A few years back I was handed a t-shirt after running in Melbourne’s Marathon Festival. “Run as One” it announced. I didn’t think much about how I should interpret the message, but after running the Fuji Susono Half Marathon earlier this month, I believe the community of Susono can better lay claim to the slogan.
Melbourne’s huge event is run efficiently thanks to the employment of a large and expensive event management corporation, but the personal touch is missing. Susono attracted just over three thousand runners and presented them with something extra. Involvement in something that the community makes happen.
Susono draws on its resources fully. School kids collect timing chips and print out certificates, grandmas register runners; businesses provide transport; the mayor congratulates runners; soldiers make soup, dads lay out signage, a local doctor runs a first aid room. Glitches occur (rain seems to have affected the announcement electronics at some stage) but runners can, and do, take inspiration from the extent to which people work on making the event enjoyable.
Two further examples include the family group pounding out rhythms on the Taiko drums during the pre-start festivities and the commitment of the “guest” runners (a pair of elite female national runners - one who ran the out-and-back 10km event while verbally encouraging every athlete going past and personally thanking every roadside spectator for their support, and the other who waited in the rain at the finish line to congratulate every runner as they struggled home up to two hours after the leaders had come in).
|Akiyama san & Family Taiko Drumming Group|
The negatives?... There is one observation that can’ go without comment: of the dozen or so local government officials and sponsor representatives presented to runners and spectators during opening ceremonies, none was female. Each time I visit Japan I look forward to seeing greater gender equality and each time I find something that shows this issue has further to improve.
|Dave Hunt with his certificate|
As for the runners, we felt supported, encouraged and celebrated. We felt….. “as one”.
|Dave pictured with Mayor Kenji Takamura|
My thanks to:
l The People of Susono
l Peter Patterson and the Frankston Susono Friendship Association for their kind introduction to the Susono community
l Kuniko Tsuji (Seki city) and Naoki Yamaguchi (Susono Marathon Organizing Committee) for their assistance with entry into the event
l Yoko Miyase (Susono Overseas Friendship Association) for her exquisite communication
l Aiko Nakayama (SOFA Exchange Promotion Committee) for her friendship and delicious obento
l Mayor Kenji Takamura for graciously agreeing to meet and wearing his snappy kangaroo neck tie