Text by Alessandro Carcano
To do a Japanese race was always in our mind and this year my brother Silvio, my mother Maria Rita, myself Alessandro and our friend Lino we decided to go to Sapporo. After a long fly from Malpensa through Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific we arrived in the afternoon at the Chitose terminal. We took a train (chip and convenient) and in a few minutes we arrived in the city center. Only 2 minutes walk from central train station and we found our hotel, the Aspen; it’s a very nice hotel, I can recommend it.
We spent all Friday to visit Sapporo with a positive impression: clean and order everywhere. Even if Japanese people speak English very little, they are always smiling and available to help you. The most interesting things are the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building, the Odori Park with the Snow Festival under construction, the TV tower, the Clock tower and a lot of malls.
On Saturday we took the underground (very easy to do a ticket at the automatic machine) to reach the Dome, headquarter of the race. Immediately we found a bib number pick up dedicated to foreign athletes with people speaking English, German and Russian language. They explain us everything we asked, they showed us the start/finish zone and all facilities inside the Dome. We never found a welcome like that! We were positive impressed! In the afternoon, at the Wordloppet party, we met Minoru a very passionate skier. The week before he received a special award to have finished 10 passports! And also his wife and son are on the good way due to the fact they finished their first passport.
On Sunday morning the underground is full of skiers. Inside the Dome is possible to leave a backpack and at the start line the plastic bag for last jacket. The start was very ordered and the Japanese skiers were very fair during the race. Unfortunately the weather was continually changing: from sunny to snowy with strong wind and vice versa. The ski track (one 50 kms lap) is not boring: up and down, left and right oblige to pay attention also due to kind of snow: powder and dry that on uphill amplifies the necessary effort.
At the finish, smiling girls (Natsuyo in primis) gave us the medal. All of us we were very happy for the reached target after a long journey. After the race we was able (after a little training) to eat the misoshiru soup with chopsticks!
In the evening we dined with Minoru’ family and his friend. It was a good occasion to eat traditional dishes in the traditional restaurant. Thanks Minoru! But the most important thing was to see 4 Italian and 4 Japanese people linked by a common passion: the cross country ski!
The Wordloppet should be also that: not only to do a race but also to know other people and share each other the interests and growth future friendships.
Unfortunately, the day after it was the time to leave and come back home.
Fantastic and memorable records it will remain in our mind forever.
The last comment is for who never did the Sapporo International Marathon but want to do it: don’t be scare about trip or language!
A greeting to everybody from Italian Team (Alessandro, Silvio, Lino and Maria Rita).