Part 7. The “Fateful” Journey to Atacama

All three race members of team “KIZUNA” – Kuro, Shin and I – had a hectic schedule right before the race.

Kuro: travel for work

Istanbul→ Washington→ London→ Tokyo Marathon in a giraffe costume→ Atacama

Shin: Tokyo Marathon in a banana costume in between business trips around Malaysia, Philippines, USA and Japan→Atacama

Me: Tokyo Marathon in a radish costume (dropping out at 20km)→ business trip to China for 3 days→return to Japan at midnight→ fly to Atacama few hours later.

Some wise readers would probably say, “You didn’t have to do the Tokyo Marathon in between.”

Well, you are absolutely right.

Anyways, the day to fly for Atacama finally arrived.

We hardly slept due to preparation for the race and work.

However, we were positive about this, confidant that this would be good for adjusting to the time difference.

The journey from Japan to Atacama was like this:

Narita -> New York -> Santiago, Chile -> Calama, Chile

A tough journey consisting of 3 flights and 40 hours.

I love the word, “Fate”.

Never have I experienced such a journey full of fate than the one for Atacama.

First, the flight from Narita to New York.

Coincidentally, the pilot was Rikimaru, Shin’s friend from elementary school, and a fellow runner. (He ran the Tokyo Marathon in a green soybean (edamame) costume with us just a few days before.)

And the flight’s chief purser was a friend of Maki, who is a desert friend of me and Shin, and was also racing the Atacama.

“What the…?!”

In the flight to New York, several cabin attendants gathered around me and handed me a card which said “Go for world No.1″. So many connections of fate!


But the truth was that I got sick during the business trip to China.

I had a chill so terrible that I was trembling, with nausea and a headache right before I got on board to the flight back to Japan.

(Oh my, I might not be able to get on the plane back to Japan… But if I miss this flight, I won’t make it to Atacama…)

I was able to come back to Japan at midnight, barely breathing.

Even after arriving to Narita, I had to lie down all the time, fighting nausea.

That was only 7 hours before I left my house to head for Atacama.

I even had to visit the ER in the middle of the night, before going back to my house.

Therefore, I was lying down all the way on the first flight to Atacama from Narita to New York.


(Lying down for 12 hours on a vacant four row seat. Seat-belt fastened! Photo secretly taken by Shin)

During the flight, cabin attendants frequently visited me saying things like:

“Are you feeling alright?”

“You have been resting the entire time. Would you like your meal?”

“You hardly ate anything. Is there anything you would like?”

They were so kind, and I was so thankful to them.

It was probably something Rikimaru (the pilot) and Maki (the chief purser) suggested.

Because of their support, I was feeling a little better.

(I am so easy to please… ) I definitely gotta do it now!!

So my condition got better during the flight to New York.

My biggest concern was the leg trouble, which started in Okinawa and recurred in the Tokyo Marathon.

In fact, while I was in China, I was so uncertain about my leg that I couldn’t sleep. I practiced taping many times studying taping methods online in the middle of the night.

(I must do everything I possibly can!)

That’s how I came up with the idea to receive medical treatment for my leg during the 12-hour transit in New York.

Another miracle of fate happened here.

I asked for advice to Ayako “Ayalo” Yamazaki living in New York. She used to be in the same class with Shin in elementary school, and also my junior in high school, and was also a runner herself.

“There is this great physiotherapist I know, and he will treat you!” She said.

Ayalo took the day off work for me and came to the airport to pick me up. With Ayalo driving the car, together we went to see Evan the physiotherapist.

Me: “Ayalo, thank you so much! How can I repay you? I will do anything you say! Thank you!”

Ayalo: “OK, then treat me dinner forever! For the next 100 years!”

Me: “No problem!!!”

During our drive through Manhattan, Tomo from the media crew asked me various questions with the camera on.

Tomo: “Mr.Ono, how is your condition and your leg?”

Me: “It would be a lie to say I’m not feeling uneasy, but I guess things will turn out fine. I must make things turn out fine!” (In fact I was full of anxiety, but since the camera was on so I had to say that!!)

Tomo: “You seem so energetic all the time. Do you feel pressure?”

Me: “Well, since I have the most experience in both running and in races, I thought I should push myself to lead everyone. Now I am afraid I might slow down our team’s pace because of my injury.”

Then Ayalo, smiling, said something that blew me away.

Ayalo: “Ohhh… This looks familiar. I used to do team sports. In a team there’s always one person who just won’t stop over-thinking everything and takes responsibility upon themselves, despite the fact that no-one cares a damn about it!”

(Hey! Isn’t that…me? )

After an hour long drive, we arrived to Dr.Evan’s, the physiotherapist.

Checking my pulse,

Evan, smiling, says something that blows me away..

Evan: “Why do you seem so concerned?”

(How does he know!?)

Another comment.

Me: “Besides the leg trouble and my stomach, the left side of my neck gets stiff a lot these days.”

Evan: “Oh, that’s typical for people who get worried too much and over-think situations.”

And the final blow.

While touching my body, arm and legs, Evan says, “Hmmm… Maybe you drink alcohol too much. Your liver is a little bit stiff which is causing your right leg and left hand muscle to stiffen.”


He was right. Not only the troubled right leg but my left arm’s muscle was stiffer than my right arm.

(I didn’t expect all of these things to be connected, but I guess they are!)

Me: “Yes, I love to drink. You could say I run to have a good drink… But I am not in good condition right now. I will not have a drink until after the race.”

The chill and the troubled stomach that happened in China.

The stiff neck.

Both were because I get way too concerned.

And the leg trouble was because I drink too much and run too much.

Everything is my fault…

Of course, Evan will not only do the consultation but do the treatment.

For the uneasiness, nausea and diarrhea, I was treated good traditional Chinese medicine and herbal tea.

For the leg, it was acupuncture.

Evan: “I’ll treat a lot of acupuncture to your leg and your butt. It will hurt a lot.”

Ayalo: “Oh, I had that and it hurt so much I screamed!!! Evan, do it! I wanna see Mr.Ono have needles in his butt! HAHAHA!”

Me: “Sob… Well, if it’s gonna make things better, do wherever you need to…”

And then started the time of agony.

One by one, Evan’s needles were inserted into my leg.


Ayalo: “Hey, Hiro. I’ve done this treatment before. It hurts a lot, doesn’t it???”

Me: “This… doesn’t hurt at all… Feels comfortable. Like I’m taking a bath… OUCH!!!!!”

Ayalo: “It hurts, right???”

Me: “No, this is alright…ARRGH!!!!”

Evan: “OK, next I will treat some to the sole of your foot.”

Me: “What!! I thought you’re not supposed to do acupuncture to the sole… AIYEEEEEE!!!!!”


After inserting 20 needles and teaching me some stretch movements, the treatment was over.

(The treatment was so painful… Running 250km through the desert might have been easier than this…)

Evan: “After this acupuncture, you will have a symptom similar to a muscular pain in your leg, but it will recover by the race, so don’t worry!”

Immediately after the treatment, I was suffering a terrible muscular pain in my leg. I had to walk like a robot, with 5cm steps.

(Am I really going to be able to run 250km in just 4 days from now?)

What if I couldn’t make it to the start line? Even though I was able to make it to the start line, what if my leg starts hurting during the race and I can’t even walk?

No! No!!

I’m not supposed to worry too much. I’m not supposed to over-think!

Things will turn out fine! I will make things turn out fine!

After the treatment, I went to see my friends drinking in Manhattan, but the pain was so bad I had to lie down alone.

After the New York transit, I had 2 more flights, where I was able to recover from the muscular pain.

Finally, I was standing at Atacama, the race location.

(Continue to Part 8)