Friday, March 04, 2011

Tokyo Marathon, complete! 東京マラゾン、完成しました!

After much anticipation and excitement during the build up towards the actual race day, I've finally completed the Tokyo Marathon 2011 last Sunday, 27th February 2011. The trip to Japan was part of a family holiday, but I'll leave that to another upcoming blog post. This one will concentrate on the event and I'll write about how the event ran, and my feelings after completing it. For a start, I registered for the run around 5 months ago. 350,000 applications for 36,000 slots and the runners were selected via a balloting system. Luckily for me, the quota for foreign runners seem to be more than the ones catered for the native Japanese runners, and I was delighted to be selected. Paid up about $250 dollars online, and I secured my slot for the race. I didn't really had much time nor chance to train for it due to study and work commitments, but at least I cleared 2 half marathons (in a week) before flying.

2 days before the race, I picked up my race kit from Tokyo Big Sight, which is a pretty impressive convention centre. The race expo was held in 2 halls, and it was huge. There were many stations such as Nike, Adidas, Asics, as well as other running merchandise and stations promoting other international marathons. Of course, I spent quite a couple of hours there grabbing the official stuff as souvenirs, taking freebies, and had a good time there. The DJ at the Nike booth even interviewed me and I gave answers in mixed Japanese and English. Must have sounded strange but hey they understood me :). Also met up with some of the other Singaporean runners I got to know through the Sgrunners forum and took a group shot. It was pretty nice meeting other Singaporeans so far away from home. I met up with some of them who were also staying in my inn at Ikebukuro, and made our way to the start line together on race day.

Start point was at Shinjuku. There were really a lot of people, but everything was managed and organised, and I never felt trapped in human traffic. Huge signs helped with orientation to the baggage deposit area, and it only took 5 seconds for me to get my stuff taken care of. Soon it was time to head off to my designated start area, which was the last and final waiting area. I guess it's due to the fact that I stated my end time to be 5hrs 30 minutes, and that's considered pretty slow. Well, I did finish the run in around that time, as you can see from the result in the table below. Not a fantastic timing, but it's my new personel best. I aimed for it and got it, and it's over 30 minutes faster than my previous run at Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2010 last December.

It took 15 minutes after the gun went off, till I finally crossed the start line. Yeah I was that far away. But still, I managed to see the Marathon committee chairman and waved to him on the podium. One of the most amazing things about the run was that from the starting 1st km to the 42th km, the road was brimming with supporters. To the Japanese, it seemed as if the run was a trial for the runners, and they were there to cheer them on. In fact, the entire run was broadcasted live on TV. The Singapore marathons pale in comparison in this aspect. When I run along the expressways during the SCSM, it felt like the drivers along the roads were jeering us for obstructing the roads. Such a huge difference it's pretty sad when I think about it. Anyways, I'm really really really impressed by the Japanese supporters. They came with huge signboards, wore costumes, never stopped cheering, stuck out their hands to give you a hi-5, and even gave out free supplements! I had sweets, bread, and even coke. It was amazing. You could basically eat your way to the end and hi-5 thousands of supporters.

The route was a magnificent one as well, taking us to fantastic tourist attractions such as the imperial palace, Asakusa Sensoji, and the Tokyo Tower. I wanted to stop and take photos but I only had my phone with me. Speaking of photos, there were countless photo pitstops along the way, hence the many photos you see me uploading here. I think it's a great idea and the local runs should start having this instead of randomly deployed stealth photographers catching us with shack faces. With the official stops, you can pose and at least look less tired than you really are.

And it was great fun running with the Japanese runners. Many of them came in funny costumes and I lost track of the number of times I laughed when I found out who I was running along side with. I ran together with Spider-Man, Ultraman, Son Goku, Frieza, Mario, Luigi, Jesus Christ (carrying a huge crucifix I'm not kidding), countless animals, ninjas, samurais, and Disney characters. It was a delight just looking around at who's running. There was a girl in a panda suit and so many people were cheering her on. Along the route, there were also many many performances by dancers and bands. Great stuff. In terms of supplements, they gave amino drinks at regular stations and it tasted really good. I'm particularly impressed by the food stations. They gave chocolate and red bean paste bread, raisins, bananas, and even isotonic sweets! I was in heaven when I ate the chocolate. Almost wanted a second helping....

The end point was equally efficient. The runners were channeled to pits where we were handed out drinks, oranges, fruit bars, and the finisher medal and towel. Although the run was attended by so many people, everything was in place and it was organised with clockwork precision. The only complain I had was that the public transport from the end point was pretty limited and I queued up over 30 minutes just to get on the train, which was packed like sardines. I had to stand for another 40 minutes on the train back to Ikebukuro via the JR Yamanote line. Luckily I didn't really stink (too much) and I generally kept away from the Japanese girls in my carriage. My heart would break if they held their noses and walked away. :p

All in all, the run was most definitely the defining moment in the trip, and dare I say in my short running stint. I bought lots of goodies as you can see from the expo, and I did it because I figure I won't be coming back for the run anytime soon. But after the race, my opinion has some what changed. If possible, I would want to return to Tokyo for another go at the marathon again. The climate, conduct of the run, and most of all the people all made this a very memorable trip for me. No regrets at all, and I encourage all runners to try and attend it if possible. It's very convenient, and everything gets explained in English. Feel free to ask me for advice if you're interested, and perhaps we can go again next year. I hope you enjoyed the photos and this write up, and look forward to the rest of the entries on the holiday with Rena and Mabel soon. Thanks! 東京マラゾンは楽しかった!できれば、必ずまた行きます!

(yup that's me with a super shack face :p)

1 comment:

Jenny said...

I'm from Singapore and am running the Tokyo Marathon this year. What would you advise I should wear on race day?
Thank you! Looking forward to hearing from you!