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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!