Friday, December 14, 2018

Osaka Marathon 2018- Post marathon @ Kyoto (26th November 2018)

My knee hurt so much that I woke up in the middle of the night trying to move my aching knee to different angles and I had trouble even putting on my pants the next day. After Osaka marathon 2017, I stayed in Osaka for another day of sight-seeing and left for home on Tuesday morning. I did not really enjoy Osaka that much as it was just city area with a lot of shopping, I went to Kuromon market then but that was all about it.

I've decided to extend my trip to another region of Kansai this time round. Kyoto had always been on my bucket list but strangely this was the first time I'm visiting although it was already my 10th trip to Japan. There are just so many places that I'd loved to explore in Japan! The JR train is making many trips heading towards Kyoto from Osaka as it's only one hour ride away so I took my own sweet time packing up and checking out from the hotel.

Due to my aching knee, I was trying to find a metro entrance with escalator or lift. From my previous experiences in Tokyo and Nagoya, out of so many exits and entrances, there will always be a possible route with lift or escalators all the way. However, Osaka is not quite the same, I remember I could not find one from last year's hotel and this time its the same. I walked around some buildings, cross some roads and saw many metro entrances but its all stairs and more stairs. Finally I gave up and just moved down slowly with my luggage and it was not as bad as I thought. The luggage already slowed me down anyway, so there's not much difference having my aching legs or not. I took the metro to Shin-Osaka and it was a really big station, there was a dedicated platform for heading to Kyoto and Nara so I took the train from there.

The Garnet Hotel

I always imagined Kyoto buildings to be all Takayama style but Kyoto itself was also a big and busy city. Nevertheless, I fell in love with the quaint atmosphere of the ancient city once I arrived. Kyoto station was very big but with the help of Google map, I managed to exit from the right place and headed towards my hotel for the next two nights to drop off my luggage. The Garnet Hotel Kyoto Station was about 200m away from the station, its not too far off but just sitting at the quiet corner away from the station. I'll write a proper review about the hotel at the end of this post, but I was pretty impressed when I arrived at the hotel and the ladies at the front desk could speak quite good English. I read from reviews that there are shuttle buses from the hotel bring us to different places of interest in Kyoto (Gion area, Arashimaya area and Kinkakuji), I saw the information on the front desk, so I asked the helpful lady about it. She told me that the check in time at the hotel is 3pm but I could go back to the hotel to catch the 1.25pm bus to Arashimaya area since I was planning to visit the place. She even offered to show me places where I can have lunch in the mean time, but I thanked her and told her I could explore the area on my own.

I was really happy as I did not do much research about Kyoto, but I'd only sort of planned to visit Arashimaya and Kinkakuji, the two famous tourist attractions while I'm here, but now that the hotel shuttle can drop me off at both places, it saved me the trouble of trying to get there by bus or train. I was quite hungry by this time as I did not have time to grab any breakfast before heading to Kyoto, so I ventured into the Avanti mall just 100m down the road from the hotel. It was a pretty old mall but there were the usual rows of restaurants at the basement area and these had just opened with the lunch crowd going in. I walked one round and decided on a ramen eatery, it was vending machine concept and I saw many locals heading in. It was a simple cafeteria and many workers or business people were there for a quick lunch. I ordered a spicy ramen as I missed the chilli tasting meals at home, but I cant remember how much I paid and even forgot to take a picture as I was so hungry and just wanted to quickly devour the meal. When I paid at the vending machine, I did not see how it was inside, the waitress was busy and the cafeteria was a bit crowded, so I just sat at an empty table, albeit like fast food places style. The ramen was filling enough but I still prefer the Ichiran one.

After the meal, there was still sometime so I decided to walk around. I saw a 7-11 in the building so I went in to get some snacks for my trip. Just next to 7-11 was the bus waiting area and I realised that that was the information office of Keihan Bus services, which has different routes to other areas. The airport limousine service to KIX caught my eye and I thought it will be a good idea to just take the bus from there instead of pushing my luggage all the way to train station. I booked my ticket for Wednesday then and earlier I also saw the service to Itami airport at another bus bay.

The shuttle bus which sent us to Arashimaya

20 min before 125pm, I walked back to the hotel and waited at the lobby. The lady even asked the bus driver to drop us at the area closer to the Arashimaya bamboo grove as it would be a long walk if he drop us at the other side of the river. She also passed me a map which was really helpful for my navigation later on. There was only this other couple on the shuttle service with me, it took us one hour to get to Arashimaya area so I was really glad to get this chance to rest and I fell asleep on the way.

Fried stuff that tasted really good
Good business
Piping hot fried cheese yuba
Across the road from where the driver dropped me was a very busy street full of tourists, I started looking at the snacks they were selling and got myself a stick of fried cheese yuba, which tasted really good when it was piping hot... and oily. Yuba is a specialty at the Kyoto region, its something like dried tofu 'tau kee' that we have here, but I loved it really crispy. I also saw other snacks and foodstuff or even ice cream with this yuba in it.

Loved the matcha mixed soft serve 
Looking at the next few shops, I also realised that the Japanese pickles that always tasted so good with rice is also a specialty here. Many of the shops in Kyoto are selling these and I really regretted not getting some as I really loved those. There are also many shops selling soft serve and of course I could not miss an opportunity to have one as I have a sweet tooth.

Many young handsome rickshaw lads at Arashimaya
Togetsu-kyo Bridge better known (to me) as 渡月桥
Very awesome autumn colours
The scenery around this part of Kyoto was really breath-taking and I was really happy that I was in time to catch the bright colours of the autumn leaves, this was also considered my first experience viewing the autumn colours. I'd really wanted to take a leisure stroll across the Togetsu-kyo Bridge as I saw people strolling across and it looked like a nice park opposite. On the other hand, there were still many shops lined up along the other side of the street that I didnt have time to look at. I decided to stay focussed as it was already 3pm and I have some walking to do before I'll get to the bamboo grove area before nightfall at 5pm. I took out the map that the hotel lady had given to me, it was very helpful at this point of time as I was getting a little lost and overwhelmed with all that was going on around me.
The very beautiful autumn leaves 

Entrance to the garden of this temple is chargeable

I was really glad to have the map with me and after poring over it for a short while, I decided to go down another path away from the shops and the bridge. It led me down a very beautiful path and there were autumn leaves in different shades of red along the way. I've never seen such nice autumn scenery before, but I could only stroll down slowly and try to make sure this stay imprinted in my mind as long as I could.

The entrance to Tenryuji Temple

Very nice autumn leaves in the garden

Many of the temples there only allowed tourists to go in for a nice stroll in the garden with an entrance fee, the main scenery is not so much of the shrine but the autumn leaves in the quaint gardens. I did not have the luxury of time to visit these gardens so I kept walking and only took photographs from the main walking path. 

As Tenryuji Temple 天龙寺 is world heritage site and the most important/famous temple in this area, I paid the entrance fee to go in for a tour. The famous Arashimaya bamboo grove is also right at the exit of this temple, so I rather go through the temple instead of going around it to get to the bamboo grove. 

I tried to cut away the images of people below

Very crowded with tourists

Most satisfying photo with the bamboo and autumn leaves

I finally get to see the Arashimaya bamboo grove which has quite a magnificent and zen feel to it, with the many bamboo growing densely and they stretched all the way up to a few storeys high. It was always recommended in tourist guide to get there as early as possible before the crowd terrorise the place as it is one of the most popular attractions in Kyoto. When I reached there about 4pm, the walking path (of about 100m or so) was quite packed with tourists, everyone trying to take photographs and selfies of themselves with the bamboo, but to no avail as everyone got into the way one one another. I also gave up trying to take any nice pictures after awhile and just enjoyed my stroll through the place. The only picture I was actually satisfied with was taken within the temple area before I headed into the bamboo grove. 

There were many tourists dressed in pretty light kimono (or yukata?) walking down the streets of the Arashimaya area so it was quite an interesting sights as some most of these were foreigners. I initially thought they were Japanese wearing traditional clothes to the temples, until one of them started talking in PRC accent. 
The signature rickshaw rides with handsome young lads pulling them

Ema boards for marriage/love and studies?

Very special and iconic torii gates

Nonomiya shrine 野宫神社
After exiting the Arashimaya bamboo grove, I noticed railway tracks around the area and I walked down a small path together with many other tourists and came to the Nonomiya shrine. Many people stopped at this shrine to take photographs and pray for their well being. I snapped some photos and continue to follow the crowd and ended up at the main shopping street once again. It was nightfall soon so I did not have the chance to try crossing the bridge even though I slowly made my way back to the area. I spent my remaining time there looking at the stuff on the shopping street, and my tired legs were screaming for me to go back to the hotel. Amazingly, after all the walking around, I noticed my legs were no longer that painful and I no longer walk with a limp. I actually walked my walk to recovery!

Randen tram line station
When it was completely dark, I made my way to the JR station nearby and took the train back to Kyoto station. I realised I was quite lucky the first time I arrived in Kyoto as I got lost around the station this time round and could not find the correct exit that led back to the hotel. I saw the Kyoto tower and the Aqua Fantasy water show and stopped to snap some photos. I finally realised that I had to get back up on the second floor of the station to get across and exit from the Shinkasen area to find my way back to Garnet hotel.

The Kyoto Tower

Water dancing to Xmas songs

Hotel Review: Garnet Hotel Kyoto Station

Good use of space, modern design

Green efforts, I put out the orange card the second day

Loved the layout and design

The bed

Standard shower/toilet area

Nano face steamer and smartphone

Standard design for Japanese hotels but quite modern here
It was 6pm+ when I got back to the hotel (even though the sky looked like 8pm in SG time zone) and I checked into the hotel room and had a bit of rest before heading out for dinner again. From what I had wrote about the shuttle service, you can imagine I was quite impressed with Garnet Hotel and my impression of the good service remained till I left Kyoto, so you can be sure I'll book this hotel again when I'm back in this area. Actually the room size and layout was pretty much the same as my previous hotel in Osaka, but the design and the general feel is much more modern. It's away from the hustle and bustle of Kyoto Station but near enough to get back without feeling too strained from the walk. There are also a couple of convenience stores on the way back to the hotel so I always dropped by to buy snacks before heading back to my room.

I'm not a superstitious person but I've heard some weird encounters and 'hantu' stories about Kyoto so my impression of Kyoto is a really old and ancient place but it turned out very different from my imagination and I slept very well in this city. Something weird about Osaka was the fact that I heard emergency vehicles at night/ late night on several occasions (for 2017 when I was walking back to hotel) so that made me a little paranoid when I'm traveling solo. But that didnt happen at Kyoto at all.

Very carbo loading dinner but satisfied my craving

Tried the Panosonic nano steamer on my face for two nights
Some hotel guests had a Panosonic leg massager in their rooms but I was in a smaller room meant for solo traveler, so I had this nano steamer which was something new to me. It had the same function as the facial steamer we used for facial but its in smaller capacity here, we could use it to steam our face for the pores to open up and then put on the facial products for better absorption. Since it was there, I just tried it out and played with the gadget for the two nights during my stay. During my June trip to Hakone, the ryokan also provided this handy phone (for surfing internet, making calls etc) but I did not make use of it since I had the wifi router. 

Monday, December 03, 2018

Osaka Marathon 2018- Race Day (25th November 2018)

On race day, I got up at 5.15am to get myself ready as I didnt pack or prepare my race stuff the night before. The timing was not too bad as we wake up way earlier for races in Singapore. I bought my breakfast from Family Mart near the hotel the night before, so there's plenty of food for me even though I do not have much appetite for it. I prepared the cup noodles and it tasted so good with really rich broth that I eventually bought another one to bring back to SG, I was really full after that so I put the banana in my bag to eat before the race and left the rest of the food in the fridge (Godiva ice cream was already gone the night before).

Daily routine to get snacks from convenience stores

I put on my race gear and was ready to go before 6.30am. I was happy that my timing was on track and I saw other runners also heading to the metro station when I left the hotel. There are many ways getting to Osaka Castle, but I decided to take the Midosuji metro line and change to Chuo line. I saw other runners on the train and we all alighted at the same station to get onto the green Chuo line, so I assumed that was the right way to go. On the Chuo line platforms, runners were queueing up to get on the train. Luckily when the train came and it was not crowded at all, all of us managed to board and we filled up the cabins. It only got more crowded at the next few stations.

Lines of marathoners waiting for the Chuo train
It was easy to know which station to alight, just follow the crowd! The train emptied after the stop at Osaka castle, and hoards of runners made our way out of the station. I was pleasantly surprised that the Morinomiya metro station is right smack inside the park, so unlike last year when I had to walk a long way from one end of the park to the other end, I saw the line of trucks for baggage deposit shortly after I got out of the station. It was only 7am, and there was a short queue at the park toilet so I decided to go to the toilet sooner rather than later, while the queue is short.

The queues for the toilet
A group of runners cosplay as minions
It was still early so the lorries were still empty
I started walking towards the rows of trucks waiting to load the bags of runners. Everything was so meticulously arranged as like other Japanese races and it was clearly indicated on my bib and the baggage deposit slip that I had to deposit my bag on lorry 27, so I kept walking on. There were announcements made in Japanese, English and Chinese reminding runners to deposit their bags and make their way to the start line before 8.45am. I listened intently to the English and Chinese messages when I noticed some signages in front of each lorry stating that runners had to show their bibs and the security bands to get into the runners area. I had my bib with me but I removed my security band the night before when I wanted to wash up. Oh no!

I caught sight of this signage in front of every lorry

Information counter with a queue for band replacement, phew!

Honestly, I happily removed it the night before as I did not remember any significant usage for this band in my previous Osaka Marathon last year. I remembered it was really hard to remove, something like a cable tie thing and I took a long time wriggling my hand out of it last year. While we were queueing to collect our race pack yesterday, one of the staff came to each of us and after checking the charity we are supporting, he helped us put on the relevant coloured wrist band. I could not remember if I took out the band before or after the race last year, but I definitely did not notice any importance for putting it on. Last night, I still thought I was quite clever to use my handy nail clipper to get it off.

(P/S: After the race, I realised this was actually stated in the participation guide, but having done this race last year, I did not really read it.)

I wanted to just wait and see if I would be stopped at some point if I did not have the band on but I looked around and every other runner around me seemed to have it on their wrists. I continued walking down the rows of lorries and came to an open field with lots of people. I realised that's the race village/ dressing area, so I decided to go and get some help from the information counter since it was still early. It's better to resolve this issue while I still have time on hand. Fortunately, there was indeed a queue for replacing the security band at the information counter. I thought that there seems to be not much point for the security since I can just get another band after showing my bib without verifying my identity, but I'm still glad that problem was solved!
I was lucky to get this replaced easily!

Spotted a large group of medical personnel who will be running
With the security band problem settled, I continued making my way along the long long rows of trucks, looking out for number 27. After I spotted it, I went across the road where there were many people sitting or gathering around the side of the road, preparing themselves for the baggage deposit before making their way to the start line. I've decided not to bring my phone along for this race as I realised I didnt really stop to take photographs along the way in most of my races, and I get pretty annoyed or frustrated with the additional weight when the going gets tough. I packed two packets of gel and my attire for the race is pretty much the same as my previous CSC HM, I only added a pair of shorts outside my 2XU tights as this is what people commonly do in Japan for modesty sake. I've decided to run in just a short sleeved tee as the weather forecast seems to indicate that it will get to mid 10+ degrees later on with a lot of sun. I really hate hot weather for running so I was a bit worried that it might really get too warm later on and decided to just go with short sleeves. The weather in the morning was a bit cold but bearable as there was no wind. I brought along arm sleeves which I could afford to throw away (cheap ones from race packs of previous race) but after taking off my down jacket, I felt quite okay without the additional layer, so I just put on the long poncho which will protect me from the cold before flag off. I took a few bites of the banana but did not finish it as it was too ripe for my liking. From previous Japan race experience, I will be standing in the starting corral for an hour and the first water point is usually 5km after the start, so it became a habit for me to bring along some hydration to keep myself from being thirsty while waiting. I also placed my lip balm and a small tab of pain killer/ muscle relaxant (Anarex) in my pouch and I was ready to deposit my bag.

I read up somewhere that it will be handy to bring some pain-killer along so it became habitual when I'm running a marathon, although I had not use it before. On retrospect, I did experience a lot of pain this time but I forgot that I had the medicine with me during the race. The only thing I've forgotten to put in my pouch this time was some small bills, in case I needed to buy stuff in desperate situation (experience from Naha and SCMS) but luckily that did not pose an issue for this race.

I was quite early so no bags yet, and I took my time preparing

The baggage label that indicated my lorry number.

I was in the corral L this year, one block down from corral K the previous year. I didnt really mind as I knew my pace should probably be more or less like the runners in the last few pens, I am definitely not chasing for a PB this time and there were still 4 blocks behind me (M-P). I just did not want to start too late and worry about the cut off time, so I always indicate an estimated finishing time that was well ahead of what I expected to achieve during registration. My previous Nagoya and Osaka marathon experiences told me that I should be capable of finishing ahead of the cut off time, so this time round I didnt really worry about the delayed start of 15-20min being in the corrals far behind. I used to take a screenshot of all the cut off timings at the various points and put it as the wallpaper of my phone, but I no longer do that, and I didnt even bring the phone with me this time. I just took note of the timing of the first cut off point at 5km and decided to keep my eyes opened and kept a look out from there, I knew there will be big signs indicating the next cut off points from thereon.

I was an hour early getting into the start pen and it was not even that far away from the baggage deposit lorry, once I walked further up, I saw huge signage pointing towards the direction of my block. I walked in and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to stand right at the front of my block. There was still one hour before the start of the race so I guess there's still a lot of time to spare. There were of course already some others standing around at the block but we were not really packed together, rather standing sparsely until it was almost time to set off and the volunteers pushed us forward. To allow my feet to get some rest ahead of the hours of running and walking, I sat down at the side of the road while I stone away, waiting for time to pass.

There were volunteers standing around ever ready to collect thrash from runners inside their respective corrals. There were many runners like me who had our ponchos on to keep us warm, our corral is nicely positioned with Osaka castle on my left and there's sufficient morning sunlight warming us up. I normally do not like the heat but in this situation the sun rays were just enough to keep me comfortable and not shivering and I actually felt much better as compared to last year.

I was having flu last year when I arrived at Osaka and my toes totally freezed up while waiting at the start line, I felt that I was so breathless and my feet were totally numbed for the first 5km or so before it finally thawed, it was so bad that I thought I would DNF eventually, but I went on to run a rather good race to my surprise. I think the surprise outcome of that race led me to become over confident and I did not prepare myself sufficiently for this subsequent marathon, so I eventually suffered a lot during the race, but I'll get to that later on. I was wearing the Osaka special edition Tabio socks last year, I bought those from the race expo and I felt that those were too thin and I really needed thicker socks for my Japan colder races. I managed to get a pair of '1000 miles' socks at a local race expo this year with the recommendation from some runner-salesperson and my feet really felt much better this year. The socks felt thicker and slightly padded a little so I did not get the usual frozen numbness after standing around for an hour at this 10+ degree weather.

Very massive marathon starting grounds

While I was waiting, I kept seeing hoards of people coming from the castle direction and there was really a lot of people coming this way non-stop. I guess they were going towards their starting block after baggage deposit as most of them had G-K bibs on. I was at right in front of L block facing the 3-way junction so I observed most of them were oblivious to the timing even though time was ticking by and soon it was approaching 8.40am, just 5 min before the starting block will close off! All of a sudden, the stream of people started to quicken their pace promptly and some started running, looking quite lost. Soon, there was an announcement that the wheelchair marathon was about to begin, and the time was already 8.45am. There were still lots of people dashing around and the officials started to block them off, some of them wanted to make a run for it and a few lucky ones were not caught but majority of them were blocked from going to their assigned block. According to race regulations, they have to start from the last block although I heard the Chinese speaking official assured them not to worry and that wont happen. Japanese are very efficient, nice and helpful people but they keep strictly by the books in such cases.

Soon we moved forward and slowly merged with the K bib people and bit by bit, we edged towards the Start Line after hearing the horn went off at 9am sharp. It took us about 20min before we finally reached there and I only threw off my poncho shortly before that, making sure there were volunteers collecting those when I did so. There were much fanfare, loud music and deafening motivational speech going on in Japanese as usual, but I didnt understand those and was trying hard to find the right pace. This time round, I felt much better, feet still a bit numb but not as frozen as usual. For the first 10km, everyone around me seemed to be running faster than the pace they are supposed to, many overtook me and I tried to remind myself not to go out too fast, but can't help trying to keep up, especially when I saw that those with P bibs had caught up with me.

I was following behind people whose pace felt right for me and I got even more motivated when I saw aged or old people running along. I thought I was doing quite well for the first 10km, running at 7min+ pace which was definitely not my marathon pace and I knew that I would slow down eventually. The first water station came after 5km and once again I was impressed by the 100m stretch of tables and many many volunteers, it was not really chaotic even though it was the first water station and many runners would be rather dehydrated by then. From experience, I knew there were more tables behind, so I moved to a more vacant area to get my hands on the isotonic drink aquarius.

At the 6km point, we turned into a out and back route when I saw the fastest runners coming back from the opposite direction, I kind of like or hate such U turn points in many ways. I hated it as the stretch before reaching the U-turn point is usually rather mentally challenging, especially for this case I glanced over when I spotted a distance marker in that direction, and saw that they already finished 16km! That's a whole 10km ahead of us slower/slowest runners, and that also meant that the U-turn point was still far, far, far ahead. True enough, I kept wondering when I would finally see that gigantic U-turn corn but it did not turn up until much later. I always like looking at the runners behind me after turning so that I can gauge how much I am ahead of the last few runners, this also ensure that I'm not too near to the last runners and in danger of getting swept up by the buses.

The U-turn point finally came at about 11km or so, I was glad that I was roughly an hour ahead of cut off time and there were 3km or so when I still see runners at the other side. The last few runners were really struggling and walking even though the race had just begun. There were a group of pacers running with square golden balloons and I supposed they were supposed to run at the exact pace to be the last at the finishing line just before 4pm. There was an official car just right behind them and two or three sweeper buses, although nobody was on the bus at that point of time yet.

After the first 10km or so, I started to take walking breaks and at this point of time, I noticed that my legs were rather painful at the knee area, and that was specially the case for my left knee. Uh oh! I tried to ignore the pain but it just did not get better and I had the bad feeling that an 'old friend' had come back to visit me at a very wrong time. While I was walking, I reflected and realised that I had ran and struggled to keep at a much faster pace than I can cope with and there was an inflammation at my IT band. This had posed a major issue for me years ago when I tried to do my first few marathons but I managed to stay injury free after that. I always pride myself for completing all my marathons without cramp and pain and I was always able to walk like any other tourist the very next day. However, I guess that I was really too careless and over confident this time, my walking breaks became longer and it became more painful to move with every step I took.

In all my previous marathons, I walk-run for at least two-thirds of the journey, but it had never become so difficult for me to try to jog or run again in all my previous experiences. I always still have some reserved energy and I could keep up to some running after a bit of walking till the very last few km. Last year I kept thinking of the mantra 'if you can run, don't walk' and it had kept me running as much as I could up till the very steep slope at 38km and I only stopped to fully walk after that. But this year, I totally gave up running very early into the race due to the nagging pain and I kept myself busy by counting down the distance I had left to go. It was very mentally challenging to be in pain for more than half the race and I kept looking out for the distance marker, it became 400m-500m apart from the distance on my Garmin watch very soon after the race started. I thought that emptying my bladder might be more comforting so I looked out for the more empty lines at the toilets after the first 10km. There was once I stopped and ran towards the toilets, but realised that I didnt have any urge to pee at all after I stopped my feet completely, so I ran back towards the main crowd again. There were also clear signage at the toilets indicating the next cut off point and next cut off time so that runners who wanted to take a leak can take note of the time and decide to stop or not.

I passed my hotel at the 17km point and I had a very keen desire to go in and soak my legs in iced water to sooth my poor knees. It was another U-turn point after a few more km and I passed the hotel again at 22km. We passed through Namba area 3 times in total before we headed towards Intex Osaka and there were no more U-turn point after that 22km or so. I saw an aid station with food after the half-way mark but as what happened at Nagoya marathon, the food had already ran out for slower runners like me. I saw the volunteers cutting up the last few bananas in front of me but it was all gone within seconds. Many people had lauded the Osaka marathon for being a food paradise, especially for the maido aid station at 32.5km, but I was already mentally prepared that there would be none left for us. It will always be a myth for me unless I can finally do a sub 6. I only managed to get some sweets and dried fruits as that was all that were left at the maido aid station. I was weaning off gels so I only took one after the first 10km and had no urge to consume the next one after that.

I took this photo last year shortly after maido aid station and I saw them again this year
In terms of food, Nagoya marathon is slightly better as there'll still be bread, bananas, salt candies and fruits left for me from the second food aid station onwards. But at Osaka I dont remember eating anything (maybe only bananas and bread?) last year when I was focussing on running hard, I was 20min faster and yet there was already no food left for me, not to mention this year. I really needed some motivation this time round but only managed to get bananas at the next two food stations and finally a red bean bun, strangely I did not see any salt candies or even the wrappers at all. There were coke and orange juice at some point by the marathon sponsors but I was not in the mood to drink coke so I only had orange juice, which left a very sweet taste in my throat. There were some supporters who set up their own private mini aid station along the way, and many of those even had cute kids giving out sweets and chocolates. I was craving for chocolates and so I really stopped and eagerly took whatever the public had to offer, I was glad to receive chocolate at one or two points and even a very delicious tasting saltish bread. There was a point many of us dashed across the road when we saw a crowd gathering but the food had ran out by the time we got there. Being part of the slower runners, we were that desperate and many of us were walking hungrily and dejectedly for the last 15km or so. I also shamelessly stopped when I saw some supporters at the side armed with the muscle relief spray. But after stopping a few times of and asking for the spray service, I knew it was not going to be of much help to me.

As for the cheer station, Osaka marathon had no lack of very awesome supporters and cheerleaders. Some of these are organised by schools or community, and at the last 10km or so, there were designated area for the different colour charities to give runners a morale boost. I was really impressed that the kids and students stayed around to cheer us up for hours, there was even a point I got a little emotional listening to a motivational song even though I did not understand the lyrics. After the terrible slope at 38km, the path turned into the port and container area of some sort for the last 5km or so and it got very boring after that. I remember this part being quite mentally challenging last year and it was all the more so this year. The end point was really nowhere in sight and I've already been on my feet for more than 5hours.

Picture taken off Osaka marathon official FB site
I remember seeing this guy when I had just 1-2km to go last year and he was there again this year. Seriously? It's that hard to ballot for a spot in this huge marathon with 32K runners? Many people left messages and encouraged him to keep on trying on the FB page. Weather was colder last year as it started raining the last 8km or so but this year the weather was just right. I was worried about the sun giving us too much warmth but most of the route was shady and I hardly use my shades at all. I felt perspiration at the back of my neck after we started running but for the rest of the journey, I did not feel sweaty or warm anymore. My HR was also not too high at this point since I've been walking for so long.

I kept looking at the watch and knew that I was about to do my personal worst for a overseas marathon. But still, I was glad that I kept going despite this being a very challenging race for me. Finally, we came to the part where it was the last 1km to go and there were lots of supporters lining up along the route again. I could not get my feet to move no matter how little we had left to go, so I maintained my walking pace as i trudged painfully towards the finish line. I was very close to the cut off time, about 15min to spare at the last cut off point at 41km, but I turned back and there were still lots and lots of people in their colourful attire behind me. I was 20min slower than my previous marathon attempt at Osaka but there was really a great sense of happiness and relief when I finally made it.

Took this photo last year, sports drink right after finishing line
Rows of medals waiting for runners (2017)
Putting the towels around the finishers (2017)
A nice touch to provide a bag for all the stuff (2017)
There were also red bean buns for us this year (2017 photo)

The 2018 medal (photo from offical fb page)
As I did not have my phone with me this time, I'm posting some photos I took last year. The finisher area layout seemed a bit different this year but it was generally the same before the baggage pickup area. We turned into a building after the finishing line and collected a bottle of sports drink and a banana. Thereafter was the medal and towel area, and the volunteers helped to put the medal around our neck and the towel around our shoulders. I thought this was really a nice gesture and the warm towel felt really good as we made our way to another building to collect the bags.

This year it felt like a long walk to the baggage pickup area, perhaps it was because of my aching legs. To my dismay, the big signage 27 was all the way at the other end of the hall. As like other Japan marathons, the bags were placed neatly on the ground and before I even limped my way to the area, someone had called out my bib number and the bag was already at my feet by the time I reached. I knew it was very unglam to wear flip flops in Japan but I really did not want to put on my shoes again after I finally got my stuff packed and ready to go back to my hotel.

Unlike last year, there was no mention about the date but a new course is coming up! 

It was a very painful and slow walk as I slowly limped my way out to the metro station, there were some gentle upslopes and it got me cursing and swearing in my head. I had to walk like a sloth all the way to the station and it was still a long long journey before I can get back to the hotel. As a consolation, other runners leaving the place and getting back to the station were all in the same state as me and it was really easy to spot someone who had just finished the marathon. Moving down the metro stairsway was the hardest as it really hurt if I try to step down my left leg, so I could only move one step at a time like some injured or crippled person. Top of my wishlist is that the course will end at the city area so that there is an option of taking the cab back to hotel. I quickly filled the bathtub with cold water and soaked my very aching legs once I got back to the hotel. It was a very welcome sensation to finally do that and I was glad to get my very hot shower after that.

Race T-shirt 2018

Race T-shirt 2017
Medal 2017
Medal 2018

I prefer the design of the race t-shirt and medal for 2017, the medal is less colourful this year although the signature rainbow lanyard was still awesome. The saving grace is the race towel in black in this year, I really loved it. Will I do this race again? Definitely I'll consider heading back for a hat trick as there's only so few races I can take part in during the hols. My only worries were there was no mention of the race date for next year so it might shift back to October again, that's not very ideal in terms of timing and weather for me.

The queue for sushi
I gobbled down the onigiri in my hotel fridge after the hot shower, it still tasted good although it was not too fresh. I was craving for sushi and decided to head out for dinner soon so that I can rest early. I had seen long queues at this conveyor belt sushi shop and I had noticed its unique 3D flashy signboard above the shop, the reviews were also pretty good so I decided to stand in queue and try this sushi. I cant remember the name of the shop but you cant miss it with the unique signboard. While getting there, I had trouble crossing the few main roads getting to Dontobori as there was no way I could run when the traffic lights were flashing, I could pick up my pace if I really try with all my might but most of the time I was trying to move slowly and trying hard not to hurt my legs too much.
Very fresh sushi and the belt was always packed

Look at the super cheap price on the menu
I did not have to wait long as I was a 'single rider' so I was able to skip a big group in front of me when they only had two seats available. I think it only took me 15min of standing in line, the queue was shorter than the genki sushi one near my place at Junction 8. Unlike the conveyor belt sushi I've tried in Tokyo, this menu was more foreigner friendly, and the price was jaw dropping cheap! There were mainly two different colored plates and the ones I ate were all the orange coloured ones which was just $1++ SGD, and these include sushi with very fresh sashimi. Unfortunately, with my very small stomach, I only managed to finish 6 plates so the bill came up to less than 1000Y. I will definitely visit this shop again when I'm in Osaka.

P/S: I've decided to buy my Osaka marathon photos from allsports since I've actually managed to finish this marathon review. I will update this post with photos once they are ready.