At the Chopin’s airport, Chopin’s Polonaise matched perfectly not only with its name but also gave this vivid and bustling place more majestic characteristic. Tourists stopped hurrying up for a second, airport service became more noble than before. It would not be something special unless 7-year old girl named Shi sat by the piano. She was from Japan. Her parents stayed with us in check-in queue to Helsinki flight, but she sneaked out and started playing piano in Chopin Corner. So this is Japan we are flying to? – I thought with Daniel – with plenty of Chopin’s music?
In the same queue, there was Krzysztof. Daniel recognized him immediately – It’s “Diablo” Włodarczyk! He absolutely loved our 2016 plan, and 2017 plan even more (we want to run 1000 km from Tuscumbia to Chicago for 100 – anniversary of Lions organization). “Is there any place for me in your team?” – We exchanged our mobile phone numbers.
Flight to Helsinki was not relaxing at all. Since the beginning, firstly we were informed that there is 30 minutes of delay. According to our plan, we would have 45 minutes for getting into airplane destined to Fukuoka. It diminished to just 15 minutes. Fortunately, they waited for us. The german part of our team, Ludwig, Ulrike and Tilman, came from Berlin to Helsinki, so finally our team was reunited right in this airplane!
In Fukuoka, we landed at the scheduled plan, at 8 am local time. At the airport, we have been awaited with enormous banner Freedom Charity Run by our Japan friends. We knew them only from correspondence. After ceremonial greeting each other and talking over plans for coming days, we took the Shinkansena and traveled to Hiroshimy, at 300 km/h speed. Tickets were not cheap, because they costed approximately 80 dollars per person. At the way back, we will save some money, because we will run back to Fukuoka. Actually, our generous sponsor Dinners Club International will “save” money, due to they are funding our travel, board and lodging expenses during our visit in Japan – THANK YOU!!!
At Hiroshima’s train station, our colleagues from local Lions Club waited for us. At the front was Scott, Canadian, who married Japanese years ago. We were exhausted but still we talked over Monday start ceremony and 60 kilometers route to Iwakuni. It supposed be „only” 40, for start. We had barely open eyes due to we were really tired and there were more changes than that. Time and our strength will show how much this changes will have affect on us. Next two days will be devoted to relax and acclimatization.
Day 2 & 3
We slept peacefully through all Japanese night. Sunday was supposed to be cloudy, so we took the ferry to Itsuku-Shima (Holly Island) on Saturday. Renowned Otorii gate standing on the Sea, buddhist monasteries, beautiful sights and dociled deers were the foremost local attractions. Amazing recreation in sun, full relax. It took us an hour to get on top of Misen, the highest summit on the Island. In order to get there we went through stone steps, which we have started to count when we were in 1/3 of it (engineering habit). We counted 1.549 steps, impressive training before Monday. Nearby the summit we met Japanese runner. We gave him Japanese FCR flyer. He regrets very much, but he has to decline, he has to be in job that time. In way back to the hotel, in tram, we met few girls in school uniforms. They giggling so we gave them flyer about the run. We asked "łatasitaci to iśsio ni hasirimasenka" (Will you run with us?). They giggle even more. When we were leaving the tram, they pleasantly waved to us.
Is rained all night. That is a bummer. We will have to run in rain like in 2013 on the Szczecin – Hamburg route. To our luck it brightens up after breakfast.
All day in Hiroshima, we spent wandering around. First, Jo – Hiroshima castle, next Genbaku Domu. This was the place where „Little Boy” exploded 600 meters above, on 6th August 1945 at 8.15. Shock wave swept whole city, rest was burnt to the ground by 280 meters of fireball, afterwards hundreds of people were dying due to radiation sickness. Casualty amount was close to 200 thousands. If they would not end II World War in that way, would be less casualties? Nevertheless, there is one obvious conclusion – NO MORE WAR!
On our way to Cenotafu, statue in memory of this awful wreck, we met Seiji Yamaguchi. He was born at 1945, 19 days later after the nuclear explosion. He has been running every day for 40 years. Tomorrow, he will run with us.
20 June 2016 – Hiroshima to Iwakuni (40 km)
We arrived at square with two mini buses, Seiji has already waited for us near the statue. Besides him, there were few dozens of people with Governor Yano at front. Our Japanese Partners prepared magnificent wreath, which we placed together in front of the statue.
We standed side by side, representatives of three severely suffered from war nations and together we lost ourselves in thoughts and prayed. Everyone individually however with the same dream – there shall be forever PEACE!
More than dozen people decided to accompany us. We gave t-shirts and get ahead. Traditionally Mariusz ran as first shift. Michi ran with him, aged 70. After that, two years younger Minori – his record in Marathon is 2.45!!! At last 5 km, Mariusz was accompanied by 63-years Toshio. He ran 30 marathons, his best time was in Kyoto – 3.15.
The first 20 km's were full of sun, swelter and plumbeos clouds at the horizon, which were seemingly waiting for Daniel. He barely started and they were at him. Sometimes it drizzled, sometimes it heavily rained, but Daniel did not say a word. Reportedly, it will be like that every day…
It was not rain that stopped Daniel, it was Daniel who stopped the rain. It stopped raining just like that. After Daniel, Ludwig started his shift. Ground became mountainous.
Unexpectedly, our host stayed in a hotel in Iwakuni. This is the place we stay tonight. Ludwig ran his shift to Kuga, where we will start tomorrow morning. 67 kilometers await us. At Kyusu Island, they forecast downpour. It is more and more interesting.
21 June 2016 – Iwakuni to Hofu (80 km)
We spent our evening on enjoying a Japanese bathhouse and a joint supper. The bathhouse helped us not only to regenerate our muscles before the incoming days, but also in subsequent pools with hot, lukewarm and cold water gave us an opportunity to make interesting acquaintances. Prof. Suzuki, nuclear physicist, who in 2002 visited Wroclaw. Everybody enjoyed the FCR project and they all wished us good luck.
During the supper we mentioned Chado, a ceremony of making powdered green tea and this triggered the whole ceremony of making and drinking Matcha and of teaching how to perform it in accordance with Japanese tradition.
The rain overcame by Daniel during the day unleashed its power at night and didn’t relinquish all night long.
In the morning the local Nishiki River was almost bursting its banks, and a beautiful Kontaiko bridge with its 300 years of history seemed to be in real danger.
We began the race in the pouring rain at 9 am. After several hundred meters from the ceremonial start we continued our run with our Japanese friends. Always behind us there was somebody from the trio Toshi, Kaji and Mitchy, and Suuji riding on a bike was showing us the way. Despite the rain we swallowed the first “tenner” in the blink of an eye. Then the rain stopped, but every 3 km we had completely unexpected but very pleasant stops. Friends from the local Lions clubs waited for us at every petrol station and car parks by shopping malls. All of them waived huge banners “We welcome the participants of the marathon from Hiroshima to Fukuoka”. We have just barely picked up speed when it was time to break. During the stop we were refreshed with energy drinks, sandwiches and fruits. Hospitality and perfect organisation of the Japanese is just awe-inspiring – they pay attention even to the smallest details. Everywhere we chanted the slogan "We Run - We Serve".
It is the second day of our run down the main road from Fukuoka to Tokyo. Daniel got an up & down section. The elevation range is over 500 meters. Moreover, we have passed through a constant string of cars and urban buildings. In certain spots it is so dangerous that the organisers, out of concern for our lives, pack us all into minibuses and drive through the “Gordian knots”. Up to now it has been about 3 km. The route after modifications which were introduced by the organisers after our arrival was extended to 279 km. Therefore, so far we keep to the declared 275 km.
22 June 2016 – Hofu to Shimonosek (70 km)
The evening in Hofu was spent in a classic Japanese teahouse (chado). We were taught how to pour tea powder (matcha) into a bowl (chawan) with a special scoop (chashaku) and how, after pouring hot water, make froth with a whisk (chasen), how to position the bowl when serving and when drinking. We were told that it is drunk with three sips and the last one must be accompanied with a loud slurp.
In the morning, at the start we had a company of a local lions group. In the meantime the rain was intensifying. At the time of ceremonial start it was just a drizzle, later on it was raining, and eventually a downpour came. Luckily it was warm. The road was narrow. From the opposite direction came Japanese trucks, splashing time after time a shower of water sprayed by their wheels - every runner’s “dream”.
Daniel had a very narrow section. It was dangerous, but fortunately, it all ended well.
Despite the pouring rain every now and then we encounter groups of hospitable Japanese. In one village the hosts surprise us with Polish and German flags. We admire not only their organisational skills, as in a provincial area it surely is not easy to get flags from distant European countries, but also resourcefulness in honouring us as guests from far abroad.
A coolbox is always full of water and other drinks, sandwiches, nutrients and various energy products. There are special nutritional sweets, crisps dipped in honey and cheese sticks. A case with delicious juicy sun grown tomatoes has just appeared in our bus. Since today we have cold green tea on our deck. It is the effect of our yesterday’s interest in tea powder. Our fantastic hosts do everything to please us.
Somewhere between Hofu and Shimanosek we reached the halfway point – 137.5 km are behind us. After this day comes to an end we will have “just” 91 km left, that is one third of the route. Even in the pouring rain we will run or swim to the finish line.
23 June 2016 – Shimonoseki to Shingu (70 km)
What a fantastic day! First, we started with running under the water. In the morning, it turned out that we lived near the Kanmonkyo bridge all along but we could not see it through fog and downpour. Bridge connects two islands, Honsiu and Kiusiu. The run on the bridge is excluded, although through the almost 1 km tunnel it was possible.
At Kiusiu, great number of hosts were waiting for us. In the front, secretery of 337 A Japan region Takashi Furukawa. Takashi is responsible for organizing our stay, he is the one who checked everything, every tiny detail. We welcomed warmly Tokashi, last time we saw him was at Fukuoka airport. Japanese hospitality demonstration lasts all day. Every 3, 4 at most kilometers there are inhabitants with banners, welcoming us. The weather was favouring us today.
There is Kitakyushu City Hall at 15 km. We have scheduled an audience with the president of the city. He immediately mentioned about his love for Chopin’s and Bach’s music. We told him about this girl we met at the Warsaw airport where she played the piano. Daniel came up with the idea of CD with Chopin’s compositions played by Blechacz as a gift for VIP. It was spot on. President was glad, especially he received similar gift from Ludwig who mentioned Händel, composer from his hometown Halle.
In the meantime, sun emerged from the clouds and heat scorched Daniel who took the shift after the lunch with the president.
Our hosts foresaw next surprise was visiting the Fujinoki elementary school. There were appr. 250 children in age 8-9 years old waiting for us. Every one of them was curious about thousand-kilometers-runners from far Europe. Children prepared banner “Witam i Wilkommen” and magnificent show of traditional fishermen dance. Next, they standed in a row in order to ask questions. We told them about 2000 km, which we have run already as FCR and more than 5 mln Yen’s gathered for children in need from a few countries. At the end, we asked them a question "łatasitaczi to ićci ni hasirimasenka", which they answered enthusiastically that they will run with us some day. We have ended the meeting by chanting together the words "We Run - We Serve!".
Until the end, the route was great and was in contrary to yesterday’s struggle. We ran through the bay along the sea. There were barely cars, beautiful beach on the right and breathtaking views of Rio’s a la Corcovado mountains in a vast distance. Three of us again ran last kilometer. Daniel imposed tempo close to 4 min per km. We have reached the finishing post browned off but happy. Tomorrow, we have just 40 km to run.
24 June 2016 – Shingu to Fukuoka (15 km)
After yesterday’s Kaiseki, we had Japanese dinner which consists of 8 courses, not counting soups and countless appetizers. We barely were able to stand out the table. With great effort, we crawled to Onsen, place of hot bath, saunas and swimming pools. Relax was significant to our tired muscles. Daniel’s purple nails are lost cause, even Onsen will not help with that.
11 am sharp our 21 Japanese friends came to Hotel. We learned that there were 38 people organizing yesterday’s stage, which is record! We not dared to ask how many people will be today. In the last years, we have never had to deal with such amazing organization. Japanese inventive organization “just in time” and “kaizen” were very practical during route from Hiroshima to Fukuoki.
Son of Radek Bielecki, Filip came to us from Fukuoka, he will be next Polish Governor since 1 July. Filip flew from Poland to Fukuoka just few days ago, since then, he witnessed 3 meetings about FCR.
First 13,5 km, Mariusz ran with Filip. There were 4 cyclists and … 6 cars with side-kicks in it. We moved equally towards Fukuoka like it was crew from Tour de France. The run was great. Sun has been hidden behind the clouds, refreshing breeze from Sea, beautiful sights at the bay.
Daniel ends his part in amazing way, he was wet like he have just came out from the shower. Ludwig started his shift – it meant finishing post in 14 km. That was already Fukuoka suburbs. From time to time, there were red-lighted junctions. In Japan, there is no way to run through the junction at the red light, does not matter whether there are cars around or not, simply no way. Last kilometer, we ran together with ensigns in our hands. At the beginning, there were our 2 friends from Japan with white-red ensign, just like ours, however red is circle in the middle of it. After them, we, three runners, on the right side Ludwig with German ensign, on the left me, with white-red ensign. In the middle Daniel with light blue ensign with 15 (still) golden stars. We have recently acknowledged Brexit. All the more, we want to show where is our place.
We ran to Convention Center. There is finishing post. There were waiting for us Japanese people, Polish with Radek at front, Hungarians, amongs them Nepal governor. We will hand over half of gathered funds to them.
We shaked hands, kissed each other, very joyful moment.
It would not happened if there were not runners that is true, however there are plenty of us. It is all about support which we received from our fantastic hosts, Freedom Charity Run 2016, thanks to them all of it was possible. We could not imagine doing it without them! We would like to thank our main sponsor - Diners Club International - for financing this run and faith they put in our success. It is impossible to thank them all by their names, simply because we do not have place to thank them all, but we will always have place for them in our hearts. They will last there forever!
In this very moment, second half of Freedom Charity Run has started – gathering the funds for children injured in earthquake in Kyushu and Nepal. If you symphatize with the run’s cause and if you want to help children in need from Japan and Nepal, we runners and the organizators of charity run FCR, would like to ask you for help. Please buy our virtual kilometres. One kilometer costs 100 euro, you can buy more than one, you can buy part of it. Please send money to below special bank account numbers:
BNP Paribas Bank Polska S.A. O/Poznań
Swift code: PPABPLPK
Account number in PLN: 84 1600 1084 0004 0503 6264 6196
Account number in EURO: 29 1600 1084 0004 0503 6264 6022
Account number in USD: 56 1600 1084 0004 0503 6264 6021
Lions Charity Run e.V.
With the postscript FCR 2016.
We Run - We Serve
Day 9 - Post Scriptum
25 June 2016 – Fukuoka – Lap of honour
8.30 sharp, we were ready in runner’s suit and we came down to lobby. Mr. Furukawa has been already waiting. We took Taxi to the parade ground where delegations from all around the world were gathering. Some of them were dressed elegantly and properly, some of them colorfully in fancy national outfits. Among 50 people we have recognized our loyal Japanese companions of this mutual, hundreds kilometers journey. All of them were dressed in matching T-shirts branded with Freedom Charity Run 2016 in English and in Japanese. We went towards box of honor with our indelible banner in order to be there 9.40 sharp.
President, worldly Jatsushiro Yamada was waiting for our group in agreed place, surrounded by bunch of press photographers. There was difficult day ahead him, acceptance of parade from delegations from 200 countries. Official part was about to start at 10 am. President dressed in traditional kimono was jubilant and relaxed. He welcomed us so joyfully that we embraced each other. He congratulated finishing of the run in good shape and started to asking about the details. He wished us all the best in gathering the funds for children in need in Japan and in Nepal, and in our future running plans. Feeling so much of this exceptional acceptance from his side, all of run hardships were scratched off our memories. Place for new plans arrived instead of them.
After few hours, we went through the parade with our Polish group. New Polish Governor, Radek Bielicki proposed that instead of national themed outfits we all should go in Freedom Charity Run’s t-shirts. He wanted to demonstrate all Polish district support in that way. Ludwig with Ulrike and Tilman joined us. We have stolen the show by chanting "We Run - We Serve, We Serve, We Serve..." interchangeably with singing "Szła dzieweczka...". From time to time, there were people who recognized us from the run or Facebook. Grins and nice words were endless. It was amazing, unforgettable moments, total integration.
Now, we are waiting for second part, the most significant part of the run, namely gathering the funds. It will last to the end of November. Annually, we meet with greater response for our appeal that by means of buying virtual kilometers you can support charitable goal. This year, it is also what we kindly ask you for.