The Day We Unite…..
We arrived in Tokyo 8 days before the race. I had meetings planned for the early part of the week and then the EXPO and delivering shirts for Thursday / Friday before rest on the Saturday.
THE EXPO DAY……
I think the Expo day was an early indication of how the race day would be. Thursday saw the heavens open and rain incessantly for the best part of the day. This weather was far from ideal as this year the EXPO format was in large tents among the car parks of Odaiba. This was my 8th Tokyo Marathon, so compared to the previous EXPOs that I have attended over the years this was the worst. In part due to the weather, but also due to the fragmented layout of the site. Dodging between the tents and trying to keep as dry as possible meant that I did not spend as much time looking around the various stalls.
NEGATIVE 1 :
The fragmented layout of the expo and the rain did not help the enjoyment factor of the expo this year.
Oofos disappointingly did not have a TOKYO MARATHON pair this year…!
Collecting the number, having the wristband (which you must wear until end of the race) placed on my arm, photo taken, collecting the charity kit and goody bag was all efficient as you would expect in Japan. All of the volunteers were smiling and happy and wishing you a good race. They did their best to keep spirits high.
I was able to meet several runners who had purchased the TOKYO SHIRTS from runRICKYrun (in partnership with Inseanity). Most were collected at the expo and I had 3 left to deliver to Shinjuku the next day.
There were several freebies to collect (as with all of the expos). A free reflective wristband from the Pocari Sweat stand was the highlight of these. It will actually come in useful here in Malaysia as most of our runs are very early morning before the sun rises.
At the end of the expo I was cold and very wet feet. Overall i would rate this expo a 5 out of 10 (and most of those points were due to the very positive energy coming from the volunteers.
RACE DAY – 3rd March 2019
There was a lot of banter on the runners groups about the expected weather. When I checked at 20:00 on the Saturday evening it was not due to rain on Sunday in Tokyo until around 18:00. This was perfect I thought……
The kit was set up, the chip on the shoe, the number pegged to the shirt. I was ready and had a good nights sleep.
I had planned to wear an undershirt (compression) and my runRICKYrun shirt on top. The RMHC arm sleeves and calf sleeves would also provide some protection from the elements.
Waking early it was cold but not raining…. this felt good. The target of 04:59:59 was very realistic after 5:06:17 in New York. I was looking forward to the race day.
Heading across Tokyo from our AirBnB apartment to the starting area in Shinjuku involved a couple of changes. No issue though as I have lived in Tokyo previously for 8 years so the train network is very simple to use.
When leaving the station in Shinjuku I was feeling the first sign of light rain in the air. It was now around 08:00 and after using the portapotty I started to remove the tracksuit and warmer clothes to prepare to head to baggage drop and the corrals. I had a large bin liner that I had brought with me but this was very thing and was just going to act as a waterproof barrier until it tears.
After handing in the bag I headed to the K corral. It was not very busy but already there were people standing in the areas that offered some shelter from the rain that had now increased to more of a heavy drizzle. I still had around 55 minutes to wait until the start of the race. I was trying to keep dry but was also beginning to feel cold. It was now that I realised I had made an error in not checking the forecast in the morning. If I had known that rain was now due to continue all day I would have worn another layer of waterproof clothing….. after Boston marathon and Penang Bridge Marathon last year (both with horrendous rainful) I should have learnt my lesson..!
It was now too late to make any clothing changes (no access to kit bag after handing in) and I began to clock watch as the time of 09:10 was slowly approaching. I also had the urge to use the bathroom again. I knew now though that I had to find a toilet on route as we were about to start.
09:10 – the start.
Well in block K you do not really move for around 10 minutes at least after the start and then you slowly (walk) your way to the actual start area. At this point my hands/fingers were cold (as my gloves were wet) and my bare legs were also starting to shiver. I just wanted to start and try to warm up by moving. I finally crossed the start line 21 minutes and 38 seconds after the gun time.
We were now able to move although the area was still crowded. Moving that little bit more increased my need to find a toilet but the early toilets had rather long queues and I did not want to waste time this early in the race.
I knew the first 10km was generally down hill until Nihonbashi
5km – 00:32:13
This was around the speed that I wanted to do and apart from the need to find a loo I was just beginning to get warmer. There were a lot of runners about still but the early few KMs had provided a little bit of space. As I was trying to run a consistent speed throughout the race, I did have to dodge my way through the crowds at times. The rain was still heavy. Not to the extent of Boston at anytime, but my error in lack of clothing meant that I was colder at the start.
10km – 01:05:50 (33:37 split)
To this point all toilets that we passed were either visible and long queues or they were set a long way off the course. I did not want to waste time so I continued to the next one, and the next one etc.
After around 13-14 km I had to use the loo. The discomfort was such that it was causing me to think about it consistently. I decided I would use the next toilet. This was another one that was set off the course. I jogged to it and found the queue going outside the building. I had to go so I waited. When we entered the building I realised that the queue actually went down stairs. I could feel my body temperature dropping – oh why did I take off my top? I finally reached the urinal and went about my business. As by now we had stopped for around 8-10 minutes my fingers were cold and my wet body had begun to shiver. It was too late to get the top back so I just had to grin and bear it.
At 10km I was still feeling ok and now the body temperature was up to a more usual level. I was able to see my family around 12km and that buoyed the spirits. I did not realise at the time that this would be the only time on the course that I would see them all. I was a now warm so I decided to give the thin long sleeve shirt to the family and I placed the plastic liner back over my body. I knew if I kept moving my body would be working hard enough to retain heat. (In hindsight this was my second mistake – I should have retained the shirt if I knew that the toilet queues were going to be long).
15km – 01:48:01 (42:11 split)
The toilet stop had added around 10 minutes to my time. I was disappointed as I knew that this could be the difference between hitting my target and being over 5 hours. Mentally as I knew I had a long way to go and I was cold I found this part of the course very challenging. The rain appeared to feel heavier, I was certainly colder than I was. There was still 25 km to go. After passing by Asakusa Shrine you head out to Sumida shi & Koto shi. You have a few bridges here and you are on the out and back part of the course. I was looking for and spotted a few other runRICKYrun shirts along the route.
20km – 02:23:29 (35:28 split)
This is where you have your first u-turn on the course. You can also see the runners who are behind you. Body temperature wise I was still cold. My fingers (although in gloves) were cold due to the wet material). Crowds were still shouting and cheering the names of the runners with frequent “Gambatte” and “Fighto”. The spirit of the crowds at most of the majors are positive and very supportive – Tokyo is no exception. The spectators and the race volunteers were out in the same rain and cold weather as the runners (albeit they were probably better attired for the conditions) and were full of encouragement.
25km – 3:01:07 (37:38 split)
This part of the course for me is the least exciting. My family were meant to see me in two places but on both occasions I missed them.
Also around this time I began to realise that my sub 5 target today was not going to happen. I decided that I needed to focus on other things and try to keep in a rhythm and ignore the time. Crowd interaction here helps – the high fives and banter was very much a distraction. I knew I would finish, I knew that the cut offs would not be an issue. I just wanted to get to the finish.
Heading back into Ginza gave me some positive feelings. I know the area was fully ware of my location again. I was looking out for the family but I must have missed them. My sister in law was along the course and we missed a couple of times. I found a toilet with small queue so took some opportunity to use this as well (lost around 3 minutes).
At Ginza I was able to hear my family (albeit they were on the other side of the road).
30km – 3:42:30 (41:23 split)
From 30km you have another out and back down to Shinagawa. This was my home area for a few years (2006-2009). Passing Tokyo Tower, and Zojoji Temple and runners were around 5 km ahead of us on the way back to the finish.
35km – 04:25:36 (42.56 split).
Just after here you have the second u-turn. Now we were on the homeward leg to Tokyo Station and the finish. About 6.5 Km to go at the turn point. I was now walking at the water stations as mentally I knew that time was not good. I was able to see the course cut off points as I reaching 40km on the other side. The support runners with the yellow balloons – very closely followed by a couple of yellow buses that were picking up the runners who missed the cut offs. I have never been in that situation or even close to it (was always 25-45 minutes in front) but I did have a lot of sympathy for them. It was very cold and awful weather conditions for a marathon. To have your race cut short must be so demoralizing after 30km plus of effort.
40km – 05:07:45 (42.19 split).
I just want to finish and get warm. The last two km I was able to pick up the pace a bit and did not stop for any water or breaks. My family were about 700m from the finish (but again on the opposite side of the road). My son was upset that he never saw me but I did not want to stop – I just wanted to get to the end and change into my warmer clothes.
42.195km – 05:23:30
It was over – finally…. disappointed that my preparation was not good enough. Not happy with the time, but of course happy to finish my 17th Major marathon. With just London now to finish the runRICKYrun project for charity.
As a charity runner we were lead away to the left at the finish. We had to walk around 500m to reach the heat sheets (I think in these conditions they should have been immediately after the finish). We received a bottle of water, a goody bag and of course the medal. I was shivering again (because stopping running). It was around 10-12 minutes to walk from the finish line to the baggage collection point and then onto the changing area for charity runners. This area was a welcome relief from the cold and rain outside. We were given hot towels to wipe down and a warmer environment to change into our clean and dry clothes. Running with RMHC we also had another venue to go to post race. There was free food and drink and was able to gain access for 7 family members too. It was good to relax and begin to warm up properly. The highlight though was the 10 minute massage (300 yen + donation) it certainly felt good.
I think my sons highlight was meeting Ronald McDonald in the charity area.