Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rubber, Rubber, and...Rubber

Interesting title, I know, but it kinda` fits with the journey I am on. No, it`s not a spiritual journey! Don`t be scared off. As some of you know, I am traveling in Japan, China, and Mongolia. Some of the concerns I had before departing were, where can I run? Will it be sufficient? and what if rabid, stray dogs and cats chase me? Put your mind at ease my friends. I am fine and the running has been better than I might have hoped for.

Japan has been an incredible place to enjoy a run even though it was 37 C upon arrival. A short flight to Okinawa and a ferry ride to Kume Jima brought me to my first run. It began at 7:30 am on the road and ended up in sugar cane fields. It`s amazing when you run in a new place, how you tend to forget about the time and any aches or pains. You just run.

Lara ran with me and we ended up on a gorgeous beach covered in hexagonal rock structures. It was so early, there wasn`t another soul to be seen.

Some dolphins followed our ferry back to Naha, the main island of Okinawa, where Mr. Miyagi is from, and where I had my next bout of running. It was 6:30 in the morning and I trotted through the streets, stopping at various vending machines to suck back enough water. After a 15 minute warm up I found myself running along a rubberized canal track...and it was marked in meters for people doing interval stuff. The pathway was packed. I had to dodge people at 6:45 in the morning. Who knew? Miles and miles of rubberized, marked track. It was perfect. Then in Fukuoka, on Kyushu, I found an entire lake surrounded with the stuff, so I definitely had to go out again for a morning run. It was a little slippery this time, but what a forgiving surface to try out barefoot running.

Put your hand up if you`ve ever heard of Vibram Five Fingers. Until I started my most recent book I hadn`t either. It`s essentially a sock with toes and rubberized soles. It was invented for sailors who spent a lot of time on deck. A long story short, I am recommending that every runner, or potential runner, read this book: Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. I mean it....this thing is a MUST read. It totally clarifies so many things, that so many people have instinctively felt for so long. Why we hate roads, why so many of us run with injuries and some of us don`t, and why little kids are such awesome runners (especially in barefeet - I mean seriously, what`s faster than barefeet?). This book was recommended to me by recent sub-24 hour Western States belt buckle recipient, Gary Robbins. He said he couldn`t put it down and I wondered if I could read it. Of course I was able to read it, but without pictures I wasn`t sure I could do it. By the way, incredible job at Western, Gary. Hope you`ll go back for more next year. Also, we`re still waiting for a race report. Dad Shmad...get on it.

This trip has brought us to the main island of Honshu, through Fukuoka, Hiroshima, and now Osaka. Tomorrow afternoon we`ll be in Kyoto, where I am told I`ll be able to trail run again. Although the health conscious Japanese love there rubberized urban trails, I`m itching to get onto some dirt and let the XT Wings do their job in the bamboo forest. I`m picturing something from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Maybe the wings are all I need to fly high in the bamboo.


  1. Hey Tom - Looking forward to seeing a shot of you flying amidst the bamboo! Enjoy the trip!

  2. rubber track all over the place sounds cool! i wanna try that place! yah - barefoot is great if you can avoid rocks and glass .. and i'm sure you can in japan where cleanliness is actually valued by most! i think i'd fall over laughing if i wore those socks..

    great to see the pics of some new terrain.


    p.s. you're approaching gary for length of blogging but not quite ... xD

  3. Keep 'em coming Tom...I'm looking forward to reading about your adventures!


  4. Thanks for the comments everyone. I love it. I had another good run this morning through a forest shrine. Report will follow my trip to the bamboo forest.

  5. Weird, rubberized trails! Take a picture of it! I just discovered that you have a blog. Enjoy the rest of your trip in Japan and beyond!