No, I’m not disclosing my digestive issues here. I saw an ad back in November about a 10 km run scheduled for mid-January. I wondered if it was anything like the Hot Chocolate run Karen, Pat and I did last year where, after you cross the finish line, you get a plastic container/mug with a section of melted chocolate, a huge marshmallow and a banana. After running that 15k on a cold Seattle day, it was the best reward to bite into the warm, chocolate dipped banana. So when I saw this poster for the SportsOne Chocolate 10k run, I figured I might as well see what this was all about.
The day of the race, I took the subway to Ryokuchikoen (try saying that 3 times fast!) station and walked to the start line from there. I assumed there would be signs or other runners making their way to the starting line, so I didn’t pay too much attention to the website indicating the specific details of the event. As I got out of the station, it seemed as though I was the only participant since the park was pretty empty. Perhaps I got the wrong day, I wondered as I kept searching for any signs of a race. Finally, toward the other side of the park, I saw a homemade sign pointing runners to a building that had yellow caution tape partway around it. I imagined it was some sort of trap to capture wayward runners, but the man standing by the building ushering people inside had a “chocorun” shirt on and it looked kind of official.
Before I go any further, if this were back in the States, my spidey sense would have told me to turn around and run in the opposite direction of that guy, but this being Japan, I knew he was legit to point racers in the right direction. He showed me to an official looking registration table and I could see banners for the 2019 Chocolate Run beside it. “Onamae wa?” asked the old man behind the table. He had a small box of racing bibs in front of him. He found my name, handed me my bib and a bag of meito chocolates.
Hold on here. I get the prize at the beginning of the race? What’s the incentive to actually run now? And really, just that small bag of chocolates is all I get? This is nothing like the Hot Chocolate Run back at home. Here’s what it looked like 5 minutes before the race:
Maybe 40 people total running? Before the race began, the MC had us do the traditional Japanese thing done before any group competition: Rajio Taiso. See Blythe and Mary, there’s a reason I taught my students those exercises! 😂
After rajio taiso stretching, we were asked to get in lines depending on which drink you’d like: coffee, tea, cafe au lait or hot chocolate. I thought it weird to be drinking a cup just before running, but it was a tad chilly, so I got in the cafe au lait line and when I got to the front, I was given…
a drink ticket to be redeemed on the course at a hot drink station. Ok, now where to put this ticket while I run?
Finally, the MC asked the 40 of us to head to the start line and we counted down from 10 and off we went when the officiant yelled, “sutaato!” (start!). I followed the cones out of the stadium to the park, which is massive. There is a horse riding area, a farmhouse museum, many play structures, bbq pits, gardens, a sports complex and bamboo forest to name a few areas.
I ran about 2k when I turned a corner and came across booths and tents with the chocorun logo on it. I stopped to look and oh my…forget running!
Each booth had cookies, cakes and chocolate. I asked if this was the only booth area and the attendant replied in the affirmative, so I took in some snacks and redeemed my voucher for a cafe au lait. I was a little perplexed as to why they placed the booth at kilometer 2 and not closer to the finish line, but oh well, when in Rome…err Osaka!
I was finally able to tear myself away from all the yummy treats and continue running. The course rounded a corner and led us back to…the stadium? It was a bit confusing at first and then it hit me. We are to run the course 4 times! Now it made sense why there was only 1 booth area. But that meant I would pass it 3 more times. Would I stop each time to grab more chocolate? Or did I want to make good time, which means passing it up? Decisions, decisions. I ended up passing it up twice and on the last lap, I grabbed a cookie and headed for the stadium entrance one last time. As I approached the finish line, I couldn’t decide if this was something I’d want to run again. It seemed poorly planned and not well attended. It definitely was different. But as I headed for the home stretch, I saw the MC with something in his hand to meet me at the finish line. A small medal? A charm? Money? It was a brownie square on a toothpick. Sold! I’m running this again next year.