The Good, The Bad and The Clumsy

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A perfect place to spend a few days

Vacation. The annual collection of ten (or twenty) days when you kick the mundane world of your nine-to-five to the curb. Or reveal who you really are.

I haven’t uploaded an article on this blog since my graduation ceremony in July 2015. But since I made plans to return to the U.K. to take part in the Leeds Half Marathon, why not keep a momento of the good, the bad and the clumsy…

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A place I wish I could have escaped a little sooner

Two of which came together immediately upon my arrival at Manchester Airport as from the inside of my plane, I viewed the miracle of all miracles: a sunny day! But maybe, I shouldn’t have expected the appearance of sun to signify an absolutely perfect arrival in the U.K. For one, my flight arrived 20-30 minutes later than expected and the line at immigration – while not ridiculously long – moved rather slowly. Which caused me to miss the 11:06 train from Manchester Airport for which I had purchased a £12 ticket. So I had to shell out £26 to get to my favorite city in Yorkshire.

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Me and Chris

But once I arrived in Leeds, a friendly face greeted me: A Huddersfield lad named Chris, who was a member of the JET Program in Yamagata Prefecture the same time I was. Despite Huddersfield being a short train (or bus) ride from Leeds, we never met up during my Leeds Beckett was (I haven’t the foggiest idea why) and he was in the Lake District the previous time I was in Yorkshire. It also dawned on me that we barely spoke to each other when we were on JET together (mainly because we in different parts of Yamagata Prefecture).

However, once we started chatting, it kinda felt like we were long lost bosom buddies. Actually, Chris had been in Japan on holiday relatively recently and we chatted about that and his trip to meet up with a former JET friend in the U.S. as well as our experiences in Yamagata Prefecture.

Chris works at an accompanist for Leeds College of Music and Opera North and he plays for choirs and singers. Speaking of music and Leeds…

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I pledge allegiance to the funk

The most minute act can seemingly change the trajectory of a day. As I often did when I lived in Leeds, I picked up a cool-looking journal while strolling through Headingley that looked like it was devoted to the local independent music scene. The articles I skimmed through seemed interesting but nothing caused me to freeze until I saw a page devoted to the concert listings. And at the top of the page, I saw George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic was coming to Leeds. Funkadelica was coming to West Yorkshire on Thursday, May 11!

But there was one problem: I made the discovery on the following day. So the thought of “How the hell could I miss out on the P-Funk” was stuck in my head (as was the feeling I had missed out on the last good chance I had to see George Clinton in concert). However, after lashing out at myself internally (and on Facebook), one of life’s greatest pieces of advice popped into my head: If all else fails, read the instructions.

Or maybe more accurately, the concert listings. The same page that sank my heart also provided a lifeline: Funkadelica was coming to Manchester that Friday. I had no plans that night so I decided to see if I could make it to the Ritz.

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Manchester Oxford Road Station – where I got off the train

So after a productive chat with a local I met through CouchSurfing who provided valuable advice, I foolishly rushed to Manchester.

Foolishly because when I entered the Ritz, the p-funk was far from starting. In fact, Mr. Clinton wouldn’t “take it to the stage” for another two hours. If the Ritz is like most concert venues, re-entry is not permitted. I wasn’t going to take the chance so I had to find a way to kill at least an hour and a half before the opening act started. It would’ve helped the venue served food.

And my mindset would’ve been better if a certain thing was in my wallet… mainly the key to my CouchSurfing host’s house (I noticed it was missing while taking up a spot near the stage). My first though was – well other than how am I gonna get home – Tania is going to read me the riot act.

Surprisingly, she seemed quite calm about the situation (and everything actually worked out). Still, losing the key put in a funky mood, made me unable to enjoy the opening act and hovered over me like a bad smell.

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I’m actually thrilled I got a good picture

As for the reason I was in the Ritz, the concert was hit-and-miss. I liked the fact the setlist started with “Atomic Dog” and also included “One Nation Under a Groove” and “Get Off Your Ass and Jam.” On the other hand, too much of show highlighted lame rappers (Maybe “lame” is too harsh of a word as those brothers might be good at their craft. But I came to be taken back to the ’70s and the middle of the show seemed to be devoted to the two or three rappers who were a part of the concert.

But things did get back on track when Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic did “Flashlight” and “Freak of the Week.” I left after the latter song because I wanted to be back in Leeds at a relatively decent time at which I could catch (maybe) the last bus. It’s quite possible I missed out on the show ending in a bang. But I can comfort myself by saying I got see the Godfather of Funk again and get some good pictures (unlike in Tokyo in 2009) and that a decent crowd attended the show.

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Where much of Leeds gathered…

However, I didn’t fly across the Atlantic to grove to the p-funk (although that wouldn’t have been a bad reason to come to Leeds) – it was to run in the Leeds Half Marathon. I was planning to coming to the U.K. in 2017 to run in a race but (a) I missed the deadline for the London Marathon and (b) I wasn’t chosen for the Great North Run. So why not run in a city I dearly love.

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Some folks who shared the same idea I did

I felt like I was in good shape, having completed the Broad Street Run – a 10-mile race – in 59:05 (my goal was to do so in less than a hour) and I was very excited about the day. As seemingly much of the Leeds was – hundreds and thousands of spectators flanked the Headrow, where the race started.

And it was a great day to run. The sun was out in force but not beating me or the other 8,000 runners down. I had a feeling early on in the race that this would be a good day – especially as I was in the top ten in the first couple of miles. It’s also helps that I saw a couple of familiar faces from the Hyde Park Harriers either volunteering or cheering runners on (I was really thrilled when I saw one of the spectators was a Leeds Beckett University professor who I often heard at panel discussions).

The course was a bit hilly in the beginning and the middle but it didn’t seem too difficult. I was rather relaxed as I was in awe of running through new parts of Leeds. While enough runners passed me in the first two-thirds to knock me out of the top ten, I wasn’t discouraged. My goal was to finish under 1:19 and I was well on my way to accomplishing that feat.

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Smiling was the last thing I wanted to do…

Until I hit the dreaded wall. It was probably somewhere after nine miles when I started to feel tired. No biggie – just find through the pain. But definitely after ten miles, I started to think… a half-marathon personal best ain’t happened. As I made my way onto Kirkstall Road (which I had run on many times), I had no answers for the runners leaving me in the dust. I thought if I could push myself, I could catch the runners who had passed me.

But it wasn’t going to happen. The course was much hillier than I expected. I thought I handled the major hills well but they zapped so much energy out of me, I felt miserable toward the end. I even mouthed to a spectator I know, “I hit the wall.”

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Where people gathered to support friends and loved ones…

I completed the 13.1 miles in 1:22:56. Not what I wanted but faster than the last half marathon I ran. I felt so unprepared for the hills and that killed any chance I had at a personal best.

But despite the brutal last third of the race, the Leeds Half Marathon was an enjoyable experience thanks to the presence of friends I made in Leeds and a great atmosphere. So maybe, another mid-May weekend in West Yorkshire is on the cards.

 

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