When I first started to run the Jingu Gaien course, Toshihiko Seko was still an active runner and he used this course too. The S&B team used this course every day for training, and over time we naturally grew to know each other by sight. Back then I used to jog there before seven a.m. — when the traffic wasn’t bad, there weren’t as many pedestrians, and the air was relatively clean—and the S&B team members and I would often pass each other and nod a greeting. On rainy days we’d exchange a smile, a guess-we’re-both-havingit-tough kind of smile.I remember two young runners in particular, Taniguchi and Kanei. They were both in their late twenties, both former members of the Waseda University track team, where they’d been standouts in the Hakone relay race. After Seko was named manager of the S&B team, they were expected to be the two young stars of the team. They were the caliber of runner expected to win medals at the Olympics someday, and hard training didn’t faze them. Sadly, though, they were killed in a car accident when the team was training together in Hokkaido in the summer. I’d seen with my own eyes the tough regimen they’d put themselves through, and it was a real shock when I heard the news of their deaths. It hurt me to hear this, and I felt it was a terrible waste.Even now, when I run along Jingu Gaien or Asakasa Gosho, sometimes I remember these other runners. I’ll round a corner and feel like I should see them coming toward me, silently running, their breath white in the morning air. And I always think this: They put up with such strenuous training, and where did their thoughts, their hopes and dreams, disappear to? When people pass away, do their thoughts just vanish?
Fatigue has built up after all this training, and I can’t seem to run very fast. As I’m leisurely jogging along the Charles River, girls who look to be new Harvard freshmen keep on passing me. Most of these girls are small, slim, have on maroon Harvard-logo outfits, blond hair in a ponytail, and brand-new iPods, and they run like the wind. You can definitely feel a sort of aggressive challenge emanating from them. They seem to be used to passing people, and probably not used to being passed. They all look so bright, so healthy, attractive, and serious, brimming with self-confidence. With their long strides and strong, sharp kicks, it’s easy to see that they’re typical mid-distance runners, unsuited for long-distance running. They’re more mentally cut out for brief runs at high speed. Compared to them I’m pretty used to losing. There are plenty of things in this world that are way beyond me, plenty of opponents I can never beat. Not to brag, but these girls probably don’t know as much as I do about pain. And, quite naturally, there might not be a need for them to know it. These random thoughts come to me as I watch their proud ponytails swinging back and forth, their aggressive strides. Keeping to my own leisurely pace, I continue my run down along the Charles. Have I ever had such luminous days in my own life? Perhaps a few. But even if I had a long ponytail back then, I doubt if it would have swung so proudly as these girls’ ponytails do. And my legs wouldn’t have kicked the ground as cleanly and as powerfully as theirs. Maybe that’s only to be expected. These girls are, after all, brand-new students at the one and only Harvard University. Still, it’s pretty wonderful to watch these pretty girls run. As I do, I’m struck by an obvious thought: One generation takes over from the next. This is how things are handed over in this world, so I don’t feel so bad if they pass me. These girls have their own pace, their own sense of time. And I have my own pace, my own sense of time. The two are completely different, but that’s the way it should be.
The weather has been strange in Japan this summer. The Rainey season, which usually winds down in the beginning of July, continued until the end of the month. It rained so much I got sick of it. There were torrential rains in parts of the country and a lot of people died. They say it’s all because of Global Warming. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Some experts claim it is, some claim it isn’t. There’s some proof that it is, some that it isn’t. But still people say that most of the problems the earth is facing are more or less due to Global Warming. When sales of apparel go down, when tons of drift wood wash up on the shore, when there are floods and droughts, when consumer prices go up—Most of the fault is ascribed to Global Warming. What the world needs is a set villain that people can point at and say, “It’s all your fault.” At any rate, due to this villain that can’t be dealt with, it went on raining and I could hardly practice biking at all during July. It’s not my fault, it’s that villain’s.