Monday, March 7, 2016

March 6th

Sunday. Race day. My understanding now is that start time is between 8 and 9 AM, down at Dolphin Port, and that there are between 10,000 and 12,000 entrants. Turns out there was a separate 10K "fun run" along a completely different route on the other side of the park. I've been suffering from allergies for the last 5 days, and I've been having trouble sleeping, so I'd been tired all day Saturday. Additionally, the weather forecasters were predicting heavy rain this morning. I wanted to take photos of the race start, but when I woke up in the middle of the night, I could hear the downpour outside, so I just shrugged and went back to sleep. I had my alarm set for 9:30 for Saturday morning, and forgot that I'd changed it from 8 AM on Friday. When the alarm went off Sunday morning, the race had already started and I figured I'd just try catching the finish then. The rain had stopped, but the ground was a bit damp and the air was thick and humid. I didn't get out of the apartment until 11 AM.

And the runners are already coming in, getting their certificates, cooling down and going home. The winner in the men's category had a time of 2 hours and something. There are so many fences here that you can't even get close to the runners to cheer, congratulate them, or anything. They've got the big TV in the park next to the stage, but that's really no different than staying at home and sitting in a couch. I'm getting a bit frustrated at this point, and I'm hoping the Gourmet Gran Prix might have something I want to eat, so I go in to Tenmonkan to get around the barriers closing off the streets here, and head back to City Hall.

And this is where the real finish line is located. The tracks run another quarter mile and end at the old Kagoshima station. The runners are on the other side of the silver barrier to the left, so the spectators on this side of the street are being kept maybe twenty farther away from the runners just to keep everyone off the tracks. The spectators on the left side of the street are within arm's length of the runners, but to get to that side, you have to go back to Central Park, veer over to the Volunteer Center, and then return to the street car line after going past City Hall in what's about a 1-mile walk. It's like "a city divided" right now.

The only way I can see the runners is by taking zoom photos and then looking at the screen on the camera. There are so many spectators on my side of the street that some of the older, shorter fans just kind of stand behind the wall of people and make cheering noises without even bothering to face the right direction (they can't tell what's taking place, they just want to cheer because everyone else is.)

The race announcers are calling off finishing place numbers as the runners come in. They're up to about 180th place now.

Back at the Gourmet Gran Prix. It's now about 11:30 and people are getting hungry. It's pretty obvious, though, that the crowds aren't what the Gran Prix organizers hoped for. The Italian booth is deserted.

One of the two most popular tables is for a rice bowl with tuna on top (the other is for ramen). I'm still not hungry, so I keep wandering around.

Eventually, I spot the two Myu FM announcers calling the race finishers - DJ Pocky and Yuki Arima (Yuki is the one that gave me my interview a few months back. They're going to be here for the next few hours, so I take a couple photos and go back to Central Park. On my return route, I retrace the path I usually follow from the school to go home at night, and as I'm going past one of the nearby restaurant/bars, I notice that they have a table set out front, selling food. I get close and the woman running the table, and her two young children, call me over to buy something. I get a package of Japanese-style fried chicken for 350 yen (it's a good price), and a cup of coffee from 7-11, and continue to the park. There, I sit down with the light crowd in front of the stage and eat (the chicken is good and the coffee goes well with it). As I'm finishing, I see one of the American English teachers that I know, and he's waving at me. So I pick up my stuff and join him, his wife and her family. The American has a friend in the race, and he's tracking him with a smartphone GPS app via a tablet computer, which is pretty cool. We talk off and on, and then at 12 PM, the race organizers have the awards presentation for the winner in the men's category.

There's speeches, and the top 5-6 finishers are introduced. But, only the winner gets handed an official certificate and trophy. The other finishers look rather unhappy having to sit through all this. There are several foreigners running the race, but none of them finished in the front 10. I think I recognized a British English teacher hobbling away, he might have been in the first 150 finishers, which isn't bad, but we're not on good speaking terms so I don't go up to ask how he did.

We wait. People keep coming in to the finish line, then walk through the chute past Houzan Hall, and then come out at the park where they're largely ignored by the fans in the park. Occasionally, some of the runners are met by a friend and they leave together. It's pretty anticlimactic, I expect. The big screen TV shows interviews with people still on the route, mainly at the turnaround halfway point at Aira. Just before 1 PM, the announcer says that the last runner has just gone by, meaning that they're now closing the track and pulling up the stakes on this circus. Anyone unable to reach Aira by now has failed to make the time cut. The American teacher's friend is about a third of the way along his return leg of the route, and has made the cut, but probably won't finish until 2:30 or 3 PM.

At 1 PM, the organizers introduce the top 8 women's runners, but again, only the first place gets the full certificate and award ceremony. This is pretty much what I've been waiting for, so I take my photos, then pick up my stuff to return home and get some rest. There was supposed to be a couple live stage performances later in the afternoon, but that included the Seven Colors idol group, and the "Kagoshima Marathon Choir". I figure that I'm not missing much. And that's that for the weekend.

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