join races even just outside Metro Manila. So, I signed up and got accepted. There’s no looking back.

I resumed my marathon training right after receiving my acceptance email. My training consists of short tempo and LSD runs, incorporated with some weight training. It took four months for me to get back in shape and lost around 10 lbs.

ARRIVING JAPAN:

I arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun for the very first time on October 26. Right after landing at the Kansai International Airport, I took a train straight to Tengachaya to drop my luggage where I was staying at. I immediate grabbed some food and enjoyed walking on the streets of Tengachaya. I felt safe there. My first night in Japan was short yet sweet. I needed to sleep early because I had a lot of places to visit the next couple of days.

GOING SOLO ON DAY TWO:

I visited a few heritage parks in Nara, which 1 1/2 hour train away from Osaka. I had fun visiting the Nara National Museum, Todai-ji, and feeding deer at Nara Deer Park. There was a pregnant deer bit my butt after I ran out of deer cookies. Too bad that I was not able to visit other historical landmarks including the famed Kasuga Grand Shrine because of the sunset at 4:00 PM.

Nara, Japan

Before I went back to Osaka, I watched a great street musician named Starduck Tony outside of the Nara Kintetsu Line. I also saw the giant Glicoman LED billboard on Dotonbori by chance while walking towards Shinsaibashi. Gosh, there were lots of cosplayers and tourists around since it was just a few days before Halloween. Before day two ends, I went to the nearest branch of Tower Records to buy CDs of my favorite j-rock artists.

DAY THREE:

Gilbert I met on the third day of my vacation. We went to Kyoto to Fushimi Inari Shrine. Too bad, we didn’t stay that long at the shire due to heavy rain. So, we went to a cat café nearby called Neko Café Time to spend for an hour because we both like cats. Neko Café Time is known for its laidback setup and adorable rescued cats. We enjoyed our time with the resident cats there.

Gilbert and I in Kyoto
Exploring Kyoto
Food and souvenir market in Kyoto
Neko Café Time

When the rain stopped we left Kyoto to meet up with Chaps, Jay, and Pam. Afterward, we went straight to INTEX Osaka to claim our race kits. We are impressed by how organized the staff is. We also bought gear by Mizuno, exclusively made for the Osaka Marathon as souvenir items. I had a pretty long day three.

A DAY BEFORE THE RACE DAY:

We did our practice run along Osakajo Park and saw the Osaka Castle. After running we headed straight to Dotonbori and ate at the world-famous Ichiran Ramen. We also had a chance to see beautiful and talented girls auditioning to become an idol right before heading to our respective hotels on sunset.

The Osaka Castle
Glicoman wishes us strong and injury finish
Gelato at Dotonbori

THE RACE DAY:

My friends and I arrived at Osaka Castle Park at 7:30 AM. I was pretty cold probably, at around 10 degrees Celsius and the sky was clear. We did warm-ups and took pictures whilst walking towards the starting line outside of the Osaka-jo Hall. It was reported that there were more or less than 30,000 runners from different countries joined the marathon.

Prepping my Osaka Marathon race gear

The gun started at 9:00 AM but we waited for 45 minutes before our wave’s turn. My body especially my legs started to shiver from the cold whilst being stuck at the starting line. I paid the price of not wearing full-length compression tights.

Ready to rumble!
Striking a pose before the race starts

At the first 10 kilometers, Gilbert and I started the race slow. But, I started to up the pace after an hour of running and I left Gilbert for me run a bit faster. I also took pictures of runners and race attractions from the opposite lane. What I have noticed was water and sports drink stations were placed strategically every three or four kilometers. Maybe because the race happened on a cooler season to prevent us from overhydrating.

Those faster runners…

The locals were showing full support by cheering and giving away all sorts of stuff from candies, green tea, chocolate, fun-sized takoyaki to Air Salonpas for free. That shows how warm the people of Osaka are. In return, many participants gave them high fives.

Children’s choir outside of the Osaka City Hall

Somewhere along the 16th kilometer, I bumped into a friend Vincent, whom I have met at a rock concert in Hong Kong in May of 2015. We were catching up for several minutes while running before I left him at kilometer 19.

with Vincent Lee from Hong Kong

Suddenly, I felt dizzy and experience bad cramps on my thighs along the 24th kilometer. I was about to hit the dreaded wall TOO EARLY. I was heavily focused on exceeding my goal of 5 hours and 15 minutes that almost took a toll on me. I had no choice but to stop at the nearest medical station to get some treatment. Medics gave me a can of oxygen and thigh massage to recover. That thigh massage was pretty stiff! I hurt like hell, believe me! Yet, it helped me to recover. I started taking Salt Stick capsules given to me by Gilbert to increase my body salts. Recovery is a bit struggle for me since this was my first time to run in the cold. It would have been prevented if I wore full-length tights.

The sun went up and the weather became warm at around 1:00 PM. I began having signs of life from kilometers 27 to 30. While my momentum was increasing, I started having fun at the race after seeing race volunteers wearing costumes of popular anime such as Lupin III and Rose of the Versailles. I suffered some cramps again right before the kilometer 34 marker so, I paused at the sidewalk and stretched it out to fasten my recovery. The hydration stations around that area were too far from one another. I was a little bit worried after almost running out of water in my squeeze bottle.

All-out support by Lady Oscar and her troupe

Finally, I felt strongest from kilometer 37 to the finish. Thanks to a few race spectators who gave out water and green tea to racers. I ran at a consistent pace of one-minute run and 30-second walk pace until I crossed the finish line at INTEX Osaka.

Despite not meeting expectations of finishing at 5 hours ad 15 minutes, I managed to finish strong with well-kempt hair and established a new personal record at 5:34:09.

Mission accomplished!
 What a colorful medal!

I am also happy for my friends who have either broke their respective records or finished injury-free.

AFTERMATH:

After the race, we all went inside the stadium to claim our medals and baggage which were nicely arranged per wave. After the race, my friends and I treated ourselves with sumptuous sashimi and cold beer in Shinsaibashi.

Yummy!

Too bad, I had to fly back to Manila the following night after the race due to work. Good thing, a quick dip in a bathtub full of cold water followed by a nice hot shower helped me to recover easily. I even sprayed almost my entire body of a can of Air Salonpas before sleeping. Good thing recovery was quick enough despite the thigh cramps and slight fever symptoms.

I wish I had stayed a few more days in the Kansai Region to explore more places and do more shopping. Otherwise, finishing the Osaka Marathon has been one of the finest races I have ever joined.

I will be back in Japan for sure!