Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tokyo and the World Majors...

In 2012, after running Berlin, I completed the World Marathon Majors. Nice !

A check on the bucket list of life.

The accomplishment was short-lived.

3 weeks later 'they' added Tokyo as the 6th Major.

Uncheck that box….

Registration for the 2013 Tokyo Marathon was already full, so I had to wait until 2014.

Tokyo has a lottery to get in, but with it now being a major - and Japan being running crazy - there were supposedly going to be half a million entries for the 30,000 slots.  Not good odds, so I chose the Marathon Tours option and essentially bought my way in.

United Airlines had recently started a direct flight to Tokyo from Denver on the dreamliner, and I was lucky enough to have the airmiles to get me there.

I'd had a good training cycle - I was probably in better shape than when I'd run my PR at St George, but I was a little worried about the impact of the jet-lag.  I wasn't planning on spending a lot of time in Tokyo - getting in the Thursday night, run the race on the Sunday, back in Denver by the Monday lunch-time.  Less than 4 days in Japan, with a 9 hour time difference.

I was traveling solo, although had several friends who were going to run it too and were staying in the same hotel.  They'd also be completing the Majors.

I arrived late on the Thursday evening and went to a Marathon Tours meet and greet.

The next day we had a tour of Tokyo.

I decided to add a little extra protein to my diet….

Then through the expo, which was very loud, but otherwise similar to those at the other majors.  Over-priced gear and runners buying it up like it was the last clothing on earth….

That night out we organized a trip out to the nearby Golden Gai area with some of the other marathon tour folks.

Naturally there were margaritas…..

On Saturday I wandered around near the hotel, going up to the observation deck of the government building, but mostly chilled.

With the hotel being right next to the start, a number of elites were staying there.  Several times I ended up in elevators with African elite runners, including one time with the eventual female winner.  My swahili isn't too good - but I did manage a 'Jambo Jambo' ('hello hello') and got the same in response.

Race morning I met my friend Andrew, then wandered over to the start area.

Tokyo is a very well organized event.  However…. one thing that needs to be changed is the farce of the starting corrals.  I typically get to start fairly close to the front based on previous marathon times.  All other major races have a well organized corral systems.  In Tokyo - they do have a corral system, except the furthest forward any Westerner can be placed is the 'B' corral.  In front of that they put 5,000 Japanese runners, many of who are in costume and fairly slow runners.  This leads to a massive bottle neck the first few miles.

At the start I was standing next to an English guy who was looking to run 2.35.  He also had to start behind 5,000 fun runners in costume…

The temperature was fairly cool.  Mid 30s.  No complaints from me.  We huddled in the corrals listening to what I think was the Japanese national anthem, and then we were off.

My friend Andrew posted a video and recorded the Race Start amongst other things (the 'other' things included the Japanese style toilets in the hotel….).  See that here.

Planning ahead for the crowding and the best way to get through it, I'd made a tactical decision to start on the left side of the road.  Almost immediately after the race starts, the route takes a right turn on a wide street.  Knowing that I was behind a lot of slower runners, who would do their best to take the turn as tight as possible - I figured being on the left I'd have a little more space if I wanted to take the turn wide, albeit having to go a longer route around it.  Sure enough, I was able to run wide and probably overtake 500 runners.  4,500 left to go.

It was definitely slow going though.  Dodging and weaving through slow runners.

Tokyo, like Berlin, only has metric markers.  I'd learned that lesson in Germany and so this time had set my garmin to work in KMs.

As a guide - 4:00 min/KM would be a 2:49 marathon, and 4.15 min/KM a 3 hour marathon.

Despite the overtaking - the first KM was slow going.  I'd been prepared for this though and knew not to get too anxious.

KM 1 -- 4.38

Squeezing through, over-taking where I can.  Some of the costumed runners even walking.  This is bloody ridiculous !!

KM 2 -- 4.09

Ok - a little more space.  Things start to open up.

KM 3 -- 3.59

Easy does it.  That's sub 2.50 pace - don't try and get all of that time back too quickly.

According to the official results, I went through the first 5K in 21.21

KM 4 -- 4:04

KM 5 -- 4:06

KM 6 -- 3:54

I don't remember a whole lot from this part of the race.  I was trying to stay relaxed and looking around at the scenery.  The crowds were more boisterous than I'd expected.

KM 7 -- 3:55

KM 8 -- 4:04

KM 9 -- 4:06

I was trying to take in the sights.  We ran past the Imperial Palace.  I looked around, and most people were looking at their feet, so I yelled out to no-one in particular.  "Look - there's the Imperial Palace"….  it wasn't the kind of thing I saw on my daily runs in Denver….

KM 10 -- 4:07

That second 5K might have been a tad fast.  20.37.   A touch under 42 minutes for the 10K.

KM 11 -- 4:06

The Tokyo marathon course runs in the shape of an 'X' through the center of Tokyo, with several out and backs.  This meant that twice during the race I got to see the lead men, and later lead women, pass within 15 yards of me going in the opposite direction.  They were flying….

KM 12 -- 4:04

KM 13 -- 4:13

KM 14 -- 4:01

KM 15 -- 3:53

That 5K officially in 20.28.  The beauty of running in Ks is that I didn't have a lot to think or compare my splits too.  Just go by how I was feeling.  As in Berlin, it actually seemed a little easier with the kilometer markers going by more quickly.

KM 16 -- 3:58

KM 17 -- 3:59

KM 18 -- 3:58

KM 19 -- 4:06

KM 20 -- 4:00

20.15 official for that 5K - the fastest of the race.  40.43 for the 10K.

KM 21 -- 4:00

Through the half, feeling good.  I don't know my exact half split, but I think it was around 1.27.  I didn't want to tempt fate by thinking too far ahead, but I felt like 2.55 was definitely a realistic possibility, and if things went well - maybe even a 2.53 to beat my St George time.

KM 22 -- 3:53

KM 23 -- 4:01

KM 24 -- 4:00

KM 25 -- 4:04

20.28 for that 5K - still ticking along nicely.

KM 26 -- 4:13

KM 27 -- 4:01

KM 28 -- 4:06

Past the temple that we'd visited on the Friday tour.  Ham it up for the photographer, although I was feeling good.

KM 29 -- 4:12

KM 30 -- 3:55

20.30 for the 6th 5K.  Still feeling strong.  That's just 12K to go.

KM 31 -- 3:59

KM 32 -- 4:00

KM 33 -- 4:07

KM 34 -- 4:10

It was still fairly cool, which I was relishing.  At one point around it felt like the crowd were throwing a very light confetti on us.  Until I realized it was snow…  very light snow fell for a few minutes and was then gone.

KM 35 -- 4:20

Hmmm - first KM 'slower' than sub-3 pace.  I don't feel terrible, so just need to concentrate a little more.  Time to work.

20.52 for the 7th 5K - starting to slip a little.

The Tokyo course is pretty flat.  A bit of a downhill the first few crowded miles, then mostly flat.  Like New York, the only real uphills are over bridges.

The nasty thing is - they stick a couple of these in the last 5K.

KM 36 -- 4:07

That's better.

Unlike the other majors, Tokyo finishes in a slightly more industrial area, so crowds become more sparse the last 4 or 5 miles.  Just when you need them the most….

KM 37 -- 4:21

Uhoh.  Over the first bridge.  For the first time I'm no longer over-taking others - I'm now just trying to maintain.

KM 38 -- 4:18

KM 39 -- 4:20

KM 40 -- 4:20

21.56 for that 5K.  90 seconds slower than I'd been running through the race..  Struggling a little, although not falling apart.

KM 41 -- 4:24

Ugh - another bloody bridge.  It's definitely hurting here.

KM 42 -- 4:32

KM 42+  3:23

And through the finish, overtaking the 3 pacers for the sub 3 group - without any runners - just before the line…

2.56.11 officially.  I'd lost a couple of minutes late, but overall I was happy with the time.  Less than 3 minutes off my PR, which was on an easier course, and without 9 hours of jet lag.

After the finish line, you end up in a huge indoor convention center that you have to go through before getting to the subway or buses.  The walk is probably comparable to that through Central Park after New York, except it's inside with vendors and warmer temperatures.

Back on the bus to the hotel, I rewarded myself with fries and ice cream from McDonalds.  The first time I'd been in a McDonalds for quite some time.  Try not to think about that Richard…

Then celebrating with friends.

Let's hope they don't add a 7th major for a while….

1 comment:

  1. The corral system sounds ludicrous. And I would not want to be a 4-hour Japanese runner getting mowed down by furious fast westerners! Also, wtf is it with putting hills at the end of the course? Ick.