Evening all, so what a fun packed weekend that was - well, packed is an accurate descriptive expression, however it's something of a stretch to include 'fun' in there as well.
Saturday morning I was up bright and early - actually make that still dark and early as I had agreed to go with a bunch of school kids down to a mass footy kickabout at the American school (ASIJ) campus down in Chofu. The get together started at 8.30 so it was meet in Setagaya at 7.30 so yours truly had to be there at 7.00 to make sure everything was set up ok, so up at 5.15 am in the morning to be on time. Lawks that's early for a Saturday! But I made it, thankfully. The reason I was doing this rather than, say, the Primary PE teachers whose job it is, was that last week was half term and we couldn't possibly ask teachers to work during their holidays now could we? So helpful HR managers step into the breach so the kids can attend a tournament.
So we took three school teams down there; ASIJ have a great campus, they had a choice a few years ago - stay as a city centre school and have limited space and facilities or move out of Tokyo and have fields - they took the latter option and have a great place, lots of space, sports fields, big classrooms, first rate facilities etc. They also have a large fleet of buses to ferry the kids from central Tokyo to Chofu and back everyday. One day our school will have to make the same decision - I wonder which way we will go...?
Anyway I just thought I was going as a bus monitor (got to have enough adults on the bus or it won't be allowed to go), but when we got there we realised that all the teams would be well spaced out and playing almost continuously so in the end it was 'Justin, here's the girls team, look after them, they have only ever had 3 lessons, good luck...'. Ah.
But actually it was great. They didn't have particularly high expectations and the tournament was really a tournament as no one was keeping scores (luckily for us) or progressing to the next round (as there wasn't one). The first game they were completely overrun and didn't really know what to do so were hit for a cricket score (it was 6-a-side and two 8-minute halves), same in the second game with an even worse score, but at least they started playing a bit thanks to some on-the-spot coaching from their new gaffer.
Then in the third game they really started to play (and listen to my shouting from the side line). The first half ended 2-0 to the opposition but the second half, after what must have been a half-time talk from yours truly of Shakespearean (or Fergusonian) grandeur that they went out and played really well, scoring their first goal (a lovely strike by right-midfielder Lauren) and only a late defensive error allowed the oppo to score, making it 1-1 for the half. OK, they lost, but they scored their first goal and the smiles at the end were really special.
The girls lost all their games in the end, but they scored a few more times and really got into it. The fact that all but one of the teams they played were all boys showed that they scrapped really hard, giving one boys team a torrid second half after one of the little blighters said to his coach 'this is really easy, we can score whenever we want' after they went 4-0 up (the second half was 2-2, I think). If they had played another all-girl team I reckon they could have won a game, but it was not to be. Next time, however...
Sunday morning was the next health check day. This follows on from a colon cancer and hepatitis check (results available from tomorrow) and the annual medical on Friday; today was barium time. For those not in the know this is good for knowing if you have stomach cancer - you drink liquid barium and then they take lots of photos on a weird rig thing that turns you over and around and upside down. Personally I think filling your stomach with radioactive barium is a jolly good way to give yourself stomach cancer, but apparently I am wrong in this (or maybe some bit of it).
Anyway as I'm going to run the marathon the guru said I had to get as much of my health checked as possible as she does not want me to keel over whilst running (sensible girl), and as the barium check this is free, organised by the local ward office, then one would be silly not to take it. So off we trooped to Itabashi ward office this morning, after not eating or drinking (no water even) from 10pm on Saturday night to get the job done. There isn't much to write about really, as it was all done with typical ruthless Japanese efficiency, even down to providing the laxative necessary to expel the barium gloop from the other end sometime this evening (took the thing at 2pm and still no sign of Niagara Falls...).
What was not operating with ruthless Japanese efficiency, however, was the Denny's just over the road from the ward office. As you can imagine the first thing a big bunch of people who haven't eaten or drunk anything for over 12 hours is going to do is make a bee-line for the nearest restaurant --> Itabashi Denny's. Waiting 20 minutes just to get a cup of coffee - the first of the day - is not going to make one happy, and the food was cold as well. It was the same for everyone in there and so it was not a happy atmosphere. The staff kept apologising but they were fighting a losing battle - better coordination with the ward office needed, I think.
On top of all that I got a couple of runs in as well. I didn't do the 10km again, but a 5.3km on Saturday in 25m 58s; and a 7.3km this evening in 36m 35s, both of which I was happy with. Felt a bit ropey after the Saturday run (it had been a long day) but much better tonight (even though I kept worrying the the ex-lax would suddenly kick in and I'd have to dive into the bushes for an emergency evacuation a la Monty Python's Marathon for Incontinents). Luckily I made it home safely.