Running in Japan Men's Running photographer Eddie Macdonald visited Japan to soak up the local culture and take part in an 8.8K race - his first abroad!
Eddie Macdonald - tackled his first race on foreign soil
The Japanese are passionate about running and sports mad, with baseball being the number one sport. The Japanese aren’t afraid to experiment with their normal clothing and mix unusual jackets with brightly coloured jeans and shirts - which would probably be a fashion faux pas in Britain, yet somehow, it actually works. They look stylish and cool, and their love of exercise clearly pays off, as the locals were very slim - that may be because the food largely consists of boiled vegetables, with noodles and fish! (You can find Indian and Italian restaurants in Osaka too, but local nosh is healthier).
Even the older businessmen didn’t have beer bellies. Cycling is huge in Japan too, with the pavement providing safety from the busy roads, but that does mean walkers must be prepared to get out of the way at any given moment. I nearly got mowed down on the pavement by a trendy young woman cycling in high heels, denim shorts and a floppy hat - on paper, it sounds all wrong, yet somehow she looked bloody fantastic!
The subway system is another easy mode of transport, as it’s organised in a similar way to London’s underground system. The lines are colour coded and each of the stations is numbered, so you don’t need to try and make sense of the station names. Friendly station staff can speak basic English and are on hand to help you work the ticket machines.
Mizuno is a large sporting brand in Japan with an office in Osaka boasting a 3D foot scanner used to make custom trainers for top athletes. It also has a historical collection of sporting shoes dating back to the company’s inception in 1906 and a temperature controlled room, where the temperature can be changed by the flick of a switch to be either blisteringly hot or very icy - this enables Mizuno’s technical staff to test its range of clothing that either wicks away sweat or keeps heat in.
Much like the Virgin London Marathon, the Osaka Marathon was preceded by a busy expo where runners collected their race numbers and got to shop for last minute essential among various running clothing and shoe stands.
A recent injury had limited my training and forced me to sign up for an 8.8K run, as that was the biggest distance my calf could cope with. However, on the same day, there was a marathon - the very first Osaka Marathon to be precise. At least 60 staff members from Mizuno taking part, including European Sports Promotions Coordinator John Hooper. It isn’t a particularly hilly course, so if you’re thinking of doing it this year you’d stand a good chance of securing a PB, not least because local support and encouragement is outstanding.
During the 8.8K run, I was struck by how good local support was. The course was very wide with plenty of space to run, making it a fast course and there weren’t too many hills either. The scenery consisted of large office buildings that reminded me of London’s Docklands and scenic bridges and. The finish line is at the Expo opposite Mizuno’s offices.
I love running in the UK, but the amount of support in Osaka was astounding. They also had environmentally friendly paper cups at the drinking stations. Much better than in the UK where we have to dodge plastic bottles.
The whole friendliness of Osaka blew me away. It is an amazing place to run. Apart from the race there are a million things to see, eat, shop and ride and the costumes the runners wear are very adventurous.
The only issue to keep in mind of course is the jet lag. I arrived on Thursday and ran on Sunday and felt fine, but I wouldn’t have left it any later to fly out.
If you feel you have seen and done it all, then visit Osaka and recharge your batteries. I came out spiritually and mentally richer.
About the Osaka Marathon
The second Osaka Marathon will take place on 25th November 2012. For more information about the Osaka Marathon or the 8.8K run, visit osaka-marathon.com
or for information on Mizuno’s running clothing and products, visit mizuno.co.uk