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Dry Martini: Running—and Not—in Japan

I have had an adventure.

Mt Fuji from plane window
Good afternoon, Mt. Fuji-san.

A couple of weeks ago, I flew to Japan (Albany to Dulles to Tokyo to Osaka, for the curious). It is not a place I had a deep desire to visit but it has long been a place I’d be happy to see, should the opportunity come my way. When my Dad proposed a trip — this one, sponsored by Smithsonian — I packed up and went. Which was the exact right decision.

The tour started in Kyoto. We kicked around there for a few days, seeing world heritage sites and recovering from the trip itself and the 13-hour time difference. Then we boarded a cruise ship to travel the Inland Sea, which meant hopping from smaller town to even smaller town to South Korea to a small town. It was a Japanese sampler platter of places I’d love to re-visit. Since it was by boat, I didn’t have to keep re-packing and unpacking at every single stop.

Once it became clear this trip was going to happen, I checked out our floating hotel. The ship was one from Ponant, a French cruise line. The ship we were on had just sailed north from an Antarctic cruise, which, dude. I’m all in, if anyone wants to sponsor me.

woman on boat
I'm on a boat! It's very windy!

Thanks to the wonders of this modern age, I was able to thoroughly check out everything the ship had to offer, including the spa and the gym. There would be treadmills in my future, I figured, simply because I had zero idea how much time we’d have in any given port as well as a deep mistrust of my own ability to not get lost in Japan, even with the wonders of this modern age like Google maps. Besides, I could jump on a treadmill when the boat was underway.

man running in a city
I saw a lot of male runners in Japan. I did not see any women running. Which is interesting.

It was a solid plan. Like so many of my solid plans, it completely fell apart in the face of reality.

Reality #1: There are people who have zero problem with shifting their body’s clock forward by 13 hours. I am not one of them. For most of the ten days we were there, most of my systems were in revolt. Sleep was hard to come by during traditional sleeping hours — and we were so busy during the day that there was no time to catch a nap. As for my digestive system, well. I’ll call it “confused” and leave it at that.

Reality #2: It’s hard to run on a treadmill when the boat is moving. Again, there may be some runners out there with cat-like reflexes — and to them I say huzzah — but a stationary run on a moving deck is a trip to the ship’s doctor waiting to happen. He was super-cute, tho, so my concussion wouldn’t have been a total loss.

treadmill with a view of the ocean
The view was spectacular. The footing was less so.

Reality #3: I spent the first five months of 2019 running all the things. Not running any of the things for week wasn’t going to do me any harm and might, in fact, be a good idea. Also: the ship had a spa. Getting a deep tissue massage while the boat is rocking is a lovely way to spend time, too. #LifeTip

What I forgot about was Reality #4: One of the great things about running is how nicely it lowers my anxiety levels and keeps depression at bay. That much time on a plane + a series of strange (but delightful) cities + being surrounded by strangers + missing the heck out of my husband/kids/dogs reminded me how much running quiets all of my mind’s squirrels. Some of my digestive woes likely had to do with my nervous gut, the canary in my mental health coal mine.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t have an amazing time. Traveling with my Dad was an experience I’ll treasure. Plus, Japan is a wonder — and I will do my best to get back there as soon as I can. I will be sure to go for a run or two, if only so that I can soak even more of it in one step at a time.

woman with blowfish
Always pose with the mascot. This one is a blowfish.

I’ve spent the last week convincing my body that Eastern Daylight is the one true time zone again. On my first morning back, I was awake at 4 a.m. and out for a run by 5. I watched the sun come up over my favorite high school track and marveled at how much the scenery can change in 24 hours. I spent the rest of the day trying to stay awake long enough to go to bed at a reasonable time.

As for summer running goals, I have just one: I want to see how quickly I can run a 5K. I’ve been feeling pretty zippy lately. Now is as good a time as any to discover how zippy. The downside is that summer is not my best season (cough VOLDESUN cough). The upside is pretty much everything else. I’m not even thinking about a half until late fall. Might as well give speed a go.

I have a race picked out: the Right to Run 5K on July 20 in Seneca Falls, NY.

Curious: Have you run on a cruise?
If so, any tips?

7 responses to “Dry Martini: Running—and Not—in Japan

  1. These are such great pictures of you! I loved reading about your trip. I plan to be on a houseboat on the Nile in Feb and will find out what that’s like for running. Thanks for the heads up to not make it a firm plan.

  2. I ran on an outdoor track on a cruise I took last summer. Nice when docked at a port, awkward when moving – but quite awesome to do when the boat is moving and your GPS is on. I clocked my fastes mile ever (cause the boat was moving quicker than I).

  3. This made me actually laugh out loud. I, too, thought running on a treadmill on a boat would be a great idea until attempted. More power to those amazing people who can do it. I walk around the deck is more my style. If you turn on your GPS you get amazing maps and splits because it also includes the boat’s speed :).

  4. I had fun following your trip on Instagram since I just returned from a month in Japan. We were staying in Nara (south of Kyoto) which has a HUGE park that I would run in. I also rarely saw other women runners – even tourists. And when I did, they were covered much more modestly than I was, in my running shorts.

  5. Sounds like a wonderful trip!
    Not all vacations lend themselves to running. My husband and I, both dedicated runners, did a Caribbean cruise about 10 years ago. There was a room full of exercise equipment and an outdoor track, but we barely ran. We were up and out early every day for excursions.
    Good luck at the Right to Run. I ran the 19k the inaugural year and always planned to return. Katherine Switzer and her husband were there! We got our picture taken with her.

  6. I always love your posts, Adrienne they are so much fun to read 🙂 Yes, I have ‘run’ on a cruise ship. The first time I tried the TM I had the same issues as you, just couldn’t do it with the ship rolling back and forth. So I ran on the track on the top deck. Not a speedy run that’s for sure, dodging the walkers and those standing at the railing with drink(s) in hand enjoying the view, and the occasional wet deck from spray. And after a while it got a bit monotonous. But it is possible.

  7. So timely! We are cruising in Europe in a few weeks, and I’ve got it in my head that I want to do a mile in each port. But it’s already stressing me out a little and I think I need to start managing my expectations!

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