After a not so pleasant wake up call with my room shaking and my emergency earthquake alarm going off at 4:30 am I set off to meet my good friend Shigeo-san paralympic gold medalist in the Sydney 2000 Olympic games. Â Our original plan was to volunteer and participate in the Tokyo disabled surfing event. For it is earlier this year at the Ocean grove Disabled surfing event that we first met. (you can read previous blog about what this incredible organization does in Australia.
Unfortunately the surfing event was cancelled due to the high surf after affects of Typhoon Neoguri so Shigeo-san invited me yo join the weekly run group for the disabled at Yoyogi Park.
This group gets together every Saturday at 8:30am meeting at Harajuku station at the Omotoesando exit, I was early and welcomed as if I was just another friend showing up Shigeo-san had already let everyone know I was coming so my name was ticked off and I chatted I said Ohayo gozaimasu to those already there. when Shigeo-san arrived there were already so many people and he said they usually get about 100 people every week, I couldn’t believe it, what an incredible thing to do.
We walked over to the aid station at Yoyogi Park and again i was welcomed like an old friend and Shigeo-san’s friends explained to me the process of being a “guide runner.” I was nervous looking around there were so many people many wearing shirts that said they had participated in marathons before and Shigeo-san even told me that one 88 year old lady had been one of the best runners in Japan. Most of the people here were blind and had bought along friends or there were just volunteers that loved to run that put their hand up to be a “guide runner.”
It was time to hit the turf so I watched first how it was done with each person holding a rope, the guide standing on the dominant side of the runner, their arm movement and feet would then have to be in sync as they ran. It was my turn and my arms were all over the place, it was harder then it looked. finally Shigeo-san and i got into a rhythm but I was concentrating so hard I wasn’t talking, he laughed and said that “chatting is also fun” haha damn it. Shigeo-san didn’t speak much English and my Japanese is still very minimal so we managed to teach each other new words as we made conversation, it was so nice catching up.
It was already over 30 degrees and the humidity was so high so we made a pit stop at the aid station drinking mugicha roasted barley Japanese tea to hydrate, they also had watermelon sprinkled with salt to replace the electrolytes from the ridiculous sweat build up that was happening. We continued on for another 5 laps of the 1.7km course listening and watching the many people enjoying this summers day either running, walking, dancing or just lying in the park. It was suggested that I try mask running…. This would involve me wearing a blind fold and having my own “guide runner” to experience what it is like being blind. It was amazing how quickly my senses adjusted my sense of smell and hearing heightening especially for the fresh roses. I was so scared all I could see was black, but we started slow and I trusted my guide and then it became smooth, i even wanted to up the pace, because I couldn’t see where I was going I was more in tune with my breath and the movement of my body I actually didn’t even feel fatigued any more I could have kept running for ages. Before finishing my masked run my cheeky guide decided to up the difficulty asking me to go backwards and then up stairs, haha damn it I shouldn’t get so cocky. Everyone was now finishing up their runs also and at 10:30am it was apparently beer ‘o’ clock, with wine and sake also on the menu and CHEESE yum! Everyone sat around chatting and laughing and they all wanted to meet me and find out more about disabled surfing in Australia and how they can be involved, I also got a few boyfriend proposals which was nice, but sadly had to decline.
I had the most incredible experience and will definitely be going back, this is something I would like to start in Australia when I return so please if you have any questions or would like to be involved either in Australia or here in Japan please let me know. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org