Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Chiba Aqualine Marathon - Running A Half-Marathon In Chiba

Late last year, as I was searching for key half-marathons that I wanted to do in 2016, one particular race stood out.

It was the Chiba Aqualine Marathon held in Chiba, Japan.

It is relatively a new event as 2016 was the third time it was held after their 2012 and 2014 editions. The fact that it was held only once every two years makes it more appealing for me to enter.

Plus, entry wasn't through a ballot system BUT the organiser only allocated 150 places for foreign participants.

So in early April, I signed up for my third key half-marathon (the other two were Twincity HM and SCKLM HM). Of course, I actually ran a total of 9 half-marathons up to October. The other 7 were "training" runs. It would've been 10 for the year by October but I didn't run in Seremban Half-Marathon because I woke up feeling unwell the race morning.

The route was interesting for me as we ran on the Tokyo Bay Aqualine Expressway which is a bridge/tunnel link that connects Kisarazu City in Chiba with Kawasaki in Kanagawa. The total length of the expressway is 14km that includes a 4.4km bridge and 9.6km undersea tunnel; the fourth longest underwater tunnel in the world.

For marathoners and half-marathoner however, we only covered the bridge section and not the tunnel. Phew. Not really keen to run in a tunnel anyway.

We stayed in a hotel located nearby Chiba Station and travelled via train to Kisarazu Station on race morning. For international participants, the organiser had thoughtfully arranged for our race kit collection to be done on race morning itself. It would've cost us an extra 1,000yen (RM40) per person for train tickets for the return trip if we were to collect our race kits the day before.
As you can see from the map, there was plenty of walking involved before we start our running.

According to the pamphlet I downloaded, it was about a 25 minutes walk from the train station to the race kit/drop bag area located at the former Kisarazu City Hall.

From there to the start line itself took another 20 minutes.

Plenty of warm-ups! I probably walked about 5km before even started running. LOL
With the rest of runners and supporters walking towards the former City Hall. The Kisarazu station and surrounding area were abuzz with activities and filled with the marathon crowd. Volunteers and crew were seen everywhere to help navigate runners to the race venue. Police too were busy manning both vehicle traffic and human traffic.

Nearer to the former city hall where the race kit/drop bag areas were located; we saw plenty of families of runners pitching up tents. Might as well be comfy while waiting for loved ones to finish and treat it like a picnic, yes?
The reception of international runner located on the 1st floor of the hall.
Staff conversant in English and Chinese were on-hand to assist runners. A few international runners were seen being interviewed by a camera crew. From my observation, the bulk of foreign participants were Taiwanese runners.
My race kit that included a race bib with some stuff inside plus this very useful bag which we use for drop-bag.

I LOVE the bag! I had already used it as an extra luggage bag when we return to Malaysia after our trip.

The bags were colour-coded. Blue for half-marathoners and yellow for marathoners.
Then it was time to do one crucial task.

Toilet visit.
The organiser had provided plenty at the starting area and all along the route, but one can't help to queue when there were 17000 of us out there! Took me about 30 minutes but thankfully, the toilet was clean. It was my first time to use a squat mobile toilet and I seriously think that it is way better than the sitting one. There were even urinal cubicles with no doors for male runners for a quick pee stop and out.
12,000 marathoners and 5,000 half-marathoners participated in Chiba Aqualine Marathon 2016. A nice, not-too-big crowd for Japan standard. ^^
After getting everything sorted out, I walked towards the drop bag area to drop my bag and then make a move to the start line.

But a few hundred metres later, we arrived at the expo area and Hubby and I kinda had way too much fun there (joining games, looking at souvenirs, collecting freebies, sampling food and stuff) that I only started to walk towards the start line with less than 15 minutes to spare.
Walking to the start line. It was probably 2km from where I dropped my bag. About 500m with only a few minutes left, everyone started running as we could see that the staff were already moving to close the front pen access. I ran too.

Latecomers would have to start in F pen and that is way, way at the back but I, with a few others ran past the already closed area, slid under the rope and ran towards our assigned pen.

I was supposed to be in B pen but I only managed to move towards the D pen before the run was flagged-off at 10.00am sharp.

It took me about 3 minutes to finally cross the starting timing mat and off I go!

I was recovering from a foot injury so I had no target for this run and had resolved to just run with the crowd's flow.

There were times when it felt like it was too slow, and we were almost reduced to a walking pace at some stretches due to the crowd but to my surprise I did the first K at a 6.46 pace. Not too bad.

Most didn't mind the slower pace at the start, because we enjoyed the cheers from the residents.

A male runner motioned to his running partner; a lady, to move towards the middle of the road to make space for faster runners to overtake on both ends of the road. I too moved towards the middle and tried not to slow down any runners by hogging the outer lane.

The residents put up several performances along the route and there was even a hula dance performance at one stretch. I think if I were to stop and took photos of them all, I'd have added 20 minutes to my finishing time!

Elementary school children too lined up the road with hands outstretched so that runners could give them a high-5 and they took delight in getting hi-fives from costumed runners like Ultraman, Winnie the Pooh, that Spirited Away character - Aogaeru and some Japanese tokukatsu heroes.
After about 5K (distance markers were placed at one KM interval), the 5-hour marathon pacers ran past me.
I heard them discussing about their splits while poring over pace charts printed on a folded A4 paper (while running @.@) and saying that it was already 37minutes. 37minutes minus 3minutes for my start meant that I was still running at a sub7 pace. Woohoo!
But at around KM7.5 I had to stop for toilet break. I knew that we would be entering the expressway soon and I wasn't sure about whether there'd be mobile toilets available on the bridge.

Not wanting to hold my pee for any longer, I stopped.

Darn, took me 6 minutes to queue here and pee! But at least, lega la... Pee already. Everything feels weighed-down when one hold their pee. Wakaka
We started to enter the expressway at around KM8 and entry was past some toll-gates. Quite a few runners stopped to take photos at the toll-gate and reminded me of what I did during SCKLM 2014 while running on AKLEH. LOL

The view of Tokyo Bay from the bridge was simply breathtaking. Runners were stopping by the side of the nridge, overseen by the volunteers who were stationed at what looked like every 50m on the bridge; to take photos. And there were mobile toilets, perched on the back of trucks on the bridge. So pee on a truck lah!

There were army helicopters hovering above us and boats & ships on the sea. Seagulls swooped past us and the sun shone brightly on us.
As I mentioned earlier, plenty of runners in costume entered this races and it was quite fun to see them especially when they ran past us. Most were marathoners and boy, were they fast!

This dude above, even had the character's theme song playing as he ran so everyone knew that he is approaching and made way for him. Pretty clever, right?
We arrived to the point where we U-turn and ran back to land area. It was at about KM14 and this area is where the bridge link starts to enter the tunnel area.
It wasn't just any ordinary U-turn here.
It was also the 3rd water station and 2nd checkpoint area and arriving there, I felt like I was entering a carnival!
Chiba-kun the mascot was there waiting for runners as also a few other mascots.
Umeboshi were waiting for us here.
And also a few other snacks apart from water and isotonic drinks.
I ate some but couldn't resist to pocket a few to bring back to Hubby to try. Orange cupcakes and jellies. Hihihi

So far, apart from toilet stop and a few "take-photos on the bridge" stop plus lingering at the U-turn water station to makan; I had managed to run all through the course without a single walk breaks.

I feel that the HUGE crowd helped to spur me running and my foot was holding up OK. I did tape the right foot to make sure I'd have less pain when I run, after all.

When I reached KM16, I saw the sweepers on the other side of the road, following a few struggling runners. By 16.5km, there were 3 checkpoints that we needed to clear within cut-off times or risked being asked to board the sweeper bus.

It was an entourage of cycling marshals, police escorts, ambulance, sweeper buses and finally crew trucks to pick up cones and road markers. The volunteers who had manned the other side moved towards us and shouted encouragement at all passing runners on the other side of the bridge.

The last water station for half-marathoners was at KM19 where we were served drinks and salty candies to replenish our salt output.

Just up ahead we made a turn to the left and enter another carnival-like area where traditional performances were held. The beats of the traditional songs lifted me up and I surged ahead.

From here, I saw plenty of supporters relaxing and chilling while cheering for us.

It was at KM21 mark where the half-marathoners broke away from the marathoners. Full marathon runners went straight ahead and the half-marathoners turned to the left. And it was at this point Ultraman left me to finish his marathon. Hihihi

And we half-marathoners ran towards the Ushigome Fishing Port while full marathoners ran to finish at the former Kisarazu City Hall where we were flagged-off earlier.

It was supposed to be another 200m left but the organiser gave us extra distance a bit lah. And a final uphill as a bonus at the last 100m. Hahaha
A few metres from the finish line, Chiba-kun and other mascots were waiting for us with a resounding welcome.
Whatever weariness that we had were gone and we surged ahead with a grin plastered on our face. We DID it!
My bib was scanned by a volunteer before I made my way to join the orderly queue to collect finisher goodies.
A plastic bag bearing the event's logo was given to each runner and we started to collect our medal, drinks, food and stashing them all in our plastic bag.
Then we got to the tent where we could immediately collect our finisher's certificate. Another volunteer scanned my bib and my cert was printed, complete with timing and overall ranking.

Cool!

Oh...
A 2:38 finish made me the finisher number 3,000+ out of 5,000 runners. Wakakak Hopeless much? But who cares?

Then I joined another queue for FOOD!

Hubby was already waiting for me at the side of the finisher's area and we both walked to the drop bag area to collect my bag.
Entering the runners' only zone, I got another freebie. A pack of ice. Another first and a welcomed one at that!
I used it to ice my foot and later drank the melted ice. ^^
Collection of drop bags were fast and the counters were manned by cheerful and energetic high-schoolers.

They took note of runners approaching and holler our bib numbers to another schoolmate who then ran to find our bags.

After changing into a clean set of clothes (note that from past experience running in Japan races - showers are not provided so body wipes is your best friend here. If you are not prepared to be naked changing in front of people, put a changing towel or kain batik in your drop bag), Hubby and I relaxed for a while before we board the free shuttle bus that the organiser had provided to Sodegaura Sation.

At the station, there was another mini carnival/event linked to Chiba Aqualine Marathon being held complete with massage area.
I hadn't had my lunch yet so I ate the onigiri I received after finishing my run while waiting for our train.

I thoroughly enjoyed my run in Chiba and hope to run in Japan again in future.

Thank you to the organiser, volunteers and crew and also Chiba residents for their omotenashi.

A highly recommended October race for those who doesn't want to venture too far out of Tokyo.

And oh, Chiba Mitsui Premium Outlet is very near to the finish line of Chiba Aqualine Half-Marathon category. Just saying...

But you gotta wait for 2018 lah I suppose for the next edition of Chiba Aqualine Marathon.


11 comments:

  1. That sounds very exciting and you guys had a great time! Finishing at 3,000+ out of 5,000 is not bad lah...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not bad but not good either. Haha

      But since I had set a target to enjoy the run, it was OK. ;)

      Delete
  2. Gosh, you're so hardworking, Lina! Flew all the way just to run? Well, I fly to Tokyo almost every other year just to shop. Hahaha! You're just amazing, dear! I'll be going there this weekend, staying in Tokyo Bay area......... xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  3. I like those mascots, they are so cute...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Should've said sounds like it's a long way to go

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not when one is having fun.

      Well, not that much, anyway. ;)

      Delete
  5. How long is that bridge in the race track?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As mentioned in my post, 4.4K. So we ran a total of 8+km on the bridge.

      Delete

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