Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The 63rd Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Part 1

I have always wanted to try some of  'elite' based marathons in Japan. Just to experience how it is like to run with the Japanese 'serious' runners, as they have always given me the impression that they give 110% commitment in whatever they do, and in this case, running as a lifestyle.

So after Boston Marathon, I thought it will be nice to try out something different. While doing some research, I found out that among these are the Lake Biwa Marathon and Fukuoka Marathons which is out of reach for me, because the qualifying time is below 2hr 45 mins.

Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon used to be a restricted and all male race, but in recent years they have relaxed its qualifying time to 3hr 30mins  and they have included the women category as well. They have a system which 'categorized' marathon runners into their respective finishing time, therefore, allowing a place for a much slower runner like me. So the 63rd Mainichi Beppu Oita Marathon it is!

The Beppu-Ōita Marathon (別府大分マラソン Beppu Ōita Marason) is an annual (used to be men only) marathon race that takes place every February between the cities of Beppu and Ōita on the island of Kyushu in Japan.

First held in 1952 as a 35 km race, the looped marathon course begins at the bottom of Takasaki Mountain and reaches Beppu's Kankoko International Port before turning back towards the finishing point in the Ōita Municipal Athletic Stadium. The race has IAAF Silver Label Road Race status. The event is sponsored by the The Mainichi Newspapers Co. and is formally known as the Beppu-Ōita Mainichi Marathon. It hosted the Asian Marathon Championship in 1994.

The course is AIMS-certified which means that performances on the course are eligible for national and world records. - Wikipedia.

According to their rule book, they classified runners into:

a. Invited Athletes
b. Category 1 - Elite Marathon within 2 hours 30 minutes
c. Category 2 - Sub3 Marathon within 2 hours 59minutes 59 seconds
d. Category 3 - Sub 3:30 Marathon Within 3 hours and 30 minutes

For 2014, the field size is about 3700 athletes (approximately) broken down into:

Overseas Invited Runners - 6
Domestic Invited Runners - 16
Pacemaker - 4
Category 1 Male - 88
Category 2 Male - 1308
Category 2 Female - 12
Category 3 Female - 203
Category 3 Male - 2061

And usually foreign runners are invited athletes (mostly runs faster than 2 hrs 30 mins) or those expatriates who are working in Japan, and so most of the runners are Japanese. Registration is very tedious and only in Japanese, and for this reason there is language barrier which I had faced including some difficulties, but nevertheless after submitting proofs than I can run faster than 3hr 30mins in a certified (AIMS) course. 

They sent me this ticket for my race pack collection (all in Japanese including my name in Kanji)

4500 is my bib number, I am in category 3 obviously and next to it, a short instruction for the race pack collection.

So the day came, and I combined this trip with my family vacation. I landed in Tokyo, and found my way to the Beppu City via the Shinkansen (bullet train). Here, my personal Japanese translator is pretending to be asleep in the Shinkansen. Am I glad I sent her to a chinese primary school and I allowed her to watch ANIMAX!

Upon arrival to Beppu City.

Beppu is ready to rock with the marathon! The history and pictures of past winners are all over the train station. Serious looking runners every where!

Beppu is a beautiful resort town with lots of Onsen (hot spring spa) and Jigoku (hell ..yes hell because of the hot water springs that are in different colors!)

The Japanese are really organized people, and they have established that race pack can only be collected a day before the race day, and only open the REPC within 3 hours time window between 2:00pm to 5:00pm.  But the process is very smooth, and we easily found our way to the B-Con Plaza which is quite close to the train station.

A very nice English speaking lady helped me with my questions and then we were directed to the main hall for the goodies. Its a big hall with lots of happenings,allowing the runners from all over Japan (and world?) to get together and have some carbo-loading session together.

I collected my official T shirt and also had the opportunity to take some photos with these charming Japanese volunteers.

And guess who I bumped into? Woo Chan Yew! He is in category 1 of course, i.e sub 2hr 30mins.

Runners from all over Japan enjoyed themselves in the hall, carbo-loading and they were playing the previous year's race on the big screen, featuring Yuki Kawauchi!

Elites? Names of Invited Elites, Category 1, Category 2 and Category 3 athletes were displayed on the board.

Leaving the B Con Plaza, we came across a beautiful park, with Plum Blossom flowers blooming.

This flower, the Japanese call Ume 梅 and the Chinese call Mei (Moey) 梅.

 We wanted so much to do a run here now but there is a marathon tomorrow.

Inside the race pack....

A magazine is included, with all the names of the athletes. I found mine somewhere around the end of the pages, which also means where I will get to stand at the starting line too.....



  1. Cayalah Mr Moey....Good Luck....from Hilmi

  2. Hi Moey. Always a pleasure reading your post. Happy Running. Chinyh

    1. Thanks Chin, the pleasure is really mine.

  3. Hi, I'm SHIRO, a Japanese runner living in KL. I had a talk with you several times. Maybe you can guess who I am.
    I am very surprised at reading your blog that you joined Beppu-Oita Marathon this year !
    According to my friends in Japan, the race day was very foggy and they couldn't see anything until 15km.
    I'm looking forward to your tomorrow blog !!

    1. Hi Shiro..

      Yes I do remember you, and I alway enjoy racing with you.

      I was lucky that I managed to enter this race. The weather wasn't very good this year, but Beppu Oita Marathon has a fantastic reputation and they lived up to that reputation. It was super foggy at the beginning, and then the fog came on and off. But the organization and the Japanese people made it all worthwhile, plus I get the chance to run with some of the fastest people in Japan, indeed is an honor.

  4. Good luck Mr. Moey! I'm a big fan of your blog and this marathon seems interesting. But then I need to train hard in getting 3:30 ;) Looking forward to your 2nd series of journey.

    1. Thanks Rez. With some training I am sure you will be running this marathon someday. :)


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