Namban Rengo at Oda field

Namban Rengo at Oda field
Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

A planned activity – take the day off! That’s how my head works. While in Russia I’d searched for ‘Japan running races’ and found that I’d essentially no chance as they are generally booked a month or more in advance and that’s it. But the club giving the info run their track session on a Wednesday and are a ‘foreigners’ running club’. Perfect. Some speed work and I’ll understand what they’re saying. With luck it won’t be like the Derry City Spartans session, where they lost the run of it and I had to do the final 1200 on my own.

View of Tokyo, and the building with the huge horn sticking out of the side, by night
Last night.

I thought I might get to Shibuya early and have a gander at Yoyogi park and the district, though apparently the park is really alive with youth culture on a Sunday. But after I’d got through the serious business of getting up, walking about a bit and having lunch I needed a snooze and then had to rush to get a Pasmo card and onto the metro before rush hour. I was in Shibuya by 5.30 for a session due at 7.30, so plenty of time to stand still and get my bearings. I take disproportionate pride in the fact that I managed to work out which way to go (no street names, remember) and ambled to the track. Grief, but Shibuya is a busy place after 5, people everywhere, especially on the uber crossing (it has a name, I’ll fill it in later) that stretches in several directions across the main crossroads – like they’ve done with Oxford circus, only busier.

Tower in the distance floats above traditionally roofed buildings.
The Skyride looms.

I found the track, stood at one side watching group after group lapping, sprinters piling through and other groups in the middle. Bedlam. After five minutes it occurred to me that I could go to the entrance and I was standing there watching when another westerner strolled up and started chatting. I forget the openingс, but I had discovered that he ran to counter the alcoholism within ten minutes, that he started in Japan in 08, married to a Japanese woman, tiny daughter but also a grandparent to his American daughter, great lover of Japanese women, or would be given half a chance, and has a marathon time way beyond respectable. In truth I was doing little talking, but after meeting a Japanese man of about 55 (actually 70) who was looking ready to go despite running to the track and having run a 100k at the weekend, we warmed up around Yoyogi park. So I did see it, albeit in the dark. Two laps in and I lost my bearings, lapping a perfect circle, but by now we were into marital sex life when he decided to introduce me to the Englishman who was warming up just ahead of us. He was called Paddy, you can imagine how Irish he was, but we could at least follow as they turned back to the track.

A busy running track. Lots of people on the grass and exercising in the centre.
At the track. Busy.

The session was 6x1000m with 200m recovery, though with only two groups, gathering is together took a while, so the recovery for me was around 3mins, a bit long. There were so many of us that I ended up boxed a couple of times, so had a couple of reps with slow first 400s and then a wind up, whereas the fourth I hit the front (behind one super paced dude, anyway, but he had to run on his own) and then slowed. I’ve never been so sweaty, worked hard, but didn’t ever really work out who I ought to be sticking with; even if I had I guess everyone had at least one boxed in lap. It was fantastically busy, groups of college and school kids as well as all the Namban Rengo lot. My new friend offered to sell me his club vest – they do black and yellow, I got the yellow as the black had already gone to a visiting academic. Mission accomplished, then – I’ve a chance at earning a shirt or whatever in Korea, but not here, so am taking the good luck of bumping into Anthony and him having a vest to sell as a good enough reason to allow me to feel I’ve earned it. We cooled down with “some abs” as American boss bob put it, enough to make me a little sore. The environment caught me out twice today – planking, I felt drops spray over me and figured whoever had the hose was doing a good thing. It was rain. At 10 I had wondered how the bloke in the bottom bunk was moving us around like that, and why. It was an earthquake.

Afterwards we went to an Italian, with several French, a Senegalese and lots of Japanese runners. Hitomi – I remember the name for it sounding like “hit on me” – looked after ordering for our section, so we had Japanese style pasta, a bit more spicy and sea foody, while I compared travelling notes with French Max and American Steve and I competed over who could be politest about each others’ country. He does a very good English “posh”, as in “you sound posh”.

Summarunarising: warm up round (and round) Yoyogi Park, while Anthony told me about his running (2:18 marathon back in Boulder, s’okay), his alcoholism, his love of Japanese women (other than the one he married), then 44:49, 8.5km, 6x1k 3:40, 3:34, 3:38, 3:32, 3:40, 3:39. Not great numbers, but surprisingly consistent. Afterwards I could wring out my vest. And my shorts. And my underwear.

Reading: Mia Zachary, Afternoon Delight, irredeemable pap, Janet Evanovich, One for the Money.

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