Thursday, May 26, 2011
Running with the Devil
I am currently doing some research on a couple topics I am interested in posting as entries, but I want to double check my information before I put anything concrete up. I’ll take this opportunity, however, to talk about a charity event I participated in with the
Dojo in Kitakyushu, Japan, last summer.
Every May, the city of Kitakyushu holds a charity event called the Himawari Ekiden [ひまわり 駅伝] or Sunflower Relay Race. Groups from around the city meet in down town Kokura and run laps past the historic Kokura Castle, along the Murasaki River and up past the Riverwalk mall. When the weather is nice, thousands of people show up for the event representing local schools, hospitals, businesses and even dojos and clubs. Last year, we raised money for relief efforts in Haiti after the massive earthquake that demolished the country.
Looking at the photo, you might make note of a handsome man running at my side. This is Lyn Jehu and, though he is not a member of the Shishinkai dojo, he asked if he might join the relay race and run with me. Of course, he was warmly welcomed into our ranks. Lyn had the ingenious idea to use the inner tube from a bicycle tire as a tether between us.
Running has been something I have always dreaded. During four long wrestling seasons in High School, I gasped my way through mile after mile up and down the hallways. I ran holding the elbow of a sighted guide and it seemed that, no matter how much I exercised, I never managed to find my stride. Lyn, however, was clever enough to realize the problem: holding someone’s elbow while running prevented me from swinging my left arm and relaxing the muscles of the diaphragm. NO matter how much conditioning I did, I could not take a full breath while keeping one arm close to my side. Using the inner tube, however, Lyn and I were able to run smoothly, both of us swinging are arms freely and racing like hell to do as many laps as possible before they could stop us.
They finally did have to stop us. Lyn and I were anxious to show the town how the gaijin—foreigners—could run. After Haga Sensei completed the first lap, we made our way onto the track. After two rounds, people cheered and waved. After three laps, people waved and shouted. After the fifth lap, we were told to stop running; no one explained that we were only supposed to run one lap at a time and pass off to another person.
In total, Lyn and I were only able to run eight laps due to the sheer number of other dojo members who wanted to participate. We had a wonderful day enjoying the festive atmosphere, however. I am certain many people show up to the relay race for the promise of the barbecue held afterwards, but for me it was all about the chance to get out and get involved.
It’s important for me, as a visually impaired person, to be as active as possible in the international community. It is unlikely you would see a blind Japanese person participating in the Himawari Ekiden. I was brought up with a different mentality, though, and I won’t let something as ridiculous as blindness prevent me from taking part. Quite the contrary, I believe my blindness has driven me to be as involved as possible in the world around me. Whether or not people take notice; whether or not I change perspectives, I’ll live my life like there’s no tomorrow and keep running with the devil.