On March 4th, fifty Striders made the trip to Saitama for the Pansy Half Marathon and kids race. This was the second year that Striders participated in this race and many of the runners were running it for the first time. The race site was at a local track near a gymnasium and had several vendors, food booths, free bananas before and free soup after the race. The race start and finish was on a track and at 0930 after a few family races the half marathon began.
After rounding the track the race heads to the streets. The race is publicized as a flat fast course and it was true to it's word. While the course views leave much to be desired, the race has many turns as well as a few out and backs that make it quite enjoyable. At the start of the race the sides of the street are lined with spectators including a local baseball team and a few neighbors playing some traditional Japanese festival music. The water stops were very well placed and had a great mixture of water and Aquarius. A few spectators even offered some candy and snacks to runners as they passed by. The course weaves it's way through the city and farmland then back to the track where it started. The kilometer markers were pretty accurate and very well placed along the course. Finishing on the track is always a blast and reminds you of the high school days as you muster any energy you have left to sprint towards the finish line. After finishing you are given a bottle of Aquarius, Mizuno "Man Purse" that Pat thought was the best finisher item ever. You even get a certificate at the end with you finish time and place.
As we did the year before, after the race we went about 20 minutes away for strawberry picking. While you cannot take any home you get all you can eat for 30 minutes. After some directions and filling up our containers with condensed milk (which is awesome by the way), we were off and eating strawberries to our heart's content. The record from the first year was 100 strawberries in 30 minutes and after the first 10 it was obvious that there was going to be a new champ. At the end of the day Juan had eaten 175 strawberries and would have eaten more if it wasn't for the time limit. Everyone had a great time and while we didn't even put a dent in the rows of strawberries, everyone left fat and happy.