After a little bit of a lay in we were up and dressed by 7.30am to leave the hotel to go to the gate where I would enter to get to the start block. I was rugged up as much as I could be – without going overboard as I was not going to check in a bag.
I was watching the streets below from the window of our hotel from about 6.45am and the number of people coming in was crazy. When we got in the lift to go to the foyer, we stopped at nearly every level to the ground (we were are on the 28th floor) and then when we came out into the foyer it was insanely busy. There were people everywhere.
We left the hotel lobby and found our way to my gate, we watched some people for a while then I left Kath to head through security, I had a rough idea where she was going to be on the course, but given the volumes of people I was not so sure I would actually get to see her. I was wearing the worlds ugliest jacket that Tash gave me. My theory was that if it was ugly I would actually get rid of it and not keep it like I have done every other time I was going to “discard a jumper at the start line”. The jacket was actually very very warm, so people really shouldn’t judge it too harshly.
The first checkpoint I had to go through was security. Here they scanned the band that they put on your arm at the expo. They checked this against your bib. Once you passed that checkpoint, you moved through to the actual security section, where your bags were checked (I didn’t have any) and then you went through a metal detector. I got really paranoid here cause I thought that my racedots (essentially magnet dots used to hold on a race bib) were going to set off the alarm. Thankfully they did not (I really didn’t want to have to give them up (they cost a fortune). From there I passed under a overpass and came out the other side and waved to Kath. I wanted to find my way to my starting corral, which was K, the second last group… yes you read right K! There were 9 corrals before mine.
I made my way past the LONGEST porta loo lines I have ever EVER seen. I didn’t need to go, but I was contemplating going just to waste some time.. Though I saw one of the doors open and it was like a squat toilet, so I decided unless I became really desperate, I would not go… I did see towards the end of the line of porta loos that they had some “Western” ones. But the line for that was even bigger. So I continued on my way past the baggage drop point. This was amazing as well – they had such a fantastic system going on. Every truck was labelled and they were stacking straight into trolleys. I kept on walking looking for corral K. Finally I saw a sign and made my way up a ramp and into the waiting area, which honestly felt like a prison exercise yard. It was obviously not, however there were big fences around the area with an enclosed basketball court in the middle. There was also a security guy walking around with a baton.
Slowly the corral got busier and busier as 8.30am rolled around. They must have been playing the national anthem or something (I couldn’t really hear) and then some other music. They also announced all the elite runners (I think). Right on time at 9.10 they let off some fireworks and that is when the elites started racing. My group just stood there, waiting, waiting, waiting… We eventually started moving. I still had my jacket on at this stage as I didn’t want to dump it too early then be left cold. We eventually made it onto the main stretch and people started to slowly jog, so I saw a volunteer and gave them the worlds ugliest jacket with an apologetic glance. About 2metres down the road we stopped.. great I knew I dropped my jacket off too early, we then slowly started walking again… I still could not see a start line at this point. We turned another corner and I could see it in the distance, we started to walk faster as we approached the start line. Then BOOM as we hit the start line, everyone in front of me stopped to take selfies – WTAF people, we are over the starting mat, keep moving you are wasting my time. It took me just over 20mins to get to the start line.
Finally we set off, I decided I would just take the first bit slow and settle into a rhythm, no point wasting energy dodging in and around people. The streets were lined with spectators all clapping and cheering us on. I feel into a pretty good pace and it wasn’t long before I was at 4km and knew that Kath was going to be around this point. Surprisingly she was easy to pick out, she had her sign and a red beanie oh and she was one of the few Caucasian people out on the course. I ran over to her and dropped off my gloves (my hands were warm by then) and my sunglasses (it was really overcast it didn’t look like it was going to change). Off I went again.
The water stations were approximately every 2.5km after the 5km mark. These were a sight in themselves. They stretched about 200m long. Generally the first 100m was for sports drink and the second 100m was for water. The frustrating thing with the sports drink was that people were spilling it on the ground which then made the soles of my shoes sticky, so then I was running along sticking to the ground. Thankfully the water stations then took all the sticky off my shoes.
I generally ran on the edge of the left side of the pack, mainly so I could see all the spectators and see if I could spot Kath again. Before I knew it I was at the 10km mark, I was looking around for Kath, but it was pretty solid at this point, so I kept on my way. I spotted her around the 15km mark, here I jogged over and gave her my arm warmers (which I took off at the 6th km) and she asked how I was going, I said really well and that I seemed to be on pace pretty decently.
Between the 18-19km mark I experienced something I would never wish on another runner or spectator. In front of me a heard a lot of yelling and whistles being blown in the middle of the road. I was wondering what was going on, as I approached I noticed that a lot of volunteers were surrounding a man on the ground and one was giving CPR to the runner, while others were shouting for an AED machine. It was very surreal and scary to know that someone had collapsed and needed resuscitation on the course. I really hope that they were able to get the AED machine to him in time.
That really shook me up for a while and I was looking everywhere for Kath to tell her about it. I saw her again at the 24km mark (I think) and stopped quickly to talk to her about the man and she checked in that I was okay and I continued on my way. I was still feeling really good physically at this stage and mentally aside from the incident above, I was doing really well. I knew I was pacing myself well and I was feeling confident. My nose decided to turn on and just drip as the temperature (I am sure dropped). I kept on running (as you do when you are just half way through a marathon) and made my way through multiple more water stations. They also provided some food (fruit and breads) at some of the stations but I kept clear of that. Some of the spectators were also giving out candies and sports drinks. I was getting a bit hungry at the 32km point, so I decided to munch on my nut bar, so I slowed my pace a little (I didn’t want to choke on nuts) and ate that over the following 2km. I saw Kath in around the 30km mark and she gave me some tissues for my dripping nose.
It was around this time that I realised that my watch had become out of sync with the markers but a lot.. so clearly my not following the inner most line gave me a whole lot more mileage under foot. The last 10km were pretty good, though I did start to get really cold as there was a cool breeze on the path. At around 35km they had an aid station dedicated for people to use ice spray.. this might have been good for those using it but for the rest of it it meant that our mouths were coated in a menthol taste which just wouldn’t go away. I was so happy when I saw the 4km to go sign and even happier again when I ran over the 40km timing mat. Just 2 km to go and I was on just starting to feel tired. Coming into the last km, I heard a shout from the crowd and looked over and saw Kath there. I was so happy that I saw her and that I was running so well, I got a bit emotional, but of course I did not show that I was emotional, which then meant that I sent myself into a panic cause I couldn’t breath from not crying – it was all very funny really when I think about it (now). The final turn was such a relief and I picked up my pace for the last few hundred metres. When I crossed the finish line, I was really happy. But then I got really really cold… I am talking incredibly cold.. we were then all split into our bib colours and sent in all different directions.. We had to walk over 1km to get to the first of the runners services, which was water. I finished that in 2 sips, another 400m down the path was the finisher towels. I was shivering so hard when the woman gave me my towel that she actually gave me a hug and said “you very cold” to which I nodded yes. Another 200m down the road saw us get our foil blankets.. another lady hugged me here too and tried to tie the blanket onto me. another 300m down the road we got given a little bag of stuff with a sports drink and a PB sandwich. It took us another 500m or so to get to the bag collection spot which you had to walk through regardless if you had a bag or not.. By this point Kath had messaged me to ask me if I was going okay. My only response was that I was so cold. I found the spot where I could meet her and I was almost in tears as I was so cold. She took my stuff off me and rugged me up in jackets and beanies and gloves. Kath tried to take a photo of me with my medal but it just wasn’t my day as I was too cold to stop shaking to smile properly, so there is a picture of me grimacing haha.
We made out way to the bus and ran into Jacqui there (she was our tour guide in Easter Island and we saw her in Queenstown). Jacqui gave me a hug and also pointed out that I looked very cold, she then pointed to the bus and told us to get on. We got on the bus and I very very slowly started to warm up. It was 3.2km from the finish line to get to the bus. The bus dropped us right at the door to our hotel. We came upstairs and Kath ran me a hot bath which I soaked in for half an hour. Kath went out to search for food and brought us back some KFC (not much around here actually does take away). We feasted on fried chicken and the weirdest KFC chips I have ever seen (though they were very tasty). We then hung out for the afternoon in the hotel.
My official time was 4:53:58, which is a whopping 58minutes better than my first marathon I ran on Easter Island in June last year. My watch told me that I actually ran 43.77 which is an additional 1.55 km longer than the shortest route out there. So if you would ever like to know how to run an additional 1.5km in a marathon, just let me know I can show you. My kms were the same as the markers for the first 10km, then it seems I was running a much wider route then everyone else.
Here are some things I learnt while running the Tokyo Marathon:
- DO NOT get in the way between Japanese runners and an official photographer, it’s never going to end well.
- Watch out for mad dashes from people from the inside of the course running to the outside because they have just spotted someone they know.
- If a Mickey Mouse or Minnie Mouse start to speed past you – catch them – you can’t be beaten by a mouse!
- The Japanese supporters are a vibrant bunch and cheer you on regardless if they know you.
- People with tissues seem to be at the spot in the course where they know you will need them most. – Thank you to the kind lady who gave me some tissues as my nose was dripping from the cold (even though I thanked you in Spanish – I panicked and could not remember thank you in Japanese).
- The volunteers on course are by far the most energetic and organised I have ever experienced.
In summary, the Tokyo Marathon was certainly my favourite marathon I have done so far. Despite the huge numbers of runner and you always being within 1m of another person, it was a fantastic atmosphere. There were people with AED machines every 1-2km and volunteers every 50m. A huge effort put in by all on the day. I have learnt that I am more suited to running in cooler weather than hot, though I think training through Brisbane summer this year did me wonders.