I was recently featured in the Tokyo-based bilingual magazine J-Select. I like the use of the photo!
Unfortunately I’m missing page three!
Here’s the start of the article, which won’t be available online for much longer.
Japan’s capital reinvigorates an old pastime with new technologies
Story by Paige Ferrari
As I run I tell myself to think of a river. And clouds. But essentially I’m not thinking of anything. All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody says.
Haruki Murakami, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”
Every morning before rush hour – and weekday evenings just before dusk – the path around Tokyo’s Imperial Palace bulges with runners.
Some are plugged into headphones, others chit chat with a partner. Some move at barely more than a walk whereas others zoom past, seeming to create their own wind. On weekends, thousands of runners come together to form a bobbing, sweating mass of humanity: a sort of living monument to the Japanese concept of gaman (endurance).
“We’re in the middle of a real running boom,” says Bob Poulson, leader and founder of Tokyo’s popular running club, Namban Rengo. Over the past 3 years – “It all started with the Tokyo Marathon in 2007,” he notes – what used to be a sport for the disciplined few, has seen a surge of interest from new devotees.
For the 2010 Tokyo Marathon, over 272,000 hopefuls entered a lottery for 32,000 slots. Forty percent of them were first-time marathoners. Next year promises to be even bigger. In the first 24 hours of availability, more than 32,000 people applied, according to the Daily Yomiuri.
“For the New York Marathon, you might get 100,000, maybe 150,000 entrants,” says Poulson. “But nowhere else in the world do a quarter of a million people apply for a marathon.”
The craze has even spawned business opportunities. Those paths around the Palace have become so popular that in the last few years new service areas have popped up offering showers and refreshments to the sweaty, thirsty, masses.
When it comes to exercise trends, running seems like the anti-fad. It is, after all, arguably the simplest form of exercise, requiring no special equipment, no prescribed uniform, and no fealty pledge to the guru of the moment. Fitness fads also come and go within a season or two, whereas the running trend seems to just keep building every year. This may be thanks to the fact that in Japan, (in true Japanese style) this classic form of fitness comes with a few modern twists.
In contrast to the solitary-jogger stereotype, the new wave of runners is more extroverted, more social. Runners come to clubs like Poulson’s Namban Rengo not only to get fit, but also to share their passion with others. The idea seems a natural fit in Japan, where there is a national obsession with road relay races like the popular Hakone Ekiden, events where running is viewed as a celebration of teamwork as much as individual achievement…
[that’s where the online version ended!]