Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Man in the Wig Speaks

translated and edited by Brett Larner




Osaka-based amateur runner Nobuaki Takata (32, Hirakata Masters AC) came to national attention on Mar. 22 when he ran the Tokyo Marathon wearing a comedy wig featuring an oversized forehead and eyebrows and curly black hair. And he ran well. Qualified for Tokyo's elite division after running 2:19:31 at December's Fukuoka International Marathon, Takata came to the race having finished 9th at the Feb. 7 Hong Kong Marathon in 2:23:31 and having won the Mar. 1 Sasayama Marathon in 2:20:59. He ran with the lead pack for the first 5 km before relaxing his pace, eventually finishing next to women's winner Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Aruze) in 2:25:38.

Takata returned home to find himself a sensation. His entertaining blog How to Run a Marathon Under 2:20 - Jogging is All You Need went from 92 hits the day before the race to over 100,000 hits the next. On Mar. 25 Takata added his account of his run, translated below along with some earlier blog entries and photos and video from the Tokyo Marathon.

Mar. 17 - Massage Machine
My legs are really heavy today, so I guess I'm working harder than I thought. On days like this I get out my leg massage machine and pretty soon my legs are feeling right. I have another problem, though. I can't concentrate at work because I can't stop thinking about the Tokyo Marathon.....

Should I run wearing the wig?

The Tokyo Marathon is supposed to be a big festival so the wig would fit right in, but I'm not going to do it. I'm entered in the elite division and the race organizers probably wouldn't be happy about it since they picked me. If I was running in the general division I'd definitely do it with the wig. But wait, what's that?

Wig: "Please take me!! Wear me in Tokyo!!"
Me: "Sorry. Not this time."
Wig: "It's been SIX YEARS since you wore me for the Kyoto Half!! Come on!!"
Me: "Maybe in the Hokkaido Marathon."
Wig: "No, wait, don't put me back in the closet!! Nooooo......."

Mar. 21 - One Day Until X-Day
It's the day before X-Day. A week ago I made a reservation at a 'traditional(?) B&B' and I just got there. It's pretty much the way the guests' comments on the website said it was. Reminds me of when I was a student.....

When I was putting away my stuff I had a big surprise when I opened one of my bags.

Me: "What the.....What are YOU doing here?!?!"
Wig: "Hahaha, here I am!!"
Me: "But I told you you couldn't come!!"
Wig: "Please!! Let's run the Tokyo Marathon together!! I'm begging you!!"
Me: "If we run here together it'll be the last time!!"
Wig: "I don't care. Please!!"
Me: "You're that serious, huh? Well....."

So, it's settled. I'm running with the wig.

Mar. 22 - X-Day
X-Day is here.

It's 5 minutes before the start and we're lining up. I've got the wig in my hands.

2 minutes to go. They've let the general division people move up behind us, so it's time to put the wig on!! I've never really been nervous doing this before, but I'm sweating now.

Start - a rocket dash.

Wig status:
Fit - OK
Wind resistance - No problem
Positioning - Perfect

Let's go!!

My first goal is 5 km. I'll try to hang with the lead pack until there.

5 km - 15:01
I reached my first checkpoint. My legs are burning, though, so it's time to let go and go after goal #2. I wonder how I'm going to get all the way to the finish with my legs feeling like this. I have to switch back to my own pace and run my own race from here on out.

10 km - 32:11
A TV broadcast truck just came up next to me. "Hey, maybe they're following me to show the wig on TV!" I thought, but then [national record holder] Takaoka went by me. The TV truck kept going with him and left the wig and I all alone again.....


Hit halfway just under 1:10.

33 km
I caught up to Takaoka, who had slowed down a lot. I thought it might help if I said something, so I called out, "Hey, only 10 km to go!!" I heard later that he dropped out right after that. I wonder if he dropped out because I said that? 10 km is a long way. Maybe it was a mistake to say it. Sorry.

After that the headwind got really strong. The wig started to come off a bunch of times.

Wig: "I'm sorry to be making this harder for you. Please, don't worry about me. Just leave me and go on without me....."
Me: "Shut up, you idiot!! The Tokyo Marathon doesn't mean anything if we don't finish together!!"

I couldn't move my legs anymore and the headwind kept getting stronger. With one km to go I was totally broken and didn't want to keep going. Then, running well, the first woman came along.

Man, she was really, really cute.

I was reborn. All of a sudden I had the energy to start running hard again all the way to the finish. I wasn't planning on getting in her way at all, but as we came up to the finish the course marshalls starting waving me to the left, then to the right, and so I was zig-zagging around her getting in all the pictures and TV coverage. I really apologize for all of that.

Click photo for another video of Takata's finish complete with honorific bow.

Finish time: 2:25:38

That completes my goals for this marathon season. Thanks and good job to everyone else who ran with me. To everyone who's going to run a marathon next season, let's do our best!!

3 comments:

tokyophb said...

I appreciate your site very much. I found it while on vacation in Seattle at New Years. I was missing my Hakone ekiden something dreadful (1st time away from Japan at New Years since 1993) and found your wonderful blogsite. On Sunday I was wondering what the story was on that wig guy. Now I know. Thanks so much.

Taipei Marathoner said...

That was a fun and informative read. Thanks for the translation. Glad to have found your site, although I only rarely get to Japan (so far once/year for the Tokyo Marathon). I was wondering how much the wind slowed most runners down, and if it was a figment of my imagination coming as it did at the typical position of "the wall." I was estimating nearly two minutes for me as my legs were still feeling pretty strong at 35K, but it's impossible to say.

dragonscat said...

This article was linked in the comments section of Runner's World's RW Daily this morning. The discussion is about getting passed by people wearing gear that makes you go, "Man, I got passed by THAT guy??!" :)

This is cute. ^_^ I hope the race organizers weren't really upset like Takata-san worried they would be!