KEK in Deep Autumn Color

19th December 2018
red leaves on a tree on a sunny day

In the fall, the tree leaves around the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (Kō Enerugī Kasokuki Kenkyū Kikō or KEK) campus are becoming ablaze with autumn colors and streets are gradually covered by fallen leaves. Warm days continue into November in the Tsukuba area, where KEK/J-PARC is located.

Every year, I participate in a marathon in the city of Tsukuba. This year’s marathon was the 38th anniversary. KEK), my home institute, is going to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021, and the Tsukuba marathon itself is almost as old as KEK. The marathon course starts at the track field of Tsukuba University, located near the center of the city of Tsukuba and reaches KEK in just 10km. The runners run around the KEK campus, head south along the west side of KEK, and then come back to the start point to finish the 42.195 km race. The whole course is relatively flat and many people can set good records, making the race very popular among runners in Eastern Japan.

Usually, Tsukuba is favored by good weather in the fall and this year has proved no different. Everybody enjoys the perennially pleasant weather and clear skies during the race every year. It is a very comfortable run, in fine autumn weather with a beautiful view of Mt. Tsukuba on the north side of KEK.

Tsukuba was the first 42.195km marathon I ran, six years ago. I remember that I was relaxed and enjoyed the race as we passed the sight of experiments familiar to so many particle physicists in the world. The course is only outside KEK so we didn’t have a chance to run along the accelerator ring (of course much slower than the speeds of the electron/positron particles we fire along its length!). While I am running, I think a lot. The marathon is about 3 hours of constant running. The mind naturally wanders.

There are a lot of researchers running in the Tsukuba marathon. That makes sense since there are so many research institutes in the area. Maybe the percentage of researchers in the Tsukuba population is high for Japanese cities. Maybe in the world.

Either way, there's a lot of scientifically curious people on the course. Even the marathon itself is a scientific endeavor. The slogan of the Tsukuba Marathon is, translated into English, "Analyze Marathon Scientifically". Sports scientists collect the physical data (with permission, of course) of marathon runners to further their understanding of the effects of marathon-running on the body.

There are so many researchers running the marathon that may of my colleagues treat it as a conference or researcher networking event!

The Tsukuba marathon is a great experience. If you should happen to find yourself in Tsukuba during the autumn, I highly encourage you to come to cheer on the researchers or take the opportunity to run the 42.195km length of the course under crisp skies and beautiful views.

High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK)