The marathon that wasn't.
2010 was to be my 3rd go at the 10km run at Fukuchiyama, despite the fact that the location is in the middle of nowhere and is very far from, well, anything, I liked the course and was comfortable with it. So back in September when I put my entry in I wasn't too worried, I had time to train. I enjoy training for a run, it gives me a goal and this year would surely be better than last year when I was fatter, more sleep-deprived and had less time to train.
So for a few months I disciplined myself to not stop and walk a lap of my local pond but run the whole damn thing lap after lap until my lungs felt like they would burst, cut back on the booze and bad food to get rid of those extra kilos weighing me down, and ran. Morning and night for the last two weeks of training. My feet had new blisters on top of old blisters and resembled a homeless man's prize leather boots, but as any runner will know your feet go numb after a certain number of kilometres anyway and the pain in your legs and chest is far more concerning.
I was a little nervous the night before but nothing too stressful, my bag was packed with every conceivable item of clothing I would need for the day in case of rain, wind, sunshine, it was all covered. I had also packed for Ash who would come along with us. Packing for an almost 2 year old isn't easy, unpredictable little buggers that they are. You need nappies and wipes, spare clothes in the case of spills, food and drink for them to spill on said clothes, bribes in the form of lollies, savoury snacks and their favourite toys. I had it all, or so I thought...
As we tossed up the options of which car to take and what time to leave it was suggested by Grandma and encouraged by me, that Ash should stay home at the in-law house, we'd be home before lunch anyway and the early start would make for a cranky little sod in the evening. But alas, Grandma and I were outnumbered and I was assured that his baby car seat would be transferred to MIL's car as that is what we'd take. Well, not exactly. MIL's car was having some ridiculously expensive repair at the dealer's so she had a brand spanking new, shiny hybrid Honda to drive for a week. less than 1000kms on the clock, sleek red paint, spaceship-like panel which made me want to quote buzz lightyear and all the little extras that come with new cars. We figured we may as well clock up the kilometres on a car we could just return anyway. Oh how much I wish we hadn't been so wasteful...
I was already awake when the alarm buzzed at 5am, already giving myself pep talks on how to keep my pace and breathe through my nose. Well, not really, but I was trying to convince myself that nothing really mattered as long as I gave it a good hard crack and finished the damn thing. Ryota stumbled up from his futon, clearly pissed off that he was awake so early with a 2 hour drive ahead of him on his day off, but being a good supportive husband, smiled and said: 'Let's do this!!' We left Ash in his baby slumber as didn't seem any point to wake the poor pet, we trudged downstairs and tried to warm ourselves up as the chilly air bit at every piece of exposed flesh. I got my running gear on and then layered with a few warm jackets while Ryota lugged all of my things to the car. By the time we were ready to leave I was feeling fit and confident that all was good, I double checked my entry ticket and parking ticket and estimated that we'd arrive at the marathon with plenty of time to spare for last minute wee trips and a snickers and Aquarius to give me that double sugar hit to get me through. But I had no idea my nightmare from a few nights ago* was going to come true...
The drive there was going smoothly, no rain, no traffic jams, Ash still sleeping in the position that he had been when I'd plucked him out of his warm bed and stuffed him into the warm car. Ryota munched on his cream bun with delight as I nibbled on my rice ball, admiring the irony of a Japanese guy licking sugar and jam off his lips while I, the western girl, carefully positioned my seaweed around my onigiri so it didn't collapse like a pro. Suddenly, almost choking on his breakfast, Ryota slammed the steering wheel and said "Damn it, we forgot the stroller!!" I too, was pissed off at this, I'd planned to grab it on the way out but with Ash being a dead weight in my arms I'd clean forgotten. But we reasoned that it wasn't that big of a deal, if he got too tired one of us would just have to carry him. Ash woke up with about 30 minutes to go and was in great spirits, singing along as we went through our 'boredom song' repertoire and chowing down on some bread and veggie juice. The veggie juice... Why didn't I go for apple juice...?
Shortly after singing his little heart out, the poor kid went a bit white in the face, went really quiet, and then... Proceeded to vomit all over himself and his car seat. This vomit was like you've never seen before. The veggie juice (which was a bright pinkish purple colour) came out exactly as it had looked when I wiped a dribble off his lips and joked that it looked like he was wearing pink lipstick, the bread was spongy and congealed, not yet digested. As he sat pooled in his own vomit Ryota spun around and his first thought was that Ash was vomiting blood. I guess we can thank some bastard god that it wasn't blood, but really, car sick!? Today?? Of all days?! For the first time!? However, Ash was in good spirits, giggling as I mopped up his stomach acids with wipes and tissues and I was thanking my lucky stars that his projectile had only gone as far as his navy blue car seat and not all over the powdery light gray seats of the brand new loan car.
By the time we'd recovered from the car sickness incident, we'd reached the marathon parking entrance. Due to rain the night before, the car park was a sludgy mess, and with about 25,000 people piling at the same time it was a sea of running gear and sports bags as everyone started the 20 minute trek up the side of the mountain to get to the marathon starting area. We were way early so decided to relax in the car for a bit, Ryota smoking, me changing shoes and getting all my stuff together, and then, just as I was about to get out of the car and brave the frosty 7 degree air, my heart sank, I got that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, and knew we were in trouble. Shoes. Not mine either.
How could I forget Ash's shoes AND socks!? He's been walking for over a year!!!!!
When I made this dramatic discovery and screeched at Ryota over my stupidity Ryota surprised me by not getting angry or down, but laughing uncontrollably at our situation. Picture it, the smell of vomit still fresh in our nostrils, bags and bags of useless clothes and a bare-footed little boy smiling at us ready to go and run around in the puddles. In many ways I still can't believe my stupidity but in my only defence I'm not used to him being asleep when we leave the house and just carried him straight out the door, probably stepping on his shoes as I went out the front door. To top matters off, a nervous ball of gas filled my belly as I contemplated our options and an explosion of oily gas burst out my arsehole and into my pants, luckily I'd brought spare pants for that reason. How could I bring spare pants in case I oiled myself but not the bare essentials of shoes for my son!?
We had 3 options:
1- Go to the marathon carrying Ash, Ryota having to carry him and the bags while I ran.
2- Carry Ash to the marathon area then check in to the inside room and not leave until I finished running.
3- Go searching for shoes and make it back to the check-in before 9am.
Number 1 was out for me, I think I would have been so distracted by Ryota being so put out that I probably would have done myself an injury worrying about them the whole time I was running. For me, running requires a clear and focused mind, not one stressing about whether my son's toes were falling off due to hypothermia.
Number 2 was do-able but I really didn't want to for all the reasons in number 1, plus I didn't want to do it on my own, I wanted to see Ryota and Ash at the finish line waiting for me.
So number 3 it was. The parking attendants told us we couldn't get out of the parking lot at first, but when Ryota explained the situation they took one glance at the inept gaijin burying her head in her hands in the passenger seat and took pity and re-directed traffic for us. It took us 20 minutes to get out but finally we could go on a shoe hunt. Now, for being such an efficient country, the opening hours of shops are quite late, most places 10am, supermarkets 9 or 9:30. And being the country side, NOTHING was open. The 2 supermarkets we found giggled when Ryota asked them if they had kids shoes, he even got so desperate as to ask them to check the stock room. Nothing. Not a shoe in sight...
We made phone calls, searched the Internet, frantically scanned the car navi. Nothing, it was hopeless, and getting towards the cut off time for check-in. We gave up. I wasn't going to run. We'd driven 2 hours and got up at 5am and I wasn't going to run. As expected I was crushed and hugely disappointed in myself, but Ryota assured me that there are lots of other runs to do, and some time in the future we would laugh at ourselves for this. I then started sniffling and making irrational statements like, "You should marry a Japanese girl, a Japanese mother would NEVER forget her kid's shoes!!" But he was a champion and replied with "Yeah, but a Japanese girl wouldn't have the balls to try and run a marathon while working full-time and looking after her family, plus, they're too skinny!"
In that moment, I knew I'd married the right one.
The way home was a mix of emotions, crying, laughing and disbelief. As we were almost home, Ash wriggled out of his poorly strapped car seat (not my fault this time!!) and leaned over our seats. We were literally 5 minutes from home when the poor thing spewed that lovely veggie juice, once again, all over the place. But this time it was worse. Much worse. Dripping down the still new upholstery, pooling on and under the handbrake and trickling down into every crevice of the interior. It was gooey and smelly, and PURPLE! We could only laugh, and contemplate the repercussions of this upchuck disaster.
Needless to say, we spent the rest of the morning scrubbing and cleaning and trying to perfect the interior of that car to get it back to the dealer without having to have it professionally cleaned. It was a group effort of all in-laws on deck, even Grandma watched Ash while we all got stuck in. I kept apologising to MIL but she couldn't stop giggling about me forgetting the shoes and not running.
In that moment I knew I'd married into the right family.
*A few nights before the run I had a nightmare that Ryota and I were going to the marathon but Ryota left way too late and then couldn't find his way and we just kept driving round and round looking for the place we had to go. It was very stressful. Even more so when it became a reality...