Tokyo Marathon 2010
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Rain, it was the season of Wind, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had 42.2 kilometers before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities (Tokyo Governor Ishihara) insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
The Tokyo Marathon, or as I have decided to call it, my “Blind Date”.
I have named it such because it was my first marathon, and I was not quite sure what to expect. 350,000 people had signed up to run the race, but there were only 35,000 available slots, so I was lucky to get in.
And like a lot of first experiences in life, a friend had talked me into doing it. This friend will remain nameless, so lets just say that his name rhymes with “Peter”. It was last year, and “Pete” had run the Tokyo Marathon for the first time. We were talking about it over beers, and I guess he could see the envy in my eyes so he suggested I run it the next year. Feeling good (ten feet tall and bullet proof, due to the beer) I responded with a hearty “Yes!” I should have known better though, as it was the very same situation, a few beers and good food, that got me into climbing Mt Fuji for the second time.
But I am not on to back out on a commitment, so I made sure to put in a good amount of training to get ready for the race.
A couple of days before the race I started eating a lot more pasta, and getting plenty of sleep. I was also keeping my eye on the weather forecast, and I did not like what I was seeing. As it got closer and closer to race day, the weather outlook got more and more bleak. And by the time I woke up at 4:30 on Race Day I found that not only was the wind blowing and the rain falling, but it was also getting colder.
There was a second there when I considered just crawling back into bed and ditching the race. But only for a second. I had trained for 11 or so weeks, and wanted to put all that training to the test so I ate a light breakfast and headed up to Shinjuku.
Upon arriving in Shinjuku I was happy to see that the wind had died down a bit. But I was not so happy to see that the rain had not stopped. I would be even less happy when I found out that I would have to stand in the rain for a bout 45 minutes while waiting for the race to start. That was a pretty miserable experience. But I was able to give a spare pair of gloves to an older Japanese woman who was lining up for the race next to me. She had forgotten hers at home, and I had taken a spare pair just for a case like this so I was happy to be of help.
The only thing that kept me from turning hypothermic while waiting for the race to start was the clear plastic trash bag that I was wearing as it kept my for the the most part dry. I had brought a button up raincoat that I bought at a 100 yen store the day before, but the trash bag was a better solution for the race. “Pete” had the foresight to bring an extra trash bag for me and right before the race he cut the head and arm holes in it and I slipped it on. The only break to the monotony of waiting for the race to start was when Bobby, a rather famous foreign TV talent in Japan stepped into the group of runners a few paces away from me. He had cameramen and photographers all a round him, so that gave me something to watch while the rain continued to fall. I would have liked to get a photo of all the goings-on, but due to the rain I had decided to not run with my camera as I would have probably shorted it out had I used it in the rain.
So there I was, the minutes counting down to the start, staying reasonably dry (but not warm), with the exception of my feet since my shoes were slowly soaking up the rainfall.
Then, after a minor eternity the race was on! And off I went, WALKING for the first 5 or 6 minutes as the marathon mob slowly filtered through the starting gates. Think of the entire resident population of the Super Dome trying to squeeze through a couple of narrow streets and you will get an idea of how congested the start of the race was.
After going about half a kilometer down the road things started to open up a bit since the road was getting much wider. It was still packed in pretty tight, and because of this I could not really see the road in front of me. That was when I ended up running through a long deep puddle, completely soaking what were up to that point only semi-damp feet. Not a good start. More than 40 kilometers to go, and I would be doing it with soaking wet shoes.
As the kilometers started to click by, the rain continued to fall, the wind started to pick up, and the temperature continued to drop. While running through Ginza, around the 20 kilometers mark I noticed a thermometer on a building at it said 3 degrees C. Shortly after that I felt a brief spattering of hail, but only for a couple of minutes.
Because it was so cold, I had to make periodic periodic stops every 5 or so kilometers to stretch my legs. The cold was keeping my muscles tight, and there was not much I could do about it.
What really kept me going was the crowds that were lined up on both sides of the road for nearly the entire 42 kilometer course. I heard “Ganabatte!”, “Faito!!”, and “Go!!!” more times that I could even begin to count. The only places were there were no spectators to rally the runner on were the couple of bridges near the end of the race since.
The really nice thing about the crowd was the support they provide to the runners. And I’m not just talking moral support. People in no way officially connected to the race would have prepared snack and energy foods ahead of time. They would then hold them out on plates so runner could grab then as they passed.
Slices of lemon, orange, and mikan. Chocolates, sweet hard candy, bananas, and my personal favorite: small homemade chocolate cookie wafers loaded with salt, each individually wrapped in plastic.
As a result of the spectators thoughtfulness to make all of these treats, I ended the race with a full stomach, almost too full in fact. The extra helpings of snacks along the way might have actually slowed me down in the long run, but were it not for the cheering crowds I am sure that it would have been a much more difficult experience. I appreciate each every spectator that took the time to come out and stand out in the rain to cheer all the runner on.
The absolute worst part of the race for me was kilometers 30 though 35. After that I could sense the end and I actually started to speed up. This tells me that i didn’t push myself hard enough for the first half of the race, and I was saving too much energy. During the first half of the race I did think that maybe I was making that mistake, but I was also worried about burning myself out too early. I guess I will be able to better judge things the next time I run.
You can check out the splits in my overall time of 4:20: 25 by following this link and entering my bib number: 27427.
After finishing I got my medal, and headed to the area where I could pick up my change of clothes, although the had seemed to have misplaced my bag so it took them about 15 minutes to actually find it. Not that I minded though, because while I waited they had a nice soft chair for me to sit in, all wrapped up in warm blankets.
After they located my bag I headed to the changing area and stripped off my soaking clothes and shoes, toweled myself off, and changed into a set of dry clothes. I was happy to notice that my feet had held up incredibly well, and had given me absolutely no problems, even though they were wet for the entire race. I saw some other people who were not so lucky. One guys socks were dripping red, and in places his shoes had worn completely through his socks,and deep into his skin.
My leg muscles were obviously sore, but today, just three days after the race and I am feeling back to normal. I’m actually itching to go on another run if you can imagine that!
So in summary The Tokyo Marathon, aka “My Blind Date” turned out to be quite an ugly one, but they day was not a total loss as she ended up having a great personality. 🙂