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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Jogging My Memory For Inspiration

When I first arrived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan in very late July of 1990, I was 175 lbs piled on top of my 5'-11" frame.A good enough height-to-weight proportion... but I certainly lacked the muscle bulk (and fat) I have now.

And… thanks to a plethora of dalliances with the fairer sex, I was pretty much able to keep myself hovering around that weight.

And then… during the summer holidays of 1992, I went back to Toronto for a 2-week vacation - my first trip home in two years, and thanks to either my mother's cooking or the joys of Canadian beer and booze, I packed on 11 lbs in 14 days, arriving back in Ohtawara-shi looking bloated enough to actually have people comment.

I do believe I was so hammered one night in Toronto that I actually whipped out something and waved it as Miss Nude Universe who smiled, grabbed it and told me to put that away befoe I got beat up by the bouncers.

Sage or stage advice... 

Regarding the bulky comments I got back in Ohtawara, I have no idea why people of every culture feels they can come up to me and say whatever insulting thing is on their mind - but they do.

"Geez, Andrew - you got fat!"

(In my head I'm thinking - "And you're ugly! But at least I can lose weight!")

It's probably because I am always so open about discussing anything with people, that they feel comfortable enough to be insulting to me… though… I have never… on purpose… ever casually been insulting to anyone…. if it's an argument, if I can't win without making personal comments, then I have already lost the argument. 

By the way… I want you all to know that today - in 2013 - as I write and complain about being 11 pounds overweight at the immense level of 186 lbs in 1992… I am currently 225 lbs. I blame Major League Baseball and steroids. And porchetta. And I eat when I'm stressed.

In my defense, after coming back to Toronto for good, I spent five solid years in the gym and added 12-inches (30 centimeters) to my chest. My slightly arthritic knee (which occasionally hurts), has Tae Kwon Do and my weight-training regime to blame, whereby I would push over 750 lbs on a vertical.

I had always joked that it wasn't my leg muscles that would give out, but my ligaments in my knees. A pity I was never as prophetic with the lottery or women.

I actually maintained a 185 lb weight with a lot of good solid muscle under the skin.. and looked like I was strong enough to bench-press a moose. We have a lot of those walking around here in Canada. (Not!) 

Anyhow… back to my beef with Japan… and my 11 lbs overweight self.

As I have written before, I decided to diet and exercise as a means to get back into prime whoring shape.

I ate a pack of natto (fermented (rotting) soy beans) and rice every night for dinner, and rain or shine, I would cycle out to the Ohtawara Chu Gakko (Ohtawara Junior High School) and avail myself of their track.

The plan was to run a couple of miles (3,200 meters) or eight laps that first night and repeat until I thought myself sexy enough to deserve being laid again.

Well… that first night… I barely did four laps (one mile or 1,600 meters)… having to walk the last lap… with one arm akimbo on my right side holding in the pain... and completing the whole thing in about 35 minutes. I was sore, out of breath and completely at a loss to know just what the hell had just happened.

I used to be an athlete... I played soccer and baseball... and did some judo... and used to ride my bike everywhere until I got a car a few years earlier back in Toronto...

I did hope that the young student who was running around the track doing sprints and long walks didn't blab to his friend at how badly out of shape I was. That kid was there with his dad… and to their credit, aside from a single bow from the boy as he ran past me one time, there was no other acknowledgement that I existed in his world.

The most amazing thing about that first night of jogging (I went at 9PM assuming the place wouldn't be filled with students), was that I actually went back the next night to do it again.

Not quite content to just do four laps, by hook or by crook, I was going to do five laps (2,000 meters) - because I must have just been feeling sick last night  - there's no way I could be that out of shape, right?

That second night was perhaps the worst night of my jogging life. While I refused to walk at all, my bowels had come loose after the first six steps around the running track and I spent the entire five laps convincing myself to not poop my pants… or to even fart, because if given an opening, I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to close the door.

Each step was a gut-clenching, sphincter-tightening mess inside my brain… as I knew that if I quit now to go back home and take a crap, I would not come back the next day. I would never do it again.

Mind over fecal matter…

Never mind the jokes… I'm no quitter. Not anymore.

I kept up the slow and steady pace, because if I stretched my legs too far apart - mistakes would happen.

So… I slowly ran around the track with my ass cheeks clenched… and with the feeling of hopelessness growing with every aching step.

But I made it… and while the feeling inside only slightly dissipated, the five kilometer bicycle ride home was nearly successful… as I had to stop in a rice field - wade in a bit to the waters… and poop…. and poop…. and poop… and poop some more. And when I though it was over and wiped up with an underwear that would find its way into a public garbage bin… I had to poop again... and then some more…and oh god, more.

I rode home without my ass touching the bike seat... on very tired legs trying to hold my hurting ass cheeks tightly together to avoid leakage.

If you are still reading, you will be happy to know that I went out jogging again the next night… and the next night… I kept on adding 400 meters (one lap) every single night until I reached 10 kilometers.

A feat I did in about 57 minutes… and I did not crap myself on the five kilometer ride back home.

By this time, I had probably lost all the weight I wanted to lose, but I never checked… and instead, I decided to keep on running.

The very next night - I ran the 10 kilometers in just over 37 minutes.

Top of the world, ma!

By that time, along with the junior high school boy and his dad training at the track, I also had a small group of other students watching me - maybe five or six… and actually cheering me as I crossed my imaginary finish line in a time that would have won many a global mini-marathon. This was after three weeks of training.

But… this was the last time I went jogging… as I developed shin splints from crappy shoes…

What I didn't know, however, was that the next time I visited Ohtawara Chu Gakko as an assistant English teacher (AET) - two weeks later - that I would besieged by dozens of boys and girls who wanted to know why I had stopped running.

With the help of a Japanese teacher of English (JTE), I told them of my injury… which led to rounds of the Japanese version of 'alas', as apparently they wanted to run with me.

I looked over at my JTE for clarification, and Mr. Shibata-sensei explained that after the second night (it took one night for the boy to tell everyone what I was doing), that I was being secretly watched by a fairly large cadre of students, who were intrigued by my efforts.

Funny… I never saw anyone else but that one boy and his dad…. and the five or six on that last night... but I was being watched every night?

Yup… and apparently emulated.

Apparently there was a swing in school club activity, as kids were now suddenly interested in long-distance running - attempting to switch club allegiances from kendo or judo to running.

I asked why.

Shibata-sensei says they admired the fact that even though I had struggled mightily the first few times I tried running, that I kept coming back to do it again.

And… after they saw me blaze a 37-minute 10 kilometer run (apparently it wasn't just me timing me), they realized that I wasn't just making up crap about my athletic prowess during all of those never-ending self-introduction classes. That if it was possible that I could run like that, then it was possible for me to have been an okay baseball and soccer player.

Prior to the jogging, I used to go and watch the kids during their club activities… but after that, I was actually asked to participate in them as an equal… (equal to a 14-year-old boy)… which was fine by me…

Even with the shin splints, I spent the next four evenings playing soccer and baseball - wincing within with every step, but enjoy the fug out of my time with them.

And… because there's no such thing as having and keeping anything a secret in Japan... I had secretly made my students believe that not all gaijin (foreigners) live a make-belief life... and that if I, an over-weight, fat bastard could run world-class 10 kilometer times, then they could, too.     

Good thing I never told them about that underwear. That would not have been very inspiring.   

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
PS: The image at the top - that's my marker for the 1st Ohtawara 10km Marathon... that I did not participate in due to shin splints.  
PPS: If you add the first to numbers on that marker, you get 7... and add the last two numbers, that's 4... the reverse of my lucky number 47. 

3 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. 22 years later - yes. Then, no. After tearing my meniscus a few years ago doing Tae Kwon Do, I have developed a bit of arthritis according to all various scans... but it doesn't bother me too much nowadays - as long as I don't run hard or kick a soccer ball.... which I enjoy doing.

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    2. It wouldn't hurt to try a hyaluronic acid supplement. It helps the body produce more of the lining (hyaluron) that cushions the joints.

      My mother and her friends had terrible ostero-arthritis. The thing that got rid of it was hyaluronic acid (50-100mg daily for 3 weeks) with plenty of water: http://www.drpasswater.com/nutrition_library/Sardi.html

      Ostero-Flex is good too, but the best is "Source Naturals Hyaluronic Complex". Any only vitamin store, including Amazon.com, carries it for a low price.

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