Part 15. Stage 5-2 – The Person We Waited for Has Arrived

Completing the 11.5 hour stage 5, the only stage left was stage 6 which was scheduled for the day after next.

(Stage 5 is a two-day overnight stage. Because we were able to finish in one day, the next day we could take a rest.)

I had been so worried about my injury, but miraculously, nothing happened.

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The taping on my leg got so crusty in just one week.

But I was surprised that my leg lasted.

Just one week ago at the Tokyo Marathon, the pain occurred at the 10km point.

Now, after running for 240km, nothing is happening.

“Toshiwo is probably protecting us.”

Before the race:

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After the race:

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Before and during the race, I wasn’t able to sleep well.

Even after the 11.5-hour run of stage 5, I wasn’t able to sleep, partly because of the nausea which was happening again.

Maybe I was freed from the invisible pressure I was fighting all the time.

I wasn’t able to sleep, and lying down alone wouldn’t help me recover, so I walked to the goal to welcome the runners still running in the darkness.

(I would be better off seeing everyone reach the goal)

It was a long stage – one runner would reach the goal every 30 minutes or every hour.

But whenever I could see a headlight swaying in the distance, I got really excited and encouraged.

“The toughest runner is the one who spends the longest time on the course. Their courage to reach the goal in the dark should be respected…”

Then, I saw a man running at high speed.

Me: “It’s Kiyopi!!!”

Actually, there was another runner that I had encouraged to run.

Kiyohisa “Kiyopi” Takahashi, who I met via Twitter, and had dragged into the world of running.

Kiyopi had registered for the Atacama half a year ago, but he kept it a secret in order to surprise everyone. He registered under the name of “Kirikomi Takaichiro”.

Kiyopi had done a lot of training before coming to Atacama.

But he was so exhausted after finishing day 2. So much that I felt bad about bringing him here in the first place.

I said, “Kiyopi, you should focus on completing the entire race. Let’s lighten your equipment!”

I checked every single one of his equipment, and selected what gear to take and what to leave behind.

His finishing time became a lot earlier from day 3. On stage 5, he was reaching the goal before midnight. He was even doing a last spurt!

“Kiyopi!! You did it!!!”

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Me hugging Kiyopi(left) at the goal of stage 5.

Kiyopi: “Hiro, thank you for taking me with you!”

Me: “Thank you for coming!”

I don’t think it’s very often that you would so happily welcome somebody’s return like this.

After that, I kept welcoming the return of other runners at the goal curled up in a sleeping bag. I didn’t sleep until 7 am.

At dawn, I took a one-hour nap, and waited for the other runners to return.

All 20 of the Japanese runners, including the blind Mr. Hamada, was able to complete stage 5.

(All Japanese runners might be able to complete the entire race! With all these runners, this is quite unbelievable!!!)

When we finish tomorrow’s stage 6, it’s over! We would become world champion in the team race!

(Continue to Part 16)