Unofficial Work Trip to Izu Penninsula

On a Friday night in November a group of us from work left early, taking a minibus to Izu Peninsula, more specifically the resort of LaForet. The views of Fuji san on the way were great, with the sun setting. After arriving we settled into our room and freshened up in the Onsen (natural Japanese hot baths) with the other women.

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The men were in a separate building a short drive away and a resort minibus took us to join them for dinner.  We had a very traditional Japanese dinner with entertainment provided by ourselves, viola playing, dancing and even some comedy (mostly lost on me as no translation!).

The food was amazing and served in a traditional tatami room.  Many of my (Japanese) colleagues talked about how they had never had such a traditional meal so I was honoured to have had the opportunity.  The night was a lot of fun.

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The next day I went for a short run before breakfast and then a group of us visited Shuzenji Onsen 修善寺 nearby.  It was lovely, lots of shrines and autumn colours and a fabulous bamboo corridor to walk through.  We ended our visit with some great soba noodles for lunch before returning to Tokyo.

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Okutama Ekiden

On Sunday I took part in the Okutama Ekiden – a very traditional Japanese running event.

For a great and comprehensive description of Ekidens and their history please see the following article on Running Japan News written by Bret a member if Namban running club.

http://japanrunningnews.blogspot.tw/2012/12/how-i-learned-to-love-ekiden-and-why.html

It was an early start to the day to travel to Okutama in the west of Tokyo Prefecture. There were 4 teams of 3 women and 3 teams if 5 men. The Ekiden is a relay race, traditionally (and in this case) run between eki (駅stations). This means after getting ready the first task is to take a train to your starting station. As I was on the final, 3rd leg, and the race finished near where we were based I didn’t have far to go. Also as we had a few teams and several supporters it wasn’t a lonely wait!

The team I was in came into the change over in the second half and the last of the 4 Namban teams. I took off quickly, probably a little too fast but I was spurred on by all the people who had already left, the long wait and my good performance last weekend! I managed to overtake 6 runners in total in the 3.9km run. It was hard – I normally run longer distances so the speed was a good test but my 8 months of training on the track I’m sure helped and I was pleased with my overall pace of 4:19 per km.

The aim of the run is to get the Sash from start to finish. The sash gains the sweat of all of the runners and gets more significance than the baton in a normal relay race. If a previous runner is too slow then the next runner must start without the sash replacing it with a white sash – this is a failure! Fortunately the women’s race was too short so there were no white sashes – I saw quite a few of the last men with them.

It’s very traditional and traditionally timed – no chips here! So we have to wait about 6 weeks for the results for them to be written down, typed up, printed out and posted to the team organisers!

I include some pictures below of the officials at my hand over point marking out the road and all in uniform.

The race attracts the best university and school runners – Japan’s young elite so it was an honour to take part and to see some impressive runners.

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Just over the finishing line – almost beaten at the line (I didn’t know there was another runner right behind – Jenene was shouting at me to go faster so fortunately I picked up the pace!) and I think I just made it!

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The Great Wall of China

I was in business in China last week and extended my stay to visit a colleague to take a short trip to the Great Wall. It was really good even if the pollution level was high and so the views were not extensive. The wall is 5000 km long which if straight would be take a person half way between Tokyo and Paris!

It’s actually very twisted with plenty of ups and downs with many steps and slopes and different towers along the edge.

We visited the wall at Mytianyu about an hours drive from my colleagues’ house near Beijing. It was an interesting experience in integrated transport with a cable car trip up to the wall and a toboggan ride back down!

We walked about 5k along the wall – we didn’t have a lot of time as we had to be back in Beijing for my flight home, for ballet practice and for a performance of Grease! But I got a really good feel for the wall and the extent of it.

It was very cold – around freezing and as I’d packed for a business trip I didn’t have the best clothes. Fortunately I’m in training for the Yokohama marathon so had my running gear so managed to double layer with compression leggings and jeans and 2 jackets thanks to a quick purchase of a thin down jacket in the airport on the way out which I haven’t had off in China since buying! It’s great for under my normal coat.

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