We take a look ahead to one of Tokyo’s original themed races: a watermelon run in Tomisato.

By Tamatha Roman

Japan has been seeing its wave of “theme” races, with the first Warrior Dash last June, the first Color Run last month, and the first Tough Mudder rumored to be coming up this fall. But one race that has been going on for 31 years now has more to do with food than with overcoming obstacles or dodging blasts of color dust.

The annual Suika Road Race takes place in rural Tomisato, Chiba (out near Narita Airport) every June. This year, on Sunday, June 22, 13,000 lucky lottery-winning runners will set out on a 5K or 10K course through the streets of Tomisato. But unlike an ordinary road race, this one has a special way of replenishing sun-stroked runners along the way: watermelon or suika (in Japanese)! That’s right, rather than offering traditional marathon standards such as bread or running gels, participants can hit up “watermelon stations,” which offer get all-you-can-eat watermelon, Tomisato’s home grown product. There’ll be a lot to go around, as Tomisato is Japan’s largest exporter of watermelons. And, if you place within the top tier of your age/gender bracket (20 people), you will be bestowed with a full-size watermelon to crate home. Winning aside, at least you’ll get a T-shirt and enough of a sugar rush along the way…after all, Tomisato watermelons are known for their high sugar content.

The race is extremely popular, thus the lottery and a three-day sign-up period. Sadly this period has already passed… but mark February on your calendars for next year if you want a fighting chance to get in.

If you weren’t able to get in, and don’t feel like cheering along the sidelines, fear not! On June 15, the Sunday before the race, Tomisato hosts its annual “Suika Matsuri.” Not only can you try your share of watermelon samples, but other events will take place throughout the day: competitive watermelon eating, a watermelon sweets contest, and an exhibition hall of various prize-winning watermelons. It’s a guaranteed delicious way to begin the hot Japanese summer! Stay tuned in June for a full report of watermelon overload.

Image from www.tomisato-suikaroad.jp