After a massive three year wait back in 2020 with the Tokyo Marathon being called off 6 days before the race and 3 days before I was due to fly, I was really going to make sure that this trip was even more epic! Going for the sub 4 dream and starting to train in October 2022 with over 700 miles logged before race day on March 5th 2023.
Not only that but planning plenty of actives and sight seeing around Tokyo and even across Japan to experience the incredible bullet train! I read a lot of blog posts about this marathon in the build up to the race and they were all so very helpful. Pointing out the very good aspects and then the parts that might have been difficult or somewhat intimidating for a solo traveller (not forgetting the Japan Travel Groups on Facebook, which are amazing by the way).
Finish Time: 3:48
After a 14 hour flight, well second flight but having two big cases I had to head to my hotel first and abandon my bags before heading to the expo. Or maybe that should be attempting to navigate the train system to get to the expo, instead of going straight from the airport like a few people did. The worst thing was the expo was then a nightmare, it had been four years since the Tokyo Marathon had international runners by this point as back in 2022 it was only open to Japanese residents. We still had plenty of Covid regulations in place which meant that you had to log your temperature for two weeks on an app, upload your Covid vaccine information to be able to even get into the expo. Then again on race day information would be ticked off for you to get into the start area.
I cannot fault the ease of this if you had everything uploaded on the app it was a really simple process. However, the length of the queues was rather crazy. This was on the Thursday and in all honesty my original plans were going to be the Friday but at one point they had mentioned giving you an allocated time to collect your bib so I got an extra day just to make sure. They got rid of that idea so it was get to the expo asap. Which nearly every single person of the 35,000 field seemed to do! I mean yes a slight exaggeration but that is what it felt like. I think it was about three different queues before even collection my race number, which also came along with collecting the 2020 medal which they had kept for all of us runners who had been deferring since then.
After that I had to then join an even longer queue to collect the event t-shirt I had reserved online, although I had not actually paid for it prior to this. By this point I was extremely tired and a little bit irritable with everything that I almost changed my mind about collecting it. I am now pleased I did though as I did not manage to buy anything else from the expo. As after that queue the Asics line to get in towards the gear was even bigger and I was just too tired, I had thought about maybe going back a day later but everything was sold out so quickly which was a shame as I have such a big collection of gear from the other Marathon Majors.
It is a very long walk from the train station into the building where the expo is held so make sure you don’t take anything heavy with you. Yes, I made the mistake of keeping my backpack with a MacBook and iPad in it which probably made it more of a nightmare. The photo ops were also huge queues as well, but I managed to get one!
Build up to the race
I wanted to add a little bit more information in to this in the build up to the race as I mentioned earlier I arrived on the Thursday morning, 9am landing in Tokyo and that was perfect really. As jet lag really hit me through the night on Thursday into Friday morning. I would have hated that from Friday night into Saturday morning it would have been a nightmare. As it meant that I was then ok for Race Day!
Heading across towards the start area was no problem at all as I was staying in Shinjuku so it wasn’t far to walk at all. I think Google Maps (which is a god send in Japan) said 15 minutes but it didn’t take that long at all. Plus you could just follow the crowds as so many runners were about. This was when the organisation was about to blow everyone away though. You had an entrance that you had to go inside and it was so well signposted with the amazing volunteers on hand to point people in the right direction. On heading down to my area I met a lovely Canadian man named Ivan who was going for his 6th star and also competed in Ironman Events! We spent about two hours together before starting the race which included queuing for the toilet twice 😂. Seriously though that is the worst part about the races making sure you go enough times so you don’t have to stop during the race! Once that was all done we then decided to get a good spot in the starting pen and this is when it all gets really amazing doing the World Marathon Majors meeting people from all different countries.
Quite frankly the most efficient start time and getting different ways through, which was really good as it was a little bit chilly after the wait because I completely forgot to bring throw away clothes with me!
Obviously with the sub 4 goal I knew I didn’t want to start either too fast or even too slow, as each marathon I have done I have slowed during the second half and last miles. This was different though, my training was about to well and truly pay off and I felt strong throughout the race. One thing I wanted to remind myself was to keep looking up and around as I was running, to make sure I took in some of the sites. In all honesty though it isn’t the most inspiring in that sense, but wow it’s still Japan and different districts in Tokyo which looked so cool in places!
The water stations were so well organised with plenty of space, although I didn’t take any of the drinks until about mile 16. I had my gels on me and that was seeing me through, I do tend to hit a point of taking a few sips of water and then the isotonic drink. For Tokyo this is Pocari Sweat and it is very sweet but I really liked it.
I did have a nightmare though and that was related to my watch and the GPS. I mean I should know this more by now especially with the big races and big building areas that they just don’t work properly. The marathon is in KMs with miles every 5 which did not help when I realised my watch was off. It meant I had to do a lot of maths to transfer my distance across. When I got to around mile 15 it looked as though I wasn’t even going to be able to get sub 4, which can now only be explained that my watch somewhere lost all signal as before that it was the usual measuring long to the markers.
Luckily I looked at the time and distance markers then decided to count down the kms and challenge myself to get to the next one within 6 minutes (I was running a lot faster than that, but it kept me going) then I eventually worked out I was on for sub 3:50 and was absolutely buzzing in all honesty.
The photos took some uploading but were more than worth it, although the cost was a hell of a lot! But seeing them it still worked out better ordering the full set rather than just 2 or 3 photos.
Having finished and getting the medal and poncho, it wasn’t far to walk to Tokyo Station and I had a pass that would give free travel and by this point I had to just work out how to get back from Shinjuku as I didn’t bring the pocket wifi with it being rather heavy. This was easy to do and I just stood up on the train because quite frankly you don’t want to sit down so quickly after finishing.
I haven’t been the biggest drinker for a very long time anyway but when starting the training back in October I had no alcohol at all but to celebrate I had three drinks as I felt it was more than deserved!
Medal Monday – Mount Fuji
One issue, it was cloudy! But anyway I promise it was behind the clouds, did get to go sledging in the snow though!
Sir Bobby Robson Foundation website post marathon write up.
Throughly enjoyed the experience of not only the marathon but visiting Tokyo and Japan in general. Would highly recommend it and I certainly want to go back at some point in the future.
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