Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sense memories

I just got back from a nighttime jog, for the first time in, oh, years. Don't ask me why - my body tells me to go jogging at 9:30, I'm going jogging, especially considering how snug my jeans have been getting.

Believe it or not, I used to jog all the time, and always in the evening. Of course, we lived in Japan at the time, and it was the only time I wasn't at work or commuting back and forth, and the crime rate in Nagoya was about 0, so jogging at night over there was a little different than doing it over here. It's funny, though, how the slap of shoes on concrete and the damp night air on my clammy legs brought back a bunch of memories of running in Japan.

My route over there was a large loop that started and ended at our apartment building. Our neighborhood was insanely hilly, and I purposely routed myself up and down the hills because the downhills gave me a (very brief) break. Don't get me wrong - I suck at running. I have bad knees, I get winded walking uphill, and I have the determination of a banana slug. But jogging in Japan was one of the few ways I could be by myself in a socially acceptable fashion, and after a few weeks of gradually running more and walking less, it became a lot less painful. There was even one or two nights when I ran the whole way, a much longer route than normal, because I finally got the fabled "runner's high." Okay, it wasn't a "high," more of a "not nearly so sucky," but it was fun all the same. After we moved back to Cleveland the weather was so bad - and my need for solitude was so reduced - that I gave it up pretty soon, managing to straggle through one 5K sponsored by my employer in spring of 2000 before hanging up my shoes for good.

I last jogged in Japan in November or December of 1999, and I can still picture virtually my entire route, one stride at a time. I carried a flashlight, but that was mostly so I could turn it on to warn cars I was there when they infrequently came by. Mostly I ran in the dark, the glow from the television sets shining through front windows and lighting my way on the sidewalks and streets. I knew where to shift left and right to avoid cracks and potholes, where the curb wasn't nearly as tall as it looked, and which neighbors cooked the best-smelling dinners. I saw another runner every couple weeks, usually the same guy running on the opposite side of the canal.

I'd start uphill from our apartment, walking to the corner before I started to jog. I'd jog uphill for a few blocks, then it leveled out, then it went up again before dropping off steeply on the back street where the VW bus used to park. When I took the longer route I'd swing past a few shops that I never went past when I wasn't running, past the izakayas where I'd have to dodge the drunk salarymen if I had waited too late to start running. Back down past the school, the grocery store/supermarket, the tennis courts where the bats flitted in and out of the streetlights. Stop running at our corner, walk up the block past the new construction on the street behind us, then circle around to the front of the building and stretch on the steps before buzzing myself in.

Where am I going with this? Heck if I know. I just had half an hour of mindless exercise, and it all came flooding back, and I thought I'd better write it down before I forgot.

Next time: Why stretching my quads makes me think of earthquakes :)

Note to self: I realized today that most of my sports bras and some of my spandex exercise shorts are the same ones I wore in Japan. Eyech. If I keep up the schedule for two weeks, I get to go to Target and buy some new duds. And if I keep up the schedule and can complete a 5K before my birthday, I'm buying the biggest freaking brownie sundae in the state and eating it all by myself.

Edited to add: I've been futzing around on Google Earth. If you want to see where our old apartment was, here are the coordinates:
Latitude: 35° 9'54.68"N
Longitude: 137° 0'15.73"E

If you search for Nagoya, Japan, then zoom in on Meito-ku, it will get you to the right area. We're just a little west of the highway and the canal which runs parallel to it, just north of the big dirt courtyard in the elementary school across the street from our building.

My god, it's a trip down memory lane. There's the temple with the dragon water spouts. The Denny's where I had my first Japanese curry. The McDonalds where we used to get pancakes. The park where we had a nice rural walk until we found the huge piles of condoms behind every shrub or large rock.

Good times, good times.

Speaking of which, I kinda miss this place: . Oh, Fowl Balls, how I miss you!


Anonymous said...

I have no idea how you remember those things. I didn't run as often as you, but my memories are much less clear. I remember running by a drainage ditch at one point. Other than that, my only memories are billboards. Meg Ryan was hocking Buicks. I also remember some actor in a viking outfit selling something (whiskey?)...I think it was Jean Reno - who was in a movie about a hitman called The Professional.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on restarting the jogging.

Please keep it up and please let us know how it goes.

Anonymous said...

OMG, i just checked out the Shooters website. Your dates remind me it was sooo long ago but i can close my eyes and be there in a second!! Good luck with your running. Walking to the corner is about all i'm capable of at the moment.