Dec. 27 - Today's guest blog is by Thomas Whitney who works in the Embassy Political Section.
A Well-Organized Event from Start to Finish
(Yomiuri Shimbun photo)
Japan has a long history of great distance runners, and it also has many city parks and rural trails filled with recreational runners, jogging for exercise and fun. Many people accept the challenge of the ultimate road race - the full marathon. In fact, so many Japanese runners have sought to participate in marathons that the Tokyo race set a world record for the number of applicants.
On Oct. 30, I had the opportunity to participate in the first-ever Osaka Marathon along with two colleagues from the U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe, Marc Snider and Yoichi Tanaka.
Organizing a marathon is no small feat. Marathons are the largest, most complicated live sporting events in the world. A large marathon attracts more than a million fans and 30,000 competitors, spread out over 42.195 km. Even cities with experience organizing a race encounter challenges in recruiting volunteers, rerouting traffic and providing sufficient water and snacks to the runners along the route. As I made my way to the starting line in Osaka Castle Park, I was prepared for the confusion that typifies the first edition of the any road race.
But from the time I entered the park until I received my participant medal after the finish line, I was amazed by the professional organization of the race, the number and efficiency of the volunteer force, and especially the hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic spectators cheering us on. Even the weather - overcast with a slight refreshing rain - was ideal for running.
In this race, I started at a faster pace than in previous marathons. Overcome by exhaustion after just half of the race, I slowed to a walk and contemplated dropping out. But the elderly ladies operating the water stand at kilometer 23 would not allow that. "Fight!" they commanded me, in a cheer generously translated into English. I picked up my pace slightly and lumbered toward the finish.
Running a marathon is a physical challenge that reveals a runner's true spirit and willpower; organizing a marathon is an equally great civic challenge that reveals a city's true character. The city and people of Osaka should be proud of their elite-level performance.