Monday, April 10, 2006

Running around a volcano.

The Sakurajima marathon was my first attempt at jogging in the company of other people.

For me, running is an intensely private experience: the pounding of blood in the ears, the beating of theheart, the sweet sweat in the eyes. It’s a personal indulgence, like a chocolate binge or sleeping in on the weekend. But Kim’s invitation to join hundreds of others was so eloquent, elegant and promising I could not resist- and I had visions of jumping over bubbling lava pools, choking on ash, being petrified over thousands of years like the victims of Pompeii…cool.

I eagerly signed up for the 10 km course. Unfortunately I ran into some red tape before the race. I had had the impertinence to send in the entry form a week too late, and the repercussions of this act continue, to this day, to haunt me. At registration my appearance unleashed such blind panic among officials that at first I thought my gaikokujin card must bear the name of Osama Bin Laden. People were running around, faxing each other, calling, screaming, downing vodka shots, beating their chests and playing janken to see who would have to deal with such a scurrilous troublemaker as myself. Ofcourse I am exaggerating a bit here; my immediate interlocutor was a jovial giant who was nothing but pure kindness. Nevertheless I knew he would not berunning- he must have weighed at least 130 kgs- a small hippo who resembled a sumo wrestler. Not that I would insinuate that sumowrestlers aren’t athletes. After all, they follow a strict training regime... consisting of the consumptionof two buckets of KFC and a five-kilo cheesecake daily.

Following registration we had a warm-up session lasting longer than the race itself. That was no problem, because it allowed me to become thoroughly bored with the whole thing and go home. Just a joke, sorry. The actual race went off without much problem, and I was happy with my time, except for one moment, around the 6 km mark, when I was passed by an old man, contemptuous of my (relative) youth, who looked like Grandpa Simpson, except that if anything he was even more wrinkled and leathery.

Oh, there is one more thing worth mentioning: by the 8 km mark, long after I had reconciled myself to not being overrun by a river of boiling lava, I began to feel high. The jogging high is a good one, and I recommend it to anyone who has not experienced it, or who can't afford cocaine. It’s a happy kind of drifting euphoria, not unlike an orgasm, but softer and longer (similar to an orgasm also in the sense that it is usually experienced without company!). Indeed I understand that the further you run, the stronger is the high. Judging from how I feel after 10 kms, people who complete a full marathon must be high as a kite. Come to think of it, have you ever seen a marathon runner being interviewed just after he finishes? The stuttering, the disorientation, the trembling? He’s not just tired, he’s off his dial. So I drove home feeling very nice indeed. I shall certainly be back next year, lava or not. I may even do the full marathon. Just for the challenge, mind you.

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