Monday, February 23, 2015

Tokyo Marathon 2015: Expectations and Reality

So, I finished the Tokyo Marathon... and am now dealing with the disappointment that came with it.

I started off really well. It felt like flying, going at a good pace with steady breath, steady heart rate and powerful legs... except for a twinge in the left knee.

Right after saying hello to my wonderful friends who came to cheer, I started feeling real pain. I tried different ways to stretch it out, and kept on going until the 23km mark, where suddenly my knee locked and I couldn't bend or land on it. I burst into tears of sheer sadness and disappointment. Had the knee not given out, I am pretty sure this would have been my fastest race yet. I had trained very hard, gone to the sports therapist to get my muscles and tendons properly stretched... all for nothing.

I hobbled over to the AED tent, and the kind volunteers stretched me out and taped up my knee. Hoping for the best I started running again. For about 5 steps. Nope. This was not happening. No can do. More tears and general despair.

And this is the interesting part. Until not too long ago I would have given up, since I obviously couldn't reach the 'perfect run' image jealously guarded in my mind. But instead I took a few breaths and re-framed the whole situation.
Okay, so a sub-5 hour marathon is out of the question. What CAN I do?

Oddly enough, walking wasn't all that painful, as long as I kept my knee from bending. Good. So the new goal is to finish the darn race and not get swept  (loaded into a bus that takes you to the end point because you are too slow to finish in the set time). I picked myself up and power-hobbled my way to the end, trying not to be too sad or jealous when my friends passed me (since its not their fault, for crying out loud). I ended up finishing in just under 6 hours, which is not bad for a hobble pace.

While I am proud of myself for finishing and not giving up when my 'ideal' was stripped away, some ambivalence remains. There is medal on my bedside table, and I am not sure I deserved it. I can't help but think 'what if the day had been warmer' (as the doctor said the long wait in the cold might have precipitated it) or 'maybe if I had just stretched it out a bit more'... ugh, annoying.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cultural Fatigue: aka 'Eugh, not this again!'

Yesterday I was scrolling through Tumblr (small life tip: if you haven't got a Tumblr account, don't get one. It is intensively addictive!) when I came across a reference to cultural fatigue ( 

While the author is talking about a very different situation (being constantly overcharged in South America) the whole 'feeling' is so very familiar.

As much as one can enjoy living in a different country, it can get exhausting. Japan may be easier than South America in many aspects, but it still finds ways to make you want to scream.

I spend almost all of my waking hours speaking in Japanese. I like my job, for the most part, but the thickly layered bureaucracy is a slog. Having to speak and write in keigo is exhausting. Not always understanding 100% of things said or jokes can be a bit alienated. Getting spoken to in boo-boo English from shopkeepers. People assuming I am an English teacher or don't know much about Japan.
It is not the end of the world, but these little things do add up. I can't run away from it, so how is one to deal with these feelings of 'doneness' and annoyance?

Well, I have a few ideas of my own, and would love to hear about others:

1- Give Yourself a Break
Spending most of your day in a foreign culture is mentally draining, so give your grey cells a break. Watch shows or read in your native language. Listen to comedians you like. Just space out for a while. Find quiet time to let your mind go blank.

2- Sweat it Out
Cultural fatigue also seems to turn into muscular tension. Get rid of that frustation through exercise. I find that running is a great way to combine idea 1 and 2.

3- Let It Go (Let it go~🎵)
There is a wonderful Buddhist saying: let go or be dragged. At a certain point you just have to let go of some of these annoyances. Making fun of them (to myself or with an understanding friend) helps me make the recurring annoyances small enough to brush off.

4- Enjoy the Good
While there are downsides to living in a different culture, there are (usually) also lots of good points which are worth remembering and celebrating. For instance, I enjoy celebrating traditional Japanese holidays in a small way (like eating ehomaki for Setsubun, or going to a shrine on New Years). I love that I can run safely even after dark. I love that tofu is dirt cheap. I love the beautiful places one can get to by train. I adore not having to drive or own a car. Making a little mental list of the things you enjoy can perk you up.

5- Eat Your Own Food
No matter how delicious Japanese cuisine can be, sometimes you just need a taste of home, whatever that might be. Super cheap Kraft macaroni and cheese, a plate of lasagna, hummus loaded with tahini... whatever it is, keep a secret stock for when you need it.

I am now going to take my own advice, have a bowl of pasta e ceci and watch terrible trash tv online.