I Ran the Tokyo Marathon!

Well actually I walked a bit during the last few miles, so I suppose a more accurate title would be “I Finished the Tokyo Marathon!” but it is my blog so I will name it whatever I want.

One thing that has always helped me adjust to living in a new place is running. Running kind of forces you to get to know your new neighborhood and town and I truly believe that it makes you feel a little more like you belong there. It immediately makes you just a local going out for a morning run.

Last summer, I randomly saw a Facebook post about entering the lottery for the Tokyo Marathon. On a whim, I decided to enter. Now, I did not really expect to actually get into this marathon. It is one of the six world marathon majors (the others being London, Chicago, New York, Boston, and Berlin) and it is extremely popular, and the odds of getting in are quite slim. This year 319,777 people entered the general entry lottery with 26,370 people getting in. So, imagine my surprise when about seven weeks after entering I received this email.

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Oh boy, what have I done?!

I had done a few half marathons but never a full and was not entirely sure where to start. But, after doing a bit of research on the internet I put together my own training plan and got started. I wasn’t starting from nothing since I already had been running about 20-25 miles a week, but I knew doing the longer runs would still be a major adjustment.

Training during the fall and winter was usually pretty nice. Yokosuka has fairly mild winters so I did not have to deal with snow or icy streets. Although, it does get very windy here, so I tried to work my long runs around days that were not forecasted to be super windy. The race was the last weekend of February and the only time my training got somewhat off was during January when we were out of town for a few days. Other than that I stuck to a plan of doing runs during the week of anywhere from 3-7 miles and then longer runs every Sunday morning.

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A couple miles from the Navy base is a great running path right along the water. 
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I was usually rewarded with pretty sunrises for early morning runs. 
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Another one of my favorite spots to run was through a beautiful park with a historic battleship. 
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My favorite run was during a weekend in Kyoto when I ran to the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine at sunrise and got to explore it with very few people around. 

Before I knew it, the week of the race was upon me, whether I was ready or not. Two days before the marathon I went to the expo at the Tokyo Big Sight, which is a massive convention center on the outskirts of the city.

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Kind of looks like a space ship from the outside! My parents joined me since they had flown out to watch the race and do some sightseeing.
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Got my bib, a tracker for my shoes, a security bracelet, and the race t shirt.

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There were lots of interesting vendors at the expo, many with cute and adorable mascots!
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In addition to the race shirt I picked up some other fun running shirts. You never know if you’ll run the Tokyo Marathon again, might as well have fun with it when you can!

I didn’t spend the night before the race in Tokyo since we only live a little over an hour from the start line and the start time wasn’t until 9:00 am. The weather was my ideal weather for a long run (hooray!) with the sky forecasted to be overcast all day and temperatures in the mid 40s with very little wind. I was excited and nervous, and ready to get running!

 

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I had to leave family behind from here and go find my starting area. All the runners were scanned in using a picture they took of you when you picked up your packet, to ensure that the right people were running the race. 

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The starting area wasn’t hard to find at all, but I wasn’t really sure how far back I was or where the actual start line was. I just followed the crowd and eventually crossed over it. 
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All smiles at the start of the race in Shinjuku! 

James and my parents were easy to spot along the route since they had made a very large cute, pink sign with my name on it. They were tracking me and would send me a quick text that would vibrate my smart watch to let me know to look out for them. Very convenient!

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The easy to spot sign my parents made, so cute!

Tokyo is such a fun city, and we visit it very often. Being able to run through the streets was a lot of fun, and for most of the race I really enjoyed taking in the scenery as I ran.

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Colorful buildings in Shibuya. Sorry the picture is a bit blurry, but I was running!
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Skytree!
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Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate) in front of Sensoji Temple in Asakusa! This is one of my favorite spots in Tokyo so I stopped and asked a person standing on the side to take a picture of me. And yes, the person behind me was dressed as a dinosaur wearing a cowboy hat with caution tape wrapped around him. I ran with him for quite a while… so that probably says a lot about my running speed 🙂

One of the things the Tokyo Marathon is known for are the crazy costumes people wear. I do not know how people do this. I just wanted to be as comfortable as possible and some people were wearing really elaborate things. Out on the course I saw people dressed as ninjas, geishas, lots of Disney costumes, quite a few Mt. Fujis, lots and lots of Waldos (Where’s Waldo, these seemed to be a spectator favorite also) and mostly just things that you were not entirely sure what they were supposed to be. For a while I was with a guy wearing a rainbow outfit with some sort of large propellor hat and he was live blogging the whole thing! Some people were even wearing jeans and sandals! But, they all looked like they were having a great time and they always made everyone around them smile, so more power to them.

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I felt pretty good for most of the race and just enjoyed being there. I tried to not pay too much attention to how much I had left and just kept up a steady pace. The race organizers did a nice job of having lots of water stations (Pocari Sweat, a Japanese energy drink, was also readily available) and food stations with bread, tomatoes, and oranges. I made sure to use all of the water stations so I would not get too dehydrated, but I only ate a couple of oranges. James and my parents also were able to see me six times (!) during the race and it was super fun to see them and always gave me a little boost of energy. Well except around mile 21 when I really just wanted to get on the train with them and leave!

I had read that the Tokyo Marathon has lots and lots of spectators but I wasn’t prepared for just how many there would be! All 26 miles of the course were lined with lots of people cheering the runners on and the atmosphere was really upbeat and exciting. There were quite a few entertainment sections set up, which I didn’t get pictures of unfortunately, with drummers, dancers, and singers. There was even a talent competition going on at one point in the race. If I don’t get in with the lottery again I think I would just go and be a spectator and enjoy the great environment.

A little over halfway my feet began to hurt but I was able to push it out of my mind. However, by about mile 20 they were really hurting and I was starting to slow down quite a bit. Every time I would stop for water or to grab an orange getting back to running became harder and harder. I did walk on and off a bit, but I think I probably walked only about a mile total for the whole race. I am not sure why my feet hurt so much, my legs were feeling tight but basically fine and I think I could have run the whole thing if it hadn’t been for the pain my feet were causing me. Perhaps it was my shoes, since they were also the shoes I had trained in during the fall and winter? Oh well, lesson learned if I ever get the crazy notion to randomly enter a marathon again.

When I had a couple of miles left I was walking (limping) off to the side when a nice lady named Keiko ran by me and asked if I spoke English, and off I went with her to finish the race. She kept me going the last couple of miles, and I hope I helped her keep going as well. I had spent months thinking about this race and during it, especially miles 20-24, it seemed like it would never end, but all of a sudden I was about to cross the finish line!

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About to cross the finish line at Tokyo Station!

The finish area was somewhat confusing and I had a bit of trouble meeting up with James and my parents, especially since all of our phones were at about 10%. It seemed like runners had to walk really far to the family meet up area, and I know we just ran 26.2 miles but walking half a mile after that was just too much. Finally they found me sitting on the stairs in a train station and it was time to go home.

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Yay!
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Hobbling home
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If you have ever been on the trains in Tokyo you know that getting a seat is not always guaranteed. I was sooooo happy to have one this time!

 

Overall running the Tokyo Marathon was so awesome and I really can’t believe my luck at getting in. Am I ready to do another marathon? Maybe not any time soon, but if I happen to have the luck to get in through the lottery again then I would for sure do this race again!

 

Moving a Dog to Japan

James and I were back on the East Coast during the past month while he went to a school for his upcoming job. While there we were visiting some friends when someone asked us whether it was very difficult for us to move. We thought about it and realized that no, it actually was not too hard. The military provides you with a checklist of things to do and they move all your stuff. So as long as you are on top of things then you are fine. Getting a pet to Japan though… that was quite the obstacle.

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Awww, I would do anything for our little dog to be with us!

Pets, especially small dog breeds, are extremely popular in Japan. In fact, there are actually more registered family pets (dogs and cats) than children under the age of 16 in this country (a shrinking Japanese population is very interesting to read about, but that is a topic for another time). So, the difficulty in bringing a dog to this country is not due to a general dislike for small, cute wiener dogs. Rather, it is due to preventing rabies. Japan, has been rabies free since 1957 largely due to compulsory vaccination of family pets as well as elimination of stray dogs. There is a multi step process that must be followed exactly or else you risk a 180 day quarantine upon trying to enter the country.

We had to prepare for our trip starting last winter while we were still living in Newport. Our dog, Lily, loved living in Newport. She liked that we were home so much, I was working from home, and she loved sitting in front of the fireplace when it was cold out and soaking up the warmth. She also had a nice backyard with lots of little places to stick her nose into and lots of good smells.

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Monitoring the neighborhood in Newport. Little old ladies and children are (in Lily’s opinion) the most suspect people.
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Lily was also a member of the anti-seagull enforcement team and enjoyed walking on the beach Saturday mornings doing her job.

The first step to get her ready to move was to get an international microchip put in. Dogs in the US usually have a nine digit chip, but to enter Japan you need a fifteen digit chip. After getting the microchip we had to get a series of two rabies shots, thirty days apart. After the second shot dogs have to get a blood sample that is sent to a lab that then reports the results to the Japanese government. All of this must be done at least 180 days before attempting to bring the pet in, so we had to get this all done by the end of February.

Once you have the results of the blood test you must contact the Japanese quarantine service for import permission. This must be done at least 40 days prior to entering the country. I went back and forth with them a few times sending all of our paperwork and ensuring that we had, so far, done things correctly. We were just about ready to go!

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Traveling makes Lily a little anxious. She just sat in her dog carrier for about three days as we packed up in Newport, nervous she would be left behind. And yes, she is obsessed with blankets and gets upset when she doesn’t have one. Good thing we don’t spoil her too much…

While we were in Japan during June and July Lily stayed with both sets of her grandparents (our parents). At the end of August I stopped in California to pick her up and take her to our new house! The final thing you have to do before you travel is to get a health certificate. This must be done within ten days of travel. If you are a civilian you must also get the health certificate endorsed by the USDA, but since we are military we were allowed to skip this step and just use a military veterinarian to get the final health exam. We were ready to go!

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My second time in one summer flying to Japan with too much stuff!

Although Lily has criss crossed the US numerous times on airplanes, she had always been able to travel in the cabin with us. This would be her first time traveling as checked baggage, and her first time on an eleven hour flight. We were all a little nervous about the upcoming trip.

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Lily thought if she just didn’t look directly at her carrier then it would just disappear.

Time to say goodbye!

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Ahh my heart is breaking!
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Get on the plane, Lily. NO, not without you!

I swear I heard a dog barking right before takeoff (might have been my imagination), but upon landing Lily was still alive, albeit pretty mad and doing her angry barks. Dogs must still pass through customs after landing and there was a quarantine office at Narita Airport that gave her an exam. This took about half an hour to do, and even though there was a minor mistake on her health exam, she passed and we were allowed to leave the airport! Hooray!

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Checking out the sunrise over Tokyo Bay. We both had jet lag the first few days so we had some early morning walks!

Lily is still getting used to her new home and isn’t too crazy about our house right now. We just got out furniture delivered so everything is all over the place, and our backyard is kind of small and doesn’t have many interesting smells for her. But she will adjust and be fine soon. We still have to get final confirmation from the Yokosuka base veterinarian that we have completed all of the requirements, but once we have that we will be allowed to leave the base and go for walks out in town. Just like us, Lily is eager to explore her new hometown more and experience Japan!