Salam and hello again, gosh last time I wrote a blog post was last year before Ramadan! And the last Marathon I wrote about was Boston! I figured Tokyo Marathon is one marathon I want to last in my memory and share my experience with you all. So why not document it on here?
I wrote about how lucky I was to get in via lottery back in Aug. on my instagram here However, with my dads cancer diagnosis anything can pop up at anytime and thus we didn’t book our tickets til two weeks before out trip. I honestly was very nervous traveling so far away from him because if God forbid anything were to happen, I wouldn’t be by his side.
Because we booked so late, all the good hotels which were by the start, were full. So we opted to book at an AirBnb for the five nights in which the plan was to move to a hotel in Shinjkuu for the 6th and 7th night. My kids and husband flew back to Michigan on Saturday and I stayed at a hotel Sunday (marathon day) and Monday. This way we cut some costs and also had a bigger place to stay since nearly all hotels in Japan are really small, so are the apartments. But the further out you book from Tokyo, the better the prices and bigger the space. Basically you get more for your money. And with 3 kids, family of 5, we found that was the best option for us.
The night before the Marathon-
I had a small meal of penne pasta, mozerella cheese which looked like it was all baked. The dish was rather small which made me nervous if that was going to be enough to hold me through the night and day. However, ive been carb loading all day thanks to these Japanese sticky rick cakes you buy at every train station stop or drugstore! I brought with me Instant oatmeal packages that you can easily make in your hotel room. I ate these the week of the marathon and the morning of marathon day. I also packed few packages of tailwind. I drank one night prior and one the morning of the run. I charged my Garmin and headphones and great night of sleep, thankfully as I wasn’t fully recovered from the flu I had earlier in the week. Got my gear all prepped, bib pinned on my Adidas skirt, and timing tag attached to my shoe. I was all ready!
The morning of Marathon-
I woke up earlier then expected I suspect from the nerves. Didn’t need my alarm clock which is odd being that I’m not really a morning person. Breakfast at my hotel was at 6:30 am. I was at ease and surprisingly calm. I had been praying non stop for my flu to cease and Alhamdullilah it was much better by marathon day!! I had annoying cough but that was better then body chills and fevers! I ate my instant oatmeal and drank my tailwind. Went down for breakfast and had sticky rice, 2 slices of orange, expresso, as I like to drink my coffee with no dairy on marathon day, and was on my to the start line!!
Start of the Marathon-
I walked about 15 minutes to the start which wasn’t bad at all. It was a cloudy morning, bit chilly which is nice for a long run! I stopped at Keio Plaza hotel (the hotel in which all the elites stayed which was fully booked by July!) and used the restroom. I knew this wouldn’t be my only restroom stop. I get really nervous on marathon day and need to use bathroom at least 3x prior to the start! lol It was really nice seeing all the runners stretch and just hang in lobby. See the start line for the elites and waves A, and B/C is only about 4 mins away. So they had time to just chill. However, I knew my wave would be more crowded, though I start later, I wanted to be sure I can get in line for porta potty incase I needed it! Walking through streets of Tokyo to the start was super easy! They literally had a volunteer guide you to the right direction of your gate and wave. Even as far as five blocks away you’ll see a volunteer! super helpful! We had to pass through some extreme security checks which was easy and very organized. There were not only bag checks, but they took your photo at the expo and slapped a bracelet on you. This photo is checked by scanning your bracelet on marathon day. You then walk through metal detectors. It really bothered me though that people were allowed to carry bottles on their hydration belts and hydration packs. (per the rules Here) As I had read months prior that this was strictly NOT allowed! I would have brought my hydration pack and filled it up with gatorade. Oh well. I guess it had to be empty in order for it to pass through security…
After passing through the gates I got in line for the porta potties. Its crazy how quiet the Japanese and Asians are! No one was talking. Similar to the trains and busses and hotels. No one talks out of order. Their demeanor is very calm and quiet! Quite the opposite of Arabs lol As we were in line, we can hear the speakers announcing everyone to get into their waves which close at 8:45. And that incase of an earthquake, people should stop running and the marathon would be cancelled! I was like whaat????? this really freaked me out, why would they be announcing this now?? It just so happens that on early Monday morning (1am) there was indeed an earthquake!! Apparently it was a 5.7 grade earthquake and everyone on the Tokyo marathon facebook group was talking about how scared they were, and how their bed was shaking!! I didn’t feel a thing! I must have slept right through it! Ha! Thank God it happened after the marathon was over, imagine that!
In anywise, the toilets I soon discovered were Japanese style, just my luck lol Got in a quick squat workout before my marathon lol I didn’t see the sign and apparently they do have western style porta potties I just didn’t pay attention. That could explain why the line moved on quick lol They also had plenty of picori sweat, which is the hydration drink on course, water and bananas near the porta potties after the security checks. I made my way to the waves, which again was very efficient and plenty of volunteers that helped. Though some of them cant speak English, its easy to understand where to go from their hand gestures and the signs they are carrying. There were very few English speaking volunteers and I found that to be quite difficult walking around town earlier in the week. Japan has major English language barrier. I lined up in my wave block but indeed as I suspected needed to use porta potty again. The only thing is there were none in the wave blocks. I had to get out of the wave area head further down to find huge line, circling around the park near the start to use one! There was no way I could get in line then make it back in time by 8:45 as time was 8:15 already! So Kindly asked a Japanese lady if she would let me cut in front of her, and pointed to my bib. My wave was before hers, so she let me get in line. I looked around and everyones wave was much later then mine. That made me feel bit better. I hurriedly got back to my wave which was almost full by now. Standing next to me was kind old guy from Boston. I was so relieved to meet a fellow American I can actually talk to. He’s 70 something years old and ran about 60ish marathons!! We actually started together and ran first 2k together. His name was Jack and I wonder about him since he was fresh out of surgery in October due to his achilles being injured. He was worried he wouldn’t get to finish Tokyo marathon. I Kept sending him good vibes while I was running! Right before we started we heard something like the national anthem being sung in Japanese, and group of kids singing. We heard the Elites start then really loud blast signaling the start of the Marathon finally!!
By the time my wave passed the start line it was 9:20am. The start of the marathon is 9:10am. Your timing chip is calculated by net time. However, and huge disclaimer here for anyone wanting to run Tokyo marathon in the future, your course timing is calculated by Gun time!! So basically I lost 10 mins of time waiting to get started from the gun going off, to the time my wave crossed the start time. Why is this important you ask? Well the Tokyo marathon are very strict when it comes to time (hence them being very disciplined at everything basically!) If your a 6 or 7 hour marathoner, you may get pulled out of the marathon if you dont cross certain areas by a certain time!! They take this very seriously and I actually witnessed a few busses driving behind slower runners! Its very strict and they enforce this in their packets we get in the expo. The first half of the race especially though I felt like the last 10k was little more relaxed. I guess the reason for this being that they need to open up the roads to traffic. Alhamdulliah I didn’t need to worry about this since I am a 5 hour marathoner(with my PR being 4:42). But I have to say, this fact really did freak me out at a bit. I was not only sick with flu 5 days ago, but my training has not been up to par since New York marathon. I had slacked a bit on my long runs, and weather in Michigan was below freezing for several weeks during the winter time! Losing time from the time the first marathoner crosses til about the last marathoner crosses start line would be about 20-30 mins.
The marathon itself was great. There was some entertainment on the way. (course map) Including Japanese bands and kids singing. There were shrines and temples to look at in awe while running. We also ran by Tokyo sky tower and finished at the Imperial palace. The course itself had few inclines but nothing compared to NY or Boston. The first 5k were downhill. and about 220ftish of climb up. The only rather significant climb was when we crossed a river and went up the bridge. This was around 20k mark. The streets and water stations were absolutely impeccable! I can not believe how CLEAN the marathon was! Not cup or wrapper in sight! If you run marathons you know how dirty the water stations are. But not the Japanese! The second someone throws cup on floor ( which is so very rude to do and against the rules!) someone picks it up hastily and immediately! I have never seen such cleanliness during a marathon. The cleaning trucks were behind the last wave/runners cleaning the streets as soon as they crossed last mark on the course. If your lagging behind the pacers with gold balloons, you get pulled out of the marathon. When I had to throw away my extra layer I had on and my gloves, I gave it to a volunteer holding out trash bags on the course. This was about mile 10. There were volunteers EVERYWHERE holding trash bags for runners. So it was easy not to throw stuff on the floor. The water stations were located every 2k, then ever 3k alternating. I found that to be kinda far but thankfully it was beautiful nippy day for a run. The porta potties on course were plentiful and rather packed from what I heard. Since men were NOT allowed to urinate outdoors, unlike other marathons where you see people peeing everywhere, the lines were long. Thankfully I didn’t need to stop. Everything was impeccably organized.
The last 1k of the run I went into a major coughing fit. I don’t know what happened, or what caused it. But I was hacking and coughing to point that I needed to stop. Which upset me being that I was so close to the finish. I got over it though and went back to running. The streets narrowed at this point and we made two left turns near Tokyo station to the finish. The finish was crowded and the announcer was speaking in, you guessed it, Japanese. But I was so glad to be done because my right knee ached and my coughing was starting back up again. I was thrilled to finish my 5th world major in Tokyo no less! BUT we weren’t done….those of you who ran NY know that the worst part at the finish was the walk to get your poncho. Well, the samething happened in Tokyo! UGH!!
And what a long walk this was! I think it was about 10 mins til you actually got your medal! Then you walk some more to get your flannel jacket, ( a very cheap one which I left behind in my hotel), walk some more to get your finishers towel, (love!), and walk even more to get your foil then finally; your insulated Asics poncho. At that point I was freezing. It got very cold at the end and being that I was soaked in sweat, my teeth started chattering. I needed to get to my hotel asap. However, to exit the area, you need to walk underground. Yes, that indeed requires one to walk down the STAIRS!! Who on earth planned this out?! And it wasn’t just two steps, it was like, 20 steps! For the love of God this was absolutely brutal and cruel. I was so mad but I needed to keep on walking.
At the expo, they gave us our bags which had fliers, marathon guide book, t-shirt, and metro card. This card is for runners only to be used within 24 hours from first time you use it. It def came in handy as I took train back to my hotel in Shinjuku which was very short ride. Our bag that was handed out at the finished contained small bottled water, some sports bar and a peanut butter sandwich with no jelly, mind you. This was wasn’t the best post fuel bag I received, in fact its the worst. But considering all the swag we got, pre marathon fuel at the start, towel, flannel jacket, two ponchos, and a free metro card, I was OK with it.
Overall, I loved this marathon! Though it wasn’t a PR for me, and I don’t run for PR’s, I can honestly say this was in my top 5 favorite marathons!! The organization, crowd support, the course, though some of it was out and back, were all better then what I had imagined. What started out to be an OK trip, due to my daughter and I getting sick and cutting few of our sight seeing short, ended in a SPECTACULAR way! Alhamdullilah! Thank God for my health and my ability to complete this world major. I pray that whomever wants to experience this, gets in via lottery! For it is a once in a lifetime experience indeed!!
PS heres a video of some race highlights made by Tokyo marathon