Local resident Robert Bailey was one of seven Belizean runners to compete in two long-distance races in Japan recently. This was but one stage in a real-life adventure that began with luck and continues by virtue of hard work, training and dedication. Robert is a talented carpenter, a husband and a father of four. Robert is also a runner with a goal - to complete a marathon in 2 hours and 8 minutes. Here is his story.
A few months ago a friend of Robert' offered advice to a tourist about places to work out while on vacation in Belize. This occurred on a "message board" on the Internet. Somebody in California read the correspondence between these two, and wrote Robert' friend asking if she knew a "talented undiscovered long-distance runner who wanted to become a television star". Thinking this was a joke she answered anyway, just to see what would happen. She told them that Robert Bailey was a gifted natural athlete who ran five miles every morning before going to work, rode his bike ten miles every day in soft sand, worked a full day and played soccer whenever he got a chance. Much to the amazement of all concerned, this was no joke at all. A Japanese television network (NTV) had an idea to do a television docu-drama about undiscovered runners in undiscovered places. They acquired sponsors (Adidas and Sony) and picked Belize. They staged races throughout the country, seeking the top runners. They met Robert and were impressed with his abilities and his character. Robert and "Sensi", as his Japanese coach is called, hit it off immediately. Training began in earnest. You have no doubt seen Robert training with his local coach - Robert is the one running through San Pedro - his coach is the one following in the golf cart with the stop watch.
The film crew has now made five visits to Belize. They staged a Marathon in conjunction with the BDF in September. They have traveled all over Belize, filming the country, and meeting with the families of the top runners from each of the races. They gave mini-training sessions to these hard working athletes. By mid-October the NTV crew had selected seven men for an intense training camp to be held in Japan.
Although Mitch interrupted things just a little, the crew arrived back in Belize in the second week of November to hold more training for the runners and to escort them to Japan for an intense and exciting month's stay.
Seven runners and three coaches from Belize, along with a film crew and trainers, all flew first to Mexico City where the group finalized their Japanese travel visas and did some sight seeing. For Robert this was his first experience of a big city, bad air and jet airplanes. From Mexico City they flew to San Francisco and then on to Japan. It was a long flight, traversing half the world and many time zones. They arrived in time for the first snow of the season. Thankfully the sponsors provided everybody with winter coats!
Robert tells us that his Japanese hosts gave them a first-class experience. The runners were there to work however, and they worked very hard. Every day they rose at 5:00 a.m. for stretching and then ran for one hour. This was followed by breakfast and two hours of classroom work on the science of running. After lunch they had a little time to rest before another two and a half hours of training and "speed work". They were taken to a sophisticated medical/athletic center where they were given stress tests, lung capacity tests and were placed in harnesses on a treadmill and made to run until their muscles failed. They wore electrodes and were analyzed by experts.
Each runner received personal training. Each runner competed. Each runner was and is a hero in his own way. The first race was a half-marathon (13 miles). All Belizean runners finished. The second race was a full marathon (26 miles) held outside Tokyo. Over 9,000 runners competed, including seven of Belize' finest. Six Belizeans finished the full marathon race - Robert was one of them. These men had progressed a long way in their training and abilities in a very short time. Many of the runners against whom they competed had trained for years. The Japanese experts were very impressed with the performance of the Belizean runners. They feel that they are talented and have great potential as world class athletes.
After the races were run, there was some time left for sight-seeing in Japan. Robert tells of riding the Bullet Train, learning to ice skate, eating with chopsticks, seeing old temples and riding a huge roller coaster. Kampei, a Japanese television celebrity invited them to visit the taping of a game show he hosted, and also a sit-com in which he starred. They were guests in his home, and were served the finest foods Japan has to offer, including Kobe beef. Everywhere they went they stood out from the crowd - exotic and handsome men being followed by a film crew. Young girls flocked to their sides to have their pictures taken with them - they were feeling a little bit like movie stars already. But Robert really missed his wife and kids. It was wonderful to make the trip and wonderful to come home. He is back in San Pedro now - running, working and being a family man.
What is next in this adventure? A ninety minute television special will air in Japan on the 20th of January. It will be a story of Belize and these talented athletes. If the ratings from the show are good, then chapter two of the story will unfold…but like any adventure, it has some secrets and surprises. Stay tuned to hear what happens…you will be among the first to know!
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