Everyday Lions blog

Tokyo Marathon race blog

So, I thought 6 days after Sunday’s Tokyo marathon was a good time to write a race report and reflect on what has been one of the best experiences of my life to date. Japan and Tokyo were amazing and I would highly recommend this race to anyone. Not many races in the world where you can run a 2:29 marathon and don’t even finish in the first 60 places. Japans running culture lived up to all the hype of being a marathon running loving nation who just lives for the sport of “marathon running” and is only second to none to Kenya when it comes to the standard of its marathon runners. it’s hard fathom that there will be another 130 plus more runners who reside in Japan that will break 2:30 in tomorrow’s Lake Biwa marathon. I think the brutal training that is required for marathons aligns with their hard-working culture.

I ended up going to bed about 11pm the night before and it was awesome having that 3hrs more sleep than usual. I got close to 6 hours sleep which was more than any other sleep I have ever had before a marathon. My hotel was positioned some 2km from the starting point of the race and required a short walk to the start line in the morning.

After eating two bananas, a gel and a quick messenger conversation to my parents and a few others in my support crew on Facebook it was time to venture to the start line. Walking from my hotel to the start I knew it was going to be freezing and so I layered up big time with arm warmers, beanie, jumper and jacket. It was a wet and cold and only 5 degrees and with the forecast telling us it wasn’t going to get any warmer before the race got under way. I had to be in the starting pen (block A) by at least 8.45 for 9.15 start. Approaching the start line, I wasn’t exactly too sure where the race started apart from knowing it was outside the Government metropolitan building and so I just followed the masses and signs that the race staff were holding up. Like their train network systems everything ran like clockwork and it was a really easy process finding where we had to drop off our clothes that were transported to the finish line post-race. If anything, I was there way too early and just ended up keeping my clothes on for about 45 minutes before and just taking off my jumper and jacket but leaving my tights and jacket on and changing my heavy shoes to my racing flats. I ended up sitting down on the footpath trying to keep as warm as possible and was able to strike up a conversation with a guy from Germany (good English) who forgot to put his second race number on and asked me if I could give him a hand with that. We would later randomly meet up again and swap twitter details to keep in contact (he ran a 2:41 marathon).
After sitting down for some ten minutes I made my way closer to the sub elite runners one area and started making conversation with another Australian David Russell I had got to of known through strava as well but had never met. This was a really cool moment and certainly relaxed me but it was bloody cold and still 40 minutes before the race was going to start. Before entering the pen, we both thought there was no point even warming up because all we would be doing is standing anyway. They are asked to see both our front and back numbers as well as the ID bands we had received from the race expo three days before hand. The plan from here was to just push forward again as we were still some 30 to 40 rows back from the front. By this time, it was raining and just really bloody cold. After making our way to the 3rd row it was evident of how many characters Japan has and some of the extreme lengths, they were going to keep warm before the race started. Blokes had rain coats, plastic bags on their shoes, jumpers and some people even had little soft mats they could sit on. After standing for about 5 minutes I made the decision to sit down and this kind Japanese bloke gave me and the other Aussie bloke their mats to sit on. By this time the hype was really building with songs being sang and lots of chants from other runners. It was really cool as you could see a countdown clock as well. The wheel chair race started some 5 minutes before the mass start, another interesting thing I had never seen before was that females started on the left-hand side and males on the right. A really good and safe idea because there can lot of pushing in that first km of the race. I took off my tights and jumper and threw them away on the road and took on my first of 5 gels in the race. It was a cola caffeinated water gel and went down like a charm.

So, with a big count down and the introduction of the elites the gun was finally fired. I had the plan for months in my head to NOT run a crazy those first few kms. It was mayhem with hundreds of runners going ahead of me and I was still hitting 3.20s pace. I was thinking just run even and don’t be erratic as it was also downhill. Feeling great and also getting a lift from the thousands of supporters on the side of the road I went through the 1km in 3.29 pace. My biggest worry after Chicago was not being able to see these markers but I had no problem the whole race. By time, I had started to get into a rhythm and was feeling on top of my game. I passed through 5km in 17.32 feeling in control but my quads wouldn’t warm up. The next challenge was taking on my first bit of electrolyte fluid that the organisers supplied. It tasted just like a weak Powerade and went down really well. The goal was to take this every 5km as well as my gels that I had decided to tape to my legs after talking to Antony Rickards who has ran 40 plus marathons and has a personal best of 2:22). This in fact was great advice and grabbing my first gel was a pain free exercise. I also put two gels into my arm warners and didn’t feel these at all throughout the 2hrs plus journey.
The next indication of how I was tracking as Garmins are useless in big cities and will give you a terrible reading was the 10km mark in which I passed through this mark in 35.10. I was relaxed and calm and felt amazing. By this stage I was running in a pack with another boke who I didn’t know but had been told that he was competing and had the goal time of 2.30s through a mutual friend. We both had chit chat and conversation from 10 to 17km before I made a bit of move because I wasn’t happy with the pace. My pace the next 5km had dropped a bit as there was pockets of wind and a few risers (17:40s, but I was still on target and feeling great. I still had the issue of not being able to warm up my quads as well. Some people like to break the marathon down and I am not alone in this either. I run in 5km increments and then try and get to half way feeling like I have used the least amount of energy possible. My next splits would be the 20km and 21km markers, I would be later told by friends and family that my split from 15km to 20km wouldn’t register and they were thinking I may pulled out, with big relief from my family it was just a glitch in the timing and I reappeared at 21km and passed through half way in 1:14.15s and felt okay. The plan of attack was always to go out slower compared to all my other marathon races.
The next 10km I had to be vigilant to not lose concentration and try and run my 17.40s splits or faster. By this time in the race I was catching a lot of runners who had either gone out way too quickly or were having a bad day. I settled in nicely and was protected by a group of about 5 to 10 runners. I was quite happy to sit in as the pace was honest and it was smarter to run in group and conserve energy for later in the race. I next passed through the 25km mark in 17:40s and started to realise I needed to leave the pack as I wasn’t moving fast enough and had slowed from 23 to 25km mark. This wasn’t a problem getting onto the next pack of runners and once again I played the smart tactic of sitting in and trying to maintain my 3.29 to 3.32 pace and I was passing more runners than being passed by and this was the case until settling into another pack from 30km right up about the 35km mark. It is this point in the race you start to experience and see the carnage of runners slowing down and hurting badly, I to had slowed at tad and my projected time was saying 2.28 high, a time that I was still very pleased with considering the conditions and my marathon preparation. I had started to catch this on guy and he was all over the road and started to cut me off three or four times. Some good old Australian swear words of “fuck of mate” were said and he soon stopped this behaviour. My plan from 35km to 42km was just to hold my form. I was still feeling super strong and the best I had ever felt at this mark solely because of my reserved pace early. My gels and fluid intake had not been an issue and I had saved one last caffeine gel to take onboard at the 37km mark to get me home. By this stage it was runners all single file and along the road but the crowd energy certainly gave me a lift late in the race. I was still passing more than being passed, but my hip had started to lock up and give me pain. This was a minor injury I had been suffering coming into the race, it wasn’t an issue luckily and was able to keep a reasonable cadence still going and passed through 40km in 18:07 pace. I had slowed considerably but was still on target for 2:29s low.
I had this other Japanese guy that decided to no work and just sit on me these final 3.2km, I saluted to him to come around and run beside me or at least take his turn for a few km. In the end I gave up and knew I wasn’t dying too badly and not to waste a lot of energy in getting angry with this athlete. I hit the 41km mark in 2.25s and started wondering if I was chance to break 2:29 as that always sounds better when talking to people. I just put my head down and said it is only 3 or so more minutes of pain and grinding it out, I gave it everything and reached the cobble stones and was greeted by the loudest cheer of the race. I felt like a rock star and also experiencing some of worse pain in my life. I then manage to spot the 400m sign to go and starting thinking that is only one 400m rep @ meercroft. I could now see the finish sign and knew I wouldn’t break 2.29 but would fall short some 22 seconds slower. I was striding for the line with the same Japanese bloke who by this time grunted his way just behind me and we both finished in 2 hours and 29 minutes and 26 seconds (gun time 2.29.22) He then proceeded to hug me and said thank you in Japanese ( a great memory haha). I personally was over moon and so happy with this time after having had a preparation that wasn’t perfect in my books (inconsistent sessions) but I personally couldn’t have asked for a better day out with no stomach issues with fluids or gels and having the most evenly split race that I had ever had, with only 34 seconds difference in time from fastest to slowest 5km splits.
This race has given so much confidence to know if I am smart with pace and get another 9 months of training in for a planned marathon again in December that a three to 4-minute personal best is not out of the question in better race conditions and being fitter.

I think it’s important to be confident and trust your own ability when it comes to this game of running. I am so excited and motivated to smash my current personal best from Chicago. If you ever get the chance or looking to do a race overseas, I would highly recommend this event to anyone and without doubt one of the most organised and smoothly ran events I have been to and how can you top just over 2 million people who watched the event live in 6 degrees and pissing rain. What an amazing 2hrs and 30 minutes of my life and something that I will never forget. They say life is about making memories and this is one for the bank 😊


Happy running.

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