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  • World-Run in Japan
    Aus den Daily reports by Jesper Olsen:

    2004-10-14 - Running in the throat of the Dragon!
    We begin the first part of the Japan running which is planned to bring us from the West Coast to the East Coast of Japan; from Toyama Harbour to Hieroshima Harbour. A run of little more than 700km.

    But during the restdays things had happened. Usually restdays can bring help to injuries; but they can also bring clearity. For Alexanders behalf they brought unfortunately clearity that he wont be able to continue the run. His back injury has now been joined by a severe achilles injury (the whole area swollen about 2-3 inches through several days); and perhaps most important he is in generally seriously worn down mentally. This is no weak runner though. Running more than 9000km from London to Eastern Siberia is in excess of what allmost any other runner can claim to have done. It is time to go home to the family and heal. And I salute him as a most respected runner - and a supporter of the world run of the highest class. I will long remember his winning the Finland international 12hour race in the middle of our 50km-a-day running. That is still an effort beyound what I can comprehend !!!

    - For my part the word run continues. Despite a by now painfull miss of friends of family. But on the appetite of new roads; new challenges - and the hunt for a true world run :-)


    My first day of running in Japan was an easy start followed by a midstage and ending that possible is the only "horrible running day" so far since London !

    At start I was in good compagny of Alexander, Kazuka and 3 other japanese ultrarunners, among them the blind runner mr. Myamoto san. As well as a japanese tv-station covering the first hour of the run.

    My daily routeplans are made by mr. Tohei who was among the runners today; an ultrarunner with many international experienses, who has made computerprintouts of all daily stages including proposed accomodations :-) Thank you !!


    After about 9km`s of running from@the waterfront start, we entered the japanese highway "Route 8" at the 266km sign. From then on I was on my own.

    I had myselves a few weeks earlier when planning the details requested a few days of `extra challenge` by negotiating some japan stages alone. Yet now I realised that this might not be so good a desition. Yesterday I met Kazukas charming daughter Michi, which would have been helper for this first stages. Also I quickly realized how lost you feel when you understand absolutely nothing at all. The roadsigns, the language, my maps; everything.

    - I must confess that my previous desition appered to be one of the possibly least intelligent I have made to date. And I am no novice in making bad desitions from time to time ;-)

    Well; the first hours went and I was still on the right road. A bit worried about the situation in general, but atleast moving along - and what other could I do !
    I knew that my goal should be about 50km from the start point -@straight ahead on the Route 8 - and then ask directions to a youth hostel with a japanese name on some street I didnt have a cloue about how to read or pronounce ;-)

    - Then the rain set on. It happened just as I ran into some mountainous terrain with many tunnels. At first the sight of a tunnel was that of pleasure as it could shield me from the rain for a few minutes of running. But after the first experience... I learned to fear them !!

    The dark and narrow tunnel was like running into the warm humid throat of a dragon. My glasses wet by rain I could see very little and the side path of the tunnel probably has never been intended for babyjogger running ;-) I dont mind saying that I was afraid when the heavy trucks approached me; beeing unable to see exactly how wide the path was, unable to in the dark see if there was any major holes or obstacles in the pavemen. Just keeping my 5:50 min/km as I approached the roaring lights which was all I could see. Had I had a girlfriend I`d probably have voiced@her name each truck-encounter. As it is I settled for a `Viking Yell` leant forward and hoped for the best; having about 10cm between me and the largest of the trucks and the innerwheel of the jogger just touching the wall somewhere inside the darkness of the side of the tunnel.


    Once I had exited the last tunnel I was a bit shaken to put it straight. But happy to be out in the free, even with the cold rain pouring down.

    Later came the darkness ! Then the running at the roadside again set the adrenalin in motion. But as the tiredness of the first full day in 7 months with the babyjogger (about 25 - 30kg in total weight by now) set in; I was too exhausted to care much.

    I couldnt see the city signs - or much other for that case - but the impression of the bristling life of busy cars, thousands of neonsign-shops & restaurants was strong.

    The search for the accomodation proved a huge problem too ! I asked as polite as I could, in english after the few politeness fraces that I know in japanese. But with little result. It seems that very few common people speak english at a practical level. I would at best get an answer like "Yes; Yes !!". Reguardless of what I had said.
    On a better day it could have been a funny situation. At the present state of things it was not.

    At least I saw a sign with the word "Hotel" - in latin letter - with much relief as I now was approaching 60km, injuries appering due to the strain of the heavy babyjogger and the cold rain on the legs.

    - But the fun was far from over.

    After searching the sidestreets for the hotel I found another some 2kms from the highway. But, but, but...
    It was what could have excelled as the stage of a futuristic Frantz Kafka movie !!!

    There were no staff besides the laundry service. The rooms were booked via an electronic board where you push the botton at the picture of the room you desire. Then take the lift to the corresponding floor, open the door and face a room with an automat on the wall.

    Very nice. The automat spoke as much english as the next man (= nothing) but greeted me with a floodstream of japanese words of which I understood nothing at all. I got one of the helpfull laundry women to assist me and she told me things in japanese that possibly confused the situation even more.

    The door locked behind me and I setteled down, understanding as much as I first had to pay the automat upon check-out. I changed clothes and then wanted to go to the lobby to fetch my babyjogger and the food within.

    NO. The door was securely locked from the inside by a metal-pal. I tried many experiments to get out, but: NO ! So finally I realised that the autumat had to be fed in order to open the door ! 20$ it cost me to get the luggage.

    And by now I was wondering. It was a quite comfortable room. A large bed, many conviniences. An excellent bathroom. But also with some adult litterature and suggestive things in plastic packages. I was beginning to wonder just what this hotel was !!

    - I suspected that it might be for short time `encounters` only. And not for the usually traveller !
    But how could I find out ?? I had the card of Kazuka with home number and mobile phone number. I tried that - in any case I had promised to call her when I had reach the finish point. And finished I was for sure ;-)

    The phone rang and I got connection to a person who told me things in quick japanese. I asked "Kaihata ??" (Kazukas familyname) and got the answer "Hai, Kaihata san !!". Meaning "Yes, mr.Kaihata". I tried to ask for Kazuka, but with little result. Then the mobile phone was tried. Here I got the meditative sounds of an automatic phone answermaschine of some kind which didnt leave place to put a message, though.

    Well; that was it. I understood that all I could do was to take a hot bath, eat my chocolate left from the running and go to sleep. Leaving the maschine and its demands to be dealt with in the morning. Whatever it might charge me.

    - Fortunately one of my few talents are that I in this kind of situation sleep and relaxes just fine !! :-) I slept in luxury, woke up, checked the news (of which I again understood zil`), packed the babyjogger and faced the maschine.

    To my huge luck it only charged about 100$ and I was a free man again !!!
    What a nightmare of a future vision. I long for Siberia - I didnt expect that so soon ! ;-)


    This report is written from an internet cafe I found on the roadside of Route 8. And one from the staff speaks a bit english; enough to make contact and to let me post this report. Thank you !!!


    I head off in about 10 minutes. Direction 50km down the Route 8. Hope the luck will be better today :-) All my best wishes to my family when they read this - the mobile dont work in Japan. I will keep running and eventually be able to contact them again.


    (15.10.2004, Steppenhahn)


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