Tokyo Marathon, 28 Feb 2016 – Race Report

Posted: 29th February 2016 by mockjogger in Race reports
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Race day. I woke at 6.00 with a sense of relief. After a week of jetlag-induced insomnia, rare for me, I had slept well. I had a finely-tuned schedule to get to the race and it started with breakfast in the room – granola and dry fruit mix carried all the way from Edinburgh, as the hotel breakfast service did not start until 7. This supplemented my carb intake of the previous two days – soba, sushi, ramen and tendon (meat and rice). I felt loaded but not bloated.

My hotel was in the Tokyo Bay Area, quite close to the race registration/finish at Tokyo Big Sight, but a journey of about 45 minutes to the race start at Shinjuku. I had registered for the race on the Thursday evening and the whole process was very smooth. The registration area featured a big wall display containing the name of every entrant, and I quickly located mine. The expo was larger than I had seen in Paris, with a huge Asics presence offering a wide variety of Tokyo Marathon 2016 custom designed gear. I acquired some gloves and cool buttons that attach bib numbers to tee-shirts without requiring safety pins.

In retrospect it would have been better to base closer to the start than the finish; it is possible to stay within 5 minutes walk of the race start and avoid the early rise. However, the Tokyo rail system runs like clockwork and it was a straightforward enough to get there.

imageimageThe race-start organisation was immaculate. Plastic bottles were prohibited, so I hung around to down a carb drink I had brought along. Baggage check was easy and although the toilet queues were vast, I was there early enough not to panic, and got to my gate, E, in good time for the race start at 9.10.

The weather forecast was for temperatures of 7 degrees C at check in, 10 at start, rising to about 13 by finish. I was surprised to see most folks in tights and double-layer thermal shirts, with a fair sprinkling of hats and gloves. I went with a long sleeve shirt and shorts which worked out fine. I had no spare clothes to keep me warm at the start, so made do with a dry cleaning plastic bag. In amongst the skyscrapers of Shinjuku, my Garmin did it’s best to wind me up with a world record sync time, but it found itself just in time.

The first part of the course has a few twists and turns, and with 37,000 people starting, it was hard to navigate. The first 4 miles or so is a gradual downhill though, so even with a lot of runner-dodging, I was able to hit a target pace of 8:55. This was my plan: run at 8:55 and leave something in the bank for the last part of the race and still hit the big 4:00:00.

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A lot of this race is run in two lanes, giving slower runners a clear view of faster runners gong in the opposite direction. Think of a giant “+” sign, starting at the left, turning right and going down, up, down and left again, with the vertical part run in two lanes. I arrived at the first junction just in time to see the leaders fly by in the opposite direction. This construction can work as a motivator or a de-motivator; I liked it in the first part of the race, less so towards the end when it seemed like we were never going to make the turn at the top of the “+”.

There were frequent water stops but they needed to be worked. Each stop started with a long Pocari Sweat (sports drink) station followed by water, and the signs for the water start were not particularly clear. As we reached half way I was happy with the way things were panning out. I was holding a good pace without pushing and felt comfortable. It was sunny, the temperature was rising, and I felt sorry for the majority of folks running in tights.

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I am sick of gels, and for fuel this time I tried something new – Clif Blocks. These chews taste good and I find I can down them with or without water. I had one at 5 miles, then one every two miles. As we approached the 20 mile point I could feel no signs of Paris-like bonking. Adequate fuelling and sensible carb loading can help avoid The Wall.

As my Garmin buzzed to tell me 20 miles were up, I dug out my iPod. I had not planned any particular tracklist and hit random play. Calvin Harris & Ellie Goulding (Outside) followed by The Prodigy (Firestarter) did the trick for me. My mile times had been consistent and I knew I was on schedule for a sub-4. As I passed each mile marker I thought – that’s one mile less to mess this up.

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The last part of the race features a few ups and downs, as the course takes in some bridges en route back to the end point at Tokyo Big Sight. The ups were beginning to get tough. The distance markers were in km and my Garmin was lapping miles, and with some mental arithmetic I realised I was not as close to the finish as I thought. With all the runner dodging, not being able to hit tangents with runner volume, and GPS tall-building shenanigans (or maybe the course is simply long), I did not have the buffer to sub-4 I thought I had. This made me angry. My overwhelming thought was

Organisers of the Tokyo Marathon, if you fucking morph your race into an ultramarathon and cause me to miss a sub 4, I will be displeased.

No way. I dredged some extra energy from down deep and pressed harder, up the ups and down the downs. I could see the Big Sight in the distance but it did not seem to be getting closer very quickly. My Garmin buzzed for 26 miles. Finally we hit a left turn and I thought we were home, but I was shocked to see another long straight, marginally uphill, before the running peloton turned right. I swore and gave it all I had left. I refused to look at the Garmin. I had given up taking photographs a few miles ago. After the right turn, with some relief I saw a sign “195m to go” and kicked for it, leaving nothing on the course. On the line I dared to look at the watch and saw 3 something, but was too shattered to celebrate. The Garmin recorded 26.67 miles total, and I ran the last 0.67 at 8:44/mile pace.

Tokyo marathon result

I could hardly get my legs to move for a stretch, nevermind the long slow walk during which I was given my medal, a Tokyo Marathon 2016 towel, sports drink, water, banana, orange and something called “calorie mate”. I made it to the change area, but spent quads made it hard to sit down on the floor to change. More slow walking led me to the Konica/Minolta booth where I was presented with a finishers certificate.

Other marathoners have told me how emotional they have sometimes felt completing the distance. I had never experienced that. Crossing the line in Paris, all I felt was relief. After Edinburgh, I was numb. This time I was simply shattered. But when the Konica/Minolta folks presented me with a finisher’s certificate with 3:xx:xx in black and white, I sobbed. Being of Irish/British decent I naturally put a quick lid on it in case anyone confused me with an Italian, but it was the most emotional moment of my running “career” so far.

Overall, a big thumbs up for this race. Organisation was immaculate, the scenery great and good vocal crowd support. The medal and associated swag were very nice. The finish location is a bit out of the centre and was less populated than some course points, but I was so happy to finish I did not care much.

Afterwards, just two stops on the Yurikamome monorail brought me to Ooedo Onsen (hot spring). I had expected this to be completely full with about 30,000 runners but I was able to get in. I spent four hours lying in various Spring baths, lounging around and eating yakisoba. As far as post-marathons go, this one takes the bisuketto.

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Time: 3:58:20

Position: 7,417 / 37,000 (20%)

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Anthony says:

    Thanks for the race report. It was an interesting read infuse with some sense of humor.. Lol.. And congrats to your sub 4 PB! I got my PB too and was very feeling good during the entire race. Hope to run in Tokyo again next time. Cheers!

    • mockjogger says:

      Thanks Antony. I’m glad you scored a PB too. If I am lucky enough to a ballot result again, I will be back.