19 October 2016, 7am
Sun 11 December 2016
Throughout the 42195 metres of the Nara Marathon course ancient buildings from 1300 years ago, when Nara was ancient capital of Japan, appear out of the blue in the middle of the modern landscape. Like the Kyujomon, a 50m-high five-storey pagoda upheld by vermillion-coloured pillars, popping up amidst Government offices, the courthouse and the central station. The appearance of these cultural treasures, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is just a prelude to the journey on which the Nara Marathon takes you.
Entering Nara Park, one of the most famous in Japan, you become aware of wild deer beside the course – they are a protected national treasure. They observe the scene with one eye, perhaps praying for runners to complete their race, and sometimes cross the course in groups. The only choice left to runners is to wait and take a picture with the interlopers. That’s the Nara Marathon for you.
From halfway the race becomes hilly with challenging ups and downs. That’s when you most appreciate the spectators cheering from the sidelines. Traditional Japanese drums energise you to attack the uphills. Adorable cheers from kindergarten kids reminds you of your determination to complete the race as you pledged you would to your family, friends and to yourself. The brass band playing at the turn-around point lifts you enough to get back to the tough course again.
At the refreshment stations your appetite is satisfied with zenzai — a sweet porridge of red beans and the local Nara speciality — Somen noodles.
As a brave soul returning to the stadium you will receive congratulations and many gentle smiles as high school students place a finisher’s medal around your neck and put a finisher’s towel over your shoulders. You again feel the warm welcome of the Nara people. This is the Japanese way of hospitality: “Omotenashi” — to make their guest’s day.
The Nara Marathon holds a 3km fun run the day before the Marathon and 10km races. As the 10km course runs through the perimeter of World Heritage Site, taking in the Todaiji Temple, it’s the best race for you if you want to enjoy historic scenery. Enjoy the 3km run with your family and friends.
The EXPO offers local foods and goods and stage shows. Of the food “Kakinohazushi,” — mackerel or salmon on top of vinegared rice wrapped with a persimmon leaf — is most popular. On the second day, enjoy an “Ashiyu” foot bath with hot water delivered from a famous hot spring resort in the southern Nara. Runners finishing the race take an Ashiyu and a happy look shows up on their faces.
Entries are already closed for this year’s race on 10–11 December. Registration opens every year in May so check out our website and Facebook page at that time.