On a sweaty July night, I headed out to Inage Kaihin Park, a hop and a skip from nearby Makuhari, to take place in Japan’s first ever “Electric Run.”

By Tamatha Roman

A product of the United States, the Electric Run is one of a series of fun runs that have made their way to Japan in the last year (along with the Warrior Dash, Color Me Rad and the upcoming Tough Mudder in the fall). As described on its website, the Electric Run features “lights and sound that transport the participant into an electric wonderland in a healthy and drug-free way.” Participants are encouraged to dress up to the max in order to be part of the show: costumes and anything that shines, blinks, or blings. Electric Runs have taken place all over the world, with each event customized for that location and often featuring some sort of theme. At 6,800 yen an entry here in Japan, it was definitely a costly run. But after receiving my box of goodies, containing a T-shirt, motion-activated blinky bracelet, and glowing glasses, I was ready to roll.

Upon arrival, I immediately realized I was a) underdressed and b) one of the oldest attendees present. As apparently the only one who didn’t get the above memo, 90% of the attendees had donned something fluorescent, something that lit up, or half of something that used to be a whole something (most notably, the official black t-shirts which were promptly cut up and demolished). Finding the actual starting line proved to be a bit of a challenge, but I eventually found it after following a swarm of picture-happy revelers. Once at the starting line, craziness ensued. A few English-speaking DJs, perched at the top of a tall tower, supplied party tunes and continuously threw out handfuls of glow sticks and the like to the eager crowd below. So even though I was initially underdressed, I did end up running with glow sticks woven through my hair and belt loops… all of which promptly fell off within 5 minutes. Being alone had felt odd up until then, but all the excitement and battling it out for novelties in a sea of crazy felt pretty awesome.

Upon arrival, I immediately realized I was a) underdressed and b) one of the oldest attendees present.

As the countdown ended, I decided then and there that I would actually run the whole thing. Granted, people are more than welcome to walk the event; in fact, strollers and wheelchairs are permitted on the course. But run I did…past every other person, 50% of whom decided to walk/strut in their high heels. Even after lots of glow stick mishaps, I still managed to blow past my heat, eventually ending up on a solo run through the super creepy park. It was interesting, running in the dark with only my bracelet illuminating the path, and an occasional traffic volunteer showing me which way to go next. The actual “electric” aspect of the run came in the form of sporadic stations along the course—a rainbow tunnel here, a series of lanterns and upside-down umbrellas there, a bubble machine to dive through—all illuminated with black lights. Music blared from each station, frequently hits from Mr. Jackson.

Not an easy landmark to miss on your run... (Photo courtesy of electricrun

Not an easy landmark to miss on your run… (Photo courtesy of electricrun.jp)

Just as I thought I was going to pass out from the humidity (perhaps I should have stopped at that one water station), I saw the finish line and blew across it with no fanfare, learning that I was, in fact, the first woman to cross the line (some hardcore athlete had finished 10 minutes or so before me). Now, a 25-minute 5K is nothing to write home about. I’ve run faster, and run much longer distances, even though I’ve come to realize that these short legs can only take me so far. However, finishing first in a race that doesn’t reward finishers (whether first or last) with anything more than a bottle of water was still very intrinsically motivating. I decided not to stick around for the after-party: the likes of a rave were in the making. I also passed a few concession stands and photo-op booths: they all looked interesting but I think I was too smelly!

Although there are no more dates currently listed for this year, the Electric Run will definitely see a sequel. Look out for upcoming events in the fall or next summer and don’t be afraid to dress up like it’s another night in Roppongi.

Main image: Tamatha Roman

Here is a bit of the action that took place once the run was done: