Somehow I thought that the city that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics would be bigger. I took a four hour highway bus from Shinjuku to Nagano Station for the 2015 Nagano Marathon. The area around the station reminded me of Toyama, a downtown city area busy with people and vehicles, but never crowded and full of hustle.
The starting location of the Nagano Marathon was at the Nagano City Athletic Park, quite aways from the downtown area. Shuttle buses were running the morning of the race from Nagano Station, but with hotels full I chose to stay in the neighboring city of Suzaka and take a 20 minute walk from Asahi Station, located between Nagano and Suzaka Stations, to the starting line.
Suzaka is only accessible by train via the Nagano Tetsudo Line, no JR train lines run the route. The small city is full of older style houses and one of the most peaceful, beautiful cities I've visited. I stayed at Guest House Kura for a few days, which provided a wonderful stay and a quiet atmosphere. The three other guests I shared a room with were also running the race and while we talked a bit, everyone respected each other's pre-race rituals and didn't bother each other much going into race day.
On race day, after getting off the train at Asahi Station I followed other a group of runners to the park. Thankfully they were locals as there were no signs at Asahi directing runners towards the park and we went through some crazy labyrinth like neighborhoods to get there.
The race itself was pretty rough despite the conditions: The course wasn't hilly, the weather was fine and the support throughout the course was great, but something didn't feel right about 10km into the run and I couldn't settle down into a good rhythm. It was also my first attempt running with a pace leader for most of the race. I dropped from the group with 5 miles to go and began a run of damage control, trying not to let the remainder of the race fall completely apart and suffering through the finish line in 3:03:40. I think my expression in the last two photos from the finish stretch below reflect everything about how I felt during the race. This one hurt.