Nago Half Marathon – What to Expect

Post by Jannine Myers

Since so many of you ladies have registered to run the Nago Half Marathon in just a couple of weeks, I thought it might be a good idea to write a post about the course, and the event as a whole. I’ve completed the Nago Half Marathon twice now – the first time I ran it at a nice, easy pace, simply for enjoyment, and the second time I high-geared it and ran it competitively. Two different race strategies with two vastly different race results, but one thing remained the same: I finished each of these races determined to run it again.

The Nago Half Marathon has become one of my favorite races in Okinawa for various reasons:

1. The time of year in which this race is scheduled is perfect for two reasons: a) the temperature is typically cool, but not so cold that staying at home in a warm bed is more appealing, and b) the cherry blossoms in the northern part of Okinawa are often still in bloom, greatly enhancing what is already a beautiful half marathon course.

You know you have good friends when they plan their long run route near your race event – thank you Anna! Nago Half Marathon 2011

2. The race route takes runners on a scenic tour with beautiful coastal and forest views – both times I have run the course I have immensely enjoyed the scenery! The added bonus of running in a less traffic-dense area is also a nice change.

3. If you’re looking to challenge yourself and aim for a PR, this may just be the perfect course for you! With relatively fewer runners than other heavily-populated half marathon events, it’s not too difficult to weave your way out of the crowd fairly quickly. And the course itself is, for the most part, nice and flat. Be mindful of your pace throughout the first 7 or 8 miles (run at a “comfortably” hard pace), and slow down when you reach the bridge in the latter half of the course. You will have to endure a bit of a climb up the bridge, but if you have been careful to reserve enough energy, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem. Once you reach the peak of the incline, it’s all downhill and flat from there on in. In fact, if you pace yourself well and think you can manage a negative split, this would be an ideal time to dig deep and start picking up the pace. My fastest miles in last year’s race were during the final three miles of the course.

4. The atmosphere of this event is a huge drawing card for me – the race organizers and their crew of volunteers are extremely courteous and friendly, and the crowd support is wonderful. In true Okinawan spirit, many of the local people venture out of their homes for the morning to encourage and cheer on the runners. And because a large part of the course takes you through uninhabited areas, you get to enjoy the benefits of being motivated by supporters at the start and end of the race (when you need them most), but also by the peaceful and sometimes isolated landscapes throughout the race (time to draw yourself inwards and let your mind propel you forwards).

5. One final reason to look forward to the Nago Half Marathon, is that there is a fantastic restaurant nearby which serves the best post-race soba noodles! Anna and I, and our good friend Mark, have made it a yearly tradition to go with our families to this particular restaurant immediately after the race. Now I’m sure some of you have already been to Ufuya (the name of the restaurant), but if you have never heard of it before and would like a great place to dine after the race, I highly recommend it.

Ufuya literally translates to “Big House,” or so I’ve heard. And that’s exactly what the restaurant Ufuya is – a large, traditional style house with lots of rooms to dine in. What makes it so unique and worth visiting however, is that it is set amidst a backdrop of beautiful man-made waterfalls. Once you’re done eating, you can enjoy a hike up some steps which take you on a short trek through the greenery and surrounding waterfalls.

Keep in mind too, that the ambience and beauty of the place is not the only reason to visit Ufuya – the soba noodles (their specialty) are delicious! They also sell some of the best home-made “chou creme” on island; chou creme pastries are a French style pastry puff filled with a sweet and creamy custard filling. We usually buy three or four and take them home, although on busy days, the chou creme pastries often sell out very quickly. If that happens, there is one more enticing dessert that awaits you as you leave the restaurant. There is a little souvenir shop just down the path on the way to the carpark, and at one end of the store you can buy ice cream. Since there is also a vinegar distillery on the premises, one of the more popular soft-serve ice cream flavors to sample is the black sugar and vinegar (although the pineapple flavor is also very good and I would give it a thumbs-up too).

See you in a couple of weeks ladies, and remember, the faster you run, the greater the odds are of getting a table at Ufuya – it’s a very popular establishment on regular days and twice as busy on race-day!

Motivational quote for those of you contemplating a race strategy: “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park!”  David Ogilvy