Tokai University, Japan Time Trial 2011 – 5000m NR Race Report

Yesterday’s meet was my best race experience so far in my running career. Each race gives me a different experience and satisfaction and I just enjoy it. Before I continue further, let me tell you that one will never know what distance running is all about until you have visited Japan and experienced the running culture here. It is simply AMAZING and no words can describe it. Thanks to my training partner Jason Lawrence, I had the chance to experience it first hand. Let me relive what happened yesterday…

Jason arranged the train ride to Tokai University and we managed to reach there safely 2 hours before the race. Had a nice warm up 50min before race start at 5:20pm. Did some jogging in a muddy patch of barren land under the trees behind the track as it was raining and I didn’t want to get wet. I was actually just looking in awe at the Japanese university runners who look all so professional and seem to know what they were doing really well. So I used their warm up route to warm up about 15 minutes in my track suit. It was cold. I saw the temperature and it was 21.3 degrees with 85% humidity. Did some stridings on the roads after the light jog.

At 5pm Jason wished me well and I went to the race reporting next to the start line. Changed into my spike shoes and did more stridings. To my surprise the track seem to be in bad shape on the outer lanes. It was stiff and my spikes could not grip into the ground. Interestingly, the track in lane one and lane two were different – it was soft and my spikes gripped beautifully. Maybe this was due to economical reason that only lanes one and two were repaved.

My number was 18, the last one, in this last heat of the day and I was right on the outside lane. I felt calm and excited to race. I remember what my training partner told me before the race – to treat this as a RACE and not as a record breaking attempt. The time will come naturally if I race well. And I know I have the ability to race well. My previous races have shown that I do well when I race – I have raced against Kenyans at the Bareno Half Marathon towards a new personal best of 1:08, beating 2 kenyans along the way. Thus, as long as I race and try to finish as high up in the ranking as possible, the record will most likely be broken.

The gun went and I was swarmed with all the Tokai University students in blue. The feeling was surreal and my mind changed to a “target and kill” mode. From the previous heats, i noted that the students always started slightly too fast and thus I just tucked in. I was 5th from the back for the first 100m but I allowed the rest to get ahead of me and by the end of the first 200m, I was 18th out of 18 athletes. My target went to the student right in front of me wearing the number tag “11” – nice number i told myself as I attempted to convince myself that this was a sign that everything is coming into place and I will do really well today.

Each lap, as we ran passed the start line, a japanese coach would be shouting the splits. I kept hearing “nanajiu-ichi” meaning 71s (I learnt japanese as a third language for 2 years before quitting when I was in Raffles Institution). Everything felt in control and the 71s splits felt easy! (a 15min flat time will require 72s a lap)

When racing, it is very important to be alert with the movements in the group and I think as a swimmer who trained in a club environment previously, I was good at covering gaps and knowing when a runner is going to drop off. By the 6th lap, my target number 11 made a break in front and left my group behind. I checked my splits at the 2km mark and noted that I was still ahead of pace for a National Record and decided not to go on with him. However, I quickly assessed the other runners in my group to note their conditions. It was obvious some of them are getting tired of the 71s laps and were about to drop off soon. Before a gap was made by these runners, I will move ahead and ease infront of them. Psychologically, these runners will naturally ease back as they will feel more comfortable with more people running ahead of them.

After 3km, I was wondering when the fatigue that I felt when doing the time trials in Singapore was going to come. Each lap, I was hesitant to go any more faster though I felt really fresh as I was afraid that the fatigue will pop up like a jack-in-a-box like how it did in my 15:06 run in Singapore.

With 2km to go, Jason was shouting so loudly as if I have already gotten the record in the bag. I wanted to tell him “Let’s not be too happy yet! The bomb may drop on me any time soon!” But I kept covering gaps and eventually I was 20 metres from Number 11 and in 5th position for the last 1.5km. I was still hesitant to push harder and kept pace at nanajiu-ichi each lap and the gap was constant between me and Number 11.

Bell lap came, Jason was shouting like a crazy man at the side at the finish line. I could hear his excitement and I was excited too . I am way ahead of singapore record pace and I was feeling absolutely fantastic. I knew no matter how hard the fatigue will hit me now, I will still get the record. I shifted up my final gear and made my way round my last lap. Number 11 was getting close but i guess he had another gear too. He finished with a time of 14:48 while I finished in a new Singapore Record time of 14:51.095. I finished in 5th position.

Jason and I basically went crazy over the record time finish!

It was indeed a successful trip to Japan.

I will be following up with an article on the japanese running culture. One will be amazed and I encourage everyone who has the means to visit Japan, do go there!

Acknowledgements:

Jason Lawrence, my training partner, advisor and manager for this trip

Tokyo Harriers Running Team and the team coaches Taro and Tomoko for providing accommodation for first 2 nights.

Brett Larner, chief editor of Japan Running News for great company and encouragement.

Mika, Brett’s wife for videoing the race.

Takashi-san, Jason’s friend, for providing accommodation for the next 3 nights.

My friends and supporters in Singapore who has been cheering for me at all my races

My family who is always there to support my endeavors.

My girlfriend, Dinah, who cheers for me in her heart everywhere I race.

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