On April 2, 2017 Striders headed north of Tokyo to run the Gyoda Tekken Half Marathon. Weather was partly sunny, mid-50s that warmed into the 60s during the race. The race start was located at a local park that featured a viewing tower, playground, and lily ponds that were an out-of-season muddy brown for us, but must look lovely in the summer. A web of footpaths wound through the park—convenient for warm-up laps—and there were food vendors and hot soup available at the finish. All runners of the half marathon, 10k, 5k, and kids run got a towel in their race packs.
The race is scheduled every year to coincide with the cherry blossoms, but nature is fickle and this year the only blossoming cherry tree was the one near the starting area that we camped under! The course turned out to be fast and completely flat, winding through suburban neighborhoods, bordering farm fields, and included one long out-and-back on a bike path beneath (tragically unblossomed) cherry trees. The most scenic part of the run wound around several turtle-shaped hills that turned out to be thousand-year-old burial mounds that were flanked by more budded cherry trees. A few taiko drum troupes kept time for us along the course. Most of the kilometers were marked, and the viewing tower at the finish line was visible from far away, making it easy to gauge when to start the final sprint. Luckily, there was no annoying extra finishing lap through the park to tire you out too soon. All finishers received a certificate at the end, and a few samurai warriors offered to take pictures with some of us as we made our way to the soup tents. Overall, it was a fun, fast race just a little over an hour from base!