HOKA NAZ Elite’s Executive Director, Ben Rosario, takes you through the Osaka Women’s Marathon weekend where Alice Wright finished in 11th place in the historic race.
Osaka is a beautiful city of more than 2.6 million people located in the Kansai region of south-central Japan. These were the views we had from breakfast on the 18th floor of the Hotel New Otani, where all the pro athletes stayed.
HOKA was the official footwear sponsor of the race. It’s great to see the brand making such headway in Japan, a country that LOVES running!
On Friday I was able to connect with my friend Katsuhiko Hanada, head track and ekiden coach at Waseda University. I first met Coach Hanada in 2018 when he was the coach of the GMO professional team. We’ve stayed in touch and it’s always fun to talk training with him…with the help of Google Translate!
This was the official race poster. It was all over town. Japan treats the marathon like the U.S. treats football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer. The TV broadcast on Sunday was watched by 10 million people!
On Saturday morning I got to walk around town a bit and found this U.S. style run specialty store. It’s been more than a decade since I owned a running store myself, but I still find it physically impossible not to go in every time I see one.
I also have trouble not going into donut stores. So yes, you better believe I had me some Mister Donut!
The host hotel was right across the street from the Osaka Castle, one of the entire country’s most famous landmarks. It played a major role in Japan’s unification during the 16th century. I didn’t get a picture of it myself so I stole this one from Alice’s Instagram story.
The park that surrounds the castle has a fantastic running and walking path. It’s where Alice did her final pre-race workout. The day after the race I saw a high school cross country team working out on the path, which I thought was super cool.
Saturday afternoon was the tech meeting, where things start feeling real. It feels especially real when the only two pace groups are scheduled to run 2:20 pace and 2:24 pace. Alice’s plan was to start a little slower and try to work her way up through the field.
Alice and her sister Amy set out her clothes and took the obligatory pre-race uniform pic on Saturday night.
Sunday morning was more relaxed than normal since the race didn’t start until just after noon. That wind forecast though…
I did a terrible job getting pics of the race, which is to say I didn’t get any. Too busy cheering. So I wrote down Alice’s splits to try and tell the story. Picking the right pace to try and run in the wind is really hard. As you can see, she tried her best to run 2:26-2:27 pace which is what we thought she was capable of, but the wind won the battle toward the end. Still, she did it better than most–moving up from 30th early on, into the 20s, then the teens, and eventually finished 11th.
I also did a poor job of taking post-race pics and I didn’t get any from the awesome after party either, but I can tell you it was amazing. Great food, great people, and lots of Japanese beers and Sake (maybe the latter is why I forgot to take a pic). Anyway, thank gosh for her sister Amy who at least got this one of Alice next to the race poster.
Arigatō gozaimashita to all of the race organizers in Osaka, as well as the interpreters, the volunteers, the competitors, and the fans for an incredible weekend. From all of us at HOKA NAZ Elite, we hope to see you in the future!