Atsumi Sakura Marathon is an annual event where participants run along the scenic cherry blossoms route. It takes place in a small village called Atsumi in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. Atsumi is famous for their natural hot springs and picturesque mountain sceneries. It was Atsumi’s 32nd year to host the marathon. About 1,600 runners participate in the marathon each year. However, it wasn’t really a marathon… My initial thought of a marathon is one long-distance race, which is 26.2 miles or 42 kilometers. On the other hand, the sakura marathon offered four of types of long-distance races, 3okm (more than a half marathon), 10km, 5k, and 2k (for elementary school students). So, it’s nice to know that there are other options, whatever floats your boat.
To be honest, I’m not much of a runner now. I was more active when I was in high school because I was on the track & field team all four years. But when I started college, I stopped running altogether. My last 10k was last year when I was in Boston and I struggled, despite training for it. For the sakura marathon, I signed up for the 10k with a fellow ALT. I only ran once before the race… So, my goal was not to die. Just kidding! My main goal was to keep running no matter how slow I was, but no walking! My 10k race began at 10 am. All the runner gathered at the starting line. The announcer was speaking in Japanese, so I didn’t catch what she was saying. Eventually, she started the countdown in Japanese, 三、二、一. As the runners set off, there was a small group playing the taiko drums, which was pretty cool. Also, I thought it was interesting how they used a sound recording of a starter pistol, instead of an actual person shooting a starter pistol in the air.
The 10k course, also called the radish course, was quite serene to run. I wasn’t able to take any pictures but hopefully, I can describe it. The weather was fickle. It rained at some point during the race. But it cleared up and the sun came out. We ran along the Atsumi river, which had several cherry blossoms trees. You could see the petals blowing in the wind and it was perfect. On the cherry blossoms path, there were people cheering us and yelling “頑張って”(do your best/do not give up). Eventually, we ended up running to the woods, where I saw a few cherry blossoms in full bloom. We crossed a few bridges that went over small rivers. It was quiet and peaceful when I ran. However, that soon ended once my right knee and then my right ankle started to hurt. It was quite painful to run. It looked like I was running and limping at the same time. I ended slowing down and told my friend to go ahead. I didn’t want to walk. I just wanted the race to end.
I told myself to keep jogging until I saw the Atsumi River and then I would pick up my pace to finish as quickly as possible. When I saw the river, I knew was close. It was pretty great to see and hear people cheer you on and it definitely motived me to push harder. Near the finish line, the small group was constantly hitting the taiko drums and it was sweet music to my ears because it meant that the race was almost over. I ended up sprinting at the end and finished at 1 hour and 2 minutes. Once I was done, I received a certificate of completion. I was kinda disappointed because I wanted a participation medal. Overall, it was a great experience and I plan to participate again next year. I might even do the 30k. 😀