Japan is a short approximately 3 hour flight from Saipan and fortunately Delta offers a direct flight. Many people travel to Japan during the winter months for skiing, enjoying the cold weather, etc. (It’s like reverse winter migration for us since it’s warm all year round here)
I decided to go soon after I participated in the half marathon from the Festival of Runs in 2015. The top local female and male marathon winners are invited to the Fuji Marathon since it is a sister marathon to the Saipan marathon. The benefit of having friends who are much better runners than I am (besides their encouragement of me and helpful tips) is that they agree to accompany you (or perhaps the other way around, you agree to accompany them) on the trip. It also makes for a built in traveling group.
Since about three hours after my first marathon experience two years ago, I knew that I wanted to do another one. (The first three hours afterwards I think I vehemently denied ever doing such a silly thing) The Saipan marathon is hot and muggy (well, it is for people like me that run very slowly — if you run faster then you get done before the sun really gets blazing). So, I wasn’t surprised when my friends suggested that doing a marathon in a cooler climate might suit me well.
So, that was almost 6 months ago and when the registration opened in July for the November 29th, 2015 Fuji marathon, I signed up — no turning back now! I’ve been training (or at least trying) for the last about two and a half months with long training runs on the weekend.
Anyway, because I am going with friends — two of whom are Japanese — and because I am lucky enough to be able to tag onto the package deal that comes with being a sister marathon — I basically have had to plan nothing. Besides getting Japanese yen and packing a bag with warm clothes and accessories (ear covering, gloves, layering clothes for running, scarves — all this unheard of stuff for Saipan), I have not thought about the trip at all. I am totally trusting that I’ll have a good time no matter what. And yes, the fact that I will be with people who speak Japanese is probably a game changer here. (Thank you Yumi and Mami!)
Okay, so while the fact that I had not prepared at all is interesting — it started to get nerve wracking a bit today so I did a little googling so at least I would know approximately where in the world I am going. I am geographically challenged and because of that, I try extra hard to at least have some situation awareness. I’ll be sure to update this with more details about the trip once I a) experience them and b) figure out where I am when I go places!
The first thing I have is the race map. The Fuji marathon is actually a race around two of the five famous lakes around Mt. Fuji and it is NOT a race on the mountain or up the mountain. The two lakes it includes are Lake Saiko (the smaller one to the west) and Lake Kawaguchi (larger one to the east).
Here’s the course map — if you can follow it basically you circle the first lake, run uphill to the second lake, circle that, run downhill back to the start. At various places on the course, you should get wonderful views of Mt. Fuji (I am hoping this will be encouragement to keep running!) You can see the elevation map on the bottom — the uphill climb is apparently known as the ‘heart-tearing slope’ …. doesn’t that inspire confidence in your success?!
Here’s a close up shot of the google map of this area.. I think the course map makes the lakes look a little bit closer than they actually are.
And here it is in relation to Tokyo. It’s not super far, but not super easy to get to by train hence the fact that we will be shuttled there on a bus. I think this is what makes this place a little more isolated because it isn’t super readily accessible by Japan Railways. From what I understand, the people that come visit this place are generally people who are hoping to climb Mt. Fuji and often can be Japanese nationals who are coming for a day trip.
You can see here that Mt. Fuji and where I will be for the marathon is basically west of Tokyo, a little south in the prefecture called Yamanashi. It is still relative
ly close to the water and is on the south-central side of the main island of Japan
(known as Honshu). There are other island that make up Japan — Hokkaido is famous for its skiing and Okinawa is also well known but honestly — I had no idea that there were five major islands and I definitely didn’t really know their names. So, as expected — there will be lots of learning and firsts on this trip. Excited to enjoy and experience something (relatively*) new.
*I say relatively because I have traveled with my family to Japan when I was in high school and had a great time but honestly, I’m not 100% sure what places we went to — or at least even though I remember the city name, I’m not sure how far that was in relation to the rest of the geography of the country.
More to come soon although I likely won’t update more until I return from Japan as I will have limited internet (and will enjoy the internet break anyway!)