Friday, August 11, 2006

Kicking Back

This is a present day entry. Twenty-three years have passed since I finished that run and now I am a 47 year old geezer. I am still running regularly, though. Not as fast as I once did, but I still plug away on a daily basis for about an hour or more.

The photo shows Mr. Kanzo Ito, the man who ran in the Berlin Olympic Marathon back in 1936. He was the President of the Japan Marathon Association when the photo was taken. We met up in Tokyo and went to the UPI office for the photo. Later, I visited with some of my former track and field teammates from Sophia International University.

After completing the run, I did go out and buy some new clothes at a fancy-dancy men's clothing boutique in Wakkanai. I had some people taking my measurements and putting me in some cool clothes. That was a big mistake, getting precise measurements immediately after my run for some new clothes. In just a few short weeks, the clothes became too tight. That's how skinny I was at the finish.

I remember getting a pair of some olive green pants, and an orange, tan, and brownish green plaid shirt at that one store. They looked good and fit just right. They ended up in the trash later that year.

The memories remain, and so do some photos and slides that I did not have the opportunity to post on this blog. Perhaps one day I will expand the account to include more photos and details.

Until then, my friends, keep on running, walking, or whatever it is that you do to stay fit and happy!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The End of the Tracks

August 9, 1983, Tuesday

Today is my 24th birthday and I am already feeling too old to be doing this sort of thing, the activity of running the length of a country. I should have picked a smaller one, like Vatican City.

My run today started at 8:30am after breakfast, on a sunny and cool day. This day was perfect for finishing the long journey covering the entire length of Japan. I felt good from the start. I covered 25km before taking my first rest stop. During this stop, I ate lunch at a little store and rested to gather my strength for the final portion of the run. I had planned on resting again after about 10km, but I felt so good that I could not stop. I ran non-stop at a very fast pace from after lunch until I reached Wakkanai Station, the northernmost train station in Japan. This is where the tracks end (See Photo).

The people in the streets saw me run by at a fast pace, but they did not know what was going on. I must have had a different sort of look (one of determination?) because many of them yelled, "Gambare!" (Go for it!) as I made my way into the city.

I felt refreshed after running the 40km distance today. Now I can say my two legs covered every inch of road from Kagoshima to Wakkanai. It is over at last.

It was a lonely finish, but appropriate because as I said earlier in my posts, it was a very lonely 2000 mile run considering there are not very many people who can understand the mental and physical strain associated with this kind of run.

I called my mother from a pay phone and told her I was in Wakkanai and that I finished running the length of Japan. She said, "Ah so?"

Later in the evening, I went to a small bar near the inn where I am staying. I ordered a beer at the counter and sat down. No other customers were there. The lady tending the bar asked me what I was doing in town. I told her that I just ran to Wakkanai from Kagoshima and I was celebrating because today is my birthday. She gave me another beer on the house. She also told me I should stick around for Wakkanai's famous summer fireworks festival and went back to concentrate on wiping the wine glasses. I stared at my glass of beer and began to imagine how good it was going to feel when I put on my new street clothes that I plan to buy tomorrow.

Note: This is the last entry of the run, but I plan to post updates every now and then. To all the readers out there, thank you very much for your support. Please keep checking back for periodic updates in the future.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


August 8, 1983, Monday

Today became a day of rest after my last-minute decision yesterday to run the extra distance into Toyotomi. My legs are very sore from yesterday’s hard effort. Today was a nice, sunny day, almost like how a summer day is supposed to be. I bet Toyotomi does not see too many days like today outside of August.

To loosen up a bit, I rode an old papa-san bicycle that I rented from the ryokan. I just puttered around town on the clunker and then rested again in my room. It is funny how easy it is for me to feel tired now. Just a little bit of effort, and I feel like lying down for a while. I spent most of the day doing just about nothing. Watching TV and eating were about all that I wanted to do today.

I am already thinking about what I'm going to do after I finish. I called an old high school friend, Jimmy Clark, who now lives in Tokyo. I let him know that I will be there soon and we made plans to get together. Hanging out in the big city of Tokyo will be a nice change of pace for me, especially if I don’t have to run through it.

My desire is so much stronger now to wear regular clothing and just be normal again. I am tired of these running clothes! Just one more day and I will have covered the entire country of Japan on foot. How is the run going to be on my final day? I hope it will be a memorable one.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Ramen in Teshio

August 7, 1983, Sunday

8:00am start after taking pictures with the helpers working at the Youth Hostel. Haboro Youth Hostel is recommended for those heading up to this part of Japan. The food is good and the people there are super nice.

The day was cloudy and cool--perfect for running. I felt pretty good today running on the deserted road to the town of Teshio.

When I arrived in Teshio in the early afternoon, I was a bit surprised to find the town so quiet. I did not see a single person walking around in the streets of Teshio. It looked so deserted. A wind would come up and blow a piece of trash up in the air, and that was about the only activity I saw. I spotted an open ramen shop and decided to go in for a bowl of noodles.

I ordered my noodles in the small wooden ramen shack and began chatting with the ramen chef. He asked what I was doing, and I let him know that I was on my way to Wakkanai. I asked if he knew of a place in town that has rooms for the night. The ramen chef turned out to be the owner of the place and offered me the room upstairs. After eating, I went up the stairs and entered the small 6-tatami matted room stacked with comic books. As I rested, a male Ainu high school student came up to read some comics after eating his ramen. We talked a bit, and then he proceeded to concentrate on the comics as he entered the magical world of manga.

I took a nap and woke up in the late afternoon. For some reason, I just felt I needed to get out of this town. I just had to get out! It was just too gloomy for my taste. I made a quick decision--make a run for the next town of Toyotomi and try to make it before the sun goes down. I told the kind ramen guy "thank you" and let him know of my decision to move on to the next town. Then I started to haul ass all the way to Toyotomi.

Now, today's evening run was not a typical run. It was foggy and gray, the road ran through a heavily wooded area, there was no traffic, and I was thinking about bears. I ended up running like a madman. What I did all the way to Toyotomi was run in the middle of the road, sing out loud while running, and run like there was no tomorrow. I felt like I was flying! The running was effortless and I felt I had all my supporters pushing me along. I had the entire road to myself. In fact, to mark the road as my own territory, I even took a big leak in the middle of the road with my hands on my hips, like I was the Jolly Green Giant.

It was dark and kind of spooky during the last 10km into Toyotomi, but I made it there in one piece. I really was afraid of running into a bear or something out there. I found a ryokan near the Toyotomi train station, took a nice hot bath, and ate some good sashimi. To top it all off, I got to watch the World Championships Women's Marathon on TV before going to bed. Man, what a day!

Napping on the Beach

August 6, 1983, Saturday

I had planned on starting at 5:00am, but I woke up late and started the run at 7:45am. Actually, I started by walking a couple of miles before stopping in a store to get some breakfast. I had a nice little chat with the lady in the store as I bought my breakfast of rice balls and a coffee drink. She was very friendly and pointed out some things that I should look out for on today’s route to Haboro. She let me know about a fairly long tunnel that I had coming up.

A cloudy day today, so no worries about running under the pounding of the sun again today. However, my knee was hurting today. It must be all the pounding with the extra weight on my back.

I reached the town of Haboro in the early afternoon so I went to the beach and took a short nap on the sand. It was really relaxing, just lying there and listening to the waves coming in. I was thinking about how the ocean here is not quite the same as what I was used to in Guam. This place is close to Siberia and I am sure that the water is freezing cold, even in the summertime.

I got up after a short nap and made my way to the Haboro Youth Hostel to call it a day. I had read on the bathroom wall of one of the other Youth Hostels that the food here is exceptionally good. It’s not really something that you want to see while sitting on a toilet seat and it makes you wonder if the person writing it is being truthful. Well, it turns out that the food was quite good here, at least the dinner was tonight.

What I am worried about, though, is why they have so many signs here about what to do in case you run into a bear. The bears are exceptionally hungry this summer due to the lack of food in their usual foraging areas and are coming closer to town. I can use some of those bells for my shoes right now.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Open Road, Fast Cars

August 5, 1983, Friday

Started at 8:00am for a long stretch of running--65km today. It was the hottest day since I arrived in Hokkaido. The temperature was about 35C degrees. The first 4 kilometers were covered with Mr. Shima. Man, my legs were still hurting, even after the day of rest. The heat really got to me, too, especially after the recent cold days of running.

At one point, when I was on the road, I was about to pass out from the heat. It was kind of tough today, running with my brain frying under the hot sun. The cars scream by you in Hokkaido because of the wide open, uncrowded roads. In fact, I heard that Hokkaido has the most traffic deaths per capita compared with other prefectures due to this reason. People just go crazy with all the open space. I certainly didn't have any people slowing down to chat with me today or any of the days while running in Hokkaido. Running here is really different from the running in Kyushu and Honshu due to the less-traveled roads.

By the way, I must admit I am really getting tired of this routine. I just can't wait until the day when I can wake up in the morning without having to worry about the distance ahead of me that day. Just about every morning, I have been waking up all tired and sore with the realization that I must cover a certain distance, which was usually longer than a full marathon. How nice it would be to wake up and just stay in bed all day.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Genghis Khan

August 4, 1983, Thursday

I decided to make today a rest day in Sunagawa, since I am so close to the finish line. Better to be safe than sorry. I slept in until 9:00am then went to the city museum with Mr. Shima's son.

After returning, I ate lunch and then slept for a few hours. Later in the day, I called Mark Cook, a reporter with Guam Cable TV and talked for a while. The highlight of the day was going out with the Shima family and friends to dinner.

We had what they call a "Genghis Khan" in Japan, which is very popular in Hokkaido. It is a dish with a mixture of onions and other vegetables cooked with sheep or goat meat (see photo). It was delicious and went well with the Sapporo beer. I felt a bit strange eating so much on a day when I did not run a step.

After discussing with some of the runners tonight, I decided to alter my course to Wakkanai. We felt it would be better to avoid going through Asahikawa, which is a fairly good-sized city. The decision was to take the route along the western coast of Hokkaido all the way to Wakkanai. It is a less traveled route and may be less stressful due to the avoidance of the large city.

The plan still is to finish the run on the 10th of August.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Where Can I Get Some Bells?

August 3, 1983, Wednesday

A sunny and hot day in Hokkaido. I had a late 11:30am start after going to Iwamisawa with Mr. Sawabe. I met up with the Iwamisawa runners and ran with them to the outskirts of the city. I reached the town of Sunagawa at 6:30pm today after 60km of running in the hot sun. I felt good though, quite a change from some of the other days. Running under the hot sun also gave me a chance to get myself tanned again.

Mr. Shima met me along the way and after the run, took me to his ryokan. I can't believe that this man is 76 years old. This is the same person who ran the length of Japan four years ago. His running form is excellent and his appearance does not reveal his age. I asked him why he ties tiny bells on his shoelaces and he tells me it is to scare the bears away when he is running alone on the deserted roads in the area. OK, now he has me worried.

By the way, I ran with a group of about 50 kids earlier this morning. They were kids that came out to Mr. Sawabe's early morning rajio-taisou (radio exercise) group, the kind that seems to exist in most Japanese towns during the summertime. I enjoyed running the 1.5km distance with the little kiddies and shaking each child's hand immediately after the run.