Tokyo Marathon Live Blog: Let’s get this party started

Tokyo Marathon sign

In just about 11 hours (7:10pm EST Saturday night), the 2012 Tokyo Marathon will begin, and I’ll be one of the 35,000 runners in the field. It’s still hard to believe that I’m here, sitting in my hotel room at the Keio Plaza Hotel, waiting to a marathon in Japan. The experience so far has been everything I imagined it would be, and we haven’t even hit race day yet.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the members of the press tour began our day with the International Friendship Run, a 2K fun run set up to allow international runners (and their family and friends) a chance to meet one another the day before the marathon. I won’t lie — the weather was downright crummy, with temperatures in the low-30s combined with steady rain making for a dreary morning — but the organizers, as they have all weekend, still put on a great event. Hopefully the weather cooperates for future International Friendship Runs, but if it was going to rain at all this weekend, we’re all glad it happened Saturday and not Sunday.

After we all toweled off and changed, we were taken on a bus tour of the marathon course, led by our tour guide Maya san, who did a marvelous job showing us all the sights Tokyo has to offer along the course. We stopped for a traditional Japanese lunch and took some photos outside the amazing Thunder gate in Asakusa, which I’ll post with my recap next week.

The tour wrapped up at the finish line for the race, and we all piled out of the bus and into the race expo at Tokyo Big Sight. I’ve been to my fair share of race expos, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one quite like this. The building was buzzing as runners from all over the world made their way through the various booths, with highlights including the newest offerings from Asics as well as an impressive display at the BMW booth. We picked up our race bibs (I’m #36054, if you’re curious) and made our way through the sea of people at the Tokyo Big Sight, picking up some mementos along the way.

Tokyo Marathon sign

Then it was back to the hotel for a little R&R before race day. I managed to find a small Italian place around the corner from the hotel for my usual carbo-loading dinner before heading back to the hotel to get all of my gear ready for the race and, well, to write this blog post.

I’ve met a ton of great people from all over the world this weekend, with representatives from places like Italy, Spain, the UK and Australia also taking part in the press tour. Now comes the hard part: the race itself. The weather should be cold but clear, which is welcome news after this morning’s sogginess. I have a time in mind that I’d love to beat but I’m more focused on enjoying the moment and taking in as much of the experience as I can. If I can do all three? Well, that would be the perfect end to an amazing weekend.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Mary Pickford

The Mary PickfordIt’s Oscar weekend and the modern day quasi-silent film, “The Artist” is looking to take many, if not most, of the little gold men. It’s therefore kind of hard think of a better selection than this delightfully subtle and sweet, if now obscure, classic named for the single most famous woman in the silent cinema. It’s true that few of Mary Pickford’s hits — the ones that haven’t been lost, anyway — are often watched today, even by many crazy cinephiles like me. Indeed, as far as I can figure out not even the wondrous and far more classic-cinema knowledgeable Self-Styled Siren, Farran Smith Nehme, nor the sharp witted and more free-roaming Marilyn Ferdinand have written much about her films.

Nevertheless, Pickford’s legacy looms large in Hollywood even nearly 120 years after birth. She was, if nothing else, one of the co-founders of United Artists along with Charlie Chaplin, director D.W. Griffith, regarded as the inventor of the movies as we know them, and her then husband, Douglas Fairbanks, the movies’ first true action superstar.

Less fortunately, Mary Pickford was also known to partake a bit too much. If you’re going to be gossiped about for your drinking, the least they can do is name a really good drink for you, and this one is really good.

A word of warning for the deeply insecure: Writer Wayne Curtis, who enjoyed today’s DOTW in the city where it remains most popular, Havana, Cuba, described it thus: “Another lost cocktail of Prohibition, which is pink and ladylike and served with a large wedge of pineapple.” Okay, so this is a rather delicate drink, and this a blog post for an online men’s magazine, but this is one beverage that proves the value of staying in touch with your feminine side. It’s extremely good.

The Mary Pickford

1 1/2 oz. white rum
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/4 tsp grenadine
1/4 tsp maraschino liqueur
1 piece pineapple (optional garnish)

Combine the rum, pineapple juice, grenadine and maraschino liqueur in a cocktail shaker. Shake like crazy and strain into a cocktail or wide-mouthed champagne glass. You can serve the pineapple on the side, or be crazy like me and drop a chunk into the actual drink. Be sure and toast America’s sweetheart when you take your first sip.

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First of all, I’d like to give props to my friends representing Denizen Rum for suggesting this drink. It’s not just because they were nice enough to send me a free bottle and plenty of recipes that I say this drink worked probably especially well for me because of the Denizen I was using. (I was all out of the other stuff.) There’s nothing wrong with Brand X, but I really do think the somewhat zippier flavor of Denizen is adding a little extra something to my Mary Pickfords. (Though, after writing that, I feel as if I should be looking into a camera and holding up the bottle as I remind you that Denizen is available online for an extremely reasonable price here.)

Some quick words about the other ingredients. Whatever you do, don’t confuse maraschino liqueur with the maraschino syrup that drowns the unnaturally red cherries we all know. It’s an entirely different animal and a lot more interesting. I was using Luxor Maraschino. I’m not sure if there any other brands widely available.

Also, if you like a redder drink that looks more like the one in the picture, there’s an alternate recipe which is a bit sweeter but also very good attributed to the New York bar, PKNY, which boosts the ingredients up slightly to 2 ounces of rum, 1 1/2 ounces of pineapple juice, and a quarter ounce each of the maraschino and grenadine. (Naturally, they make their own grenadine and use freshly squeezed pineapple juice, though I didn’t and it was still good.) If you enjoy the Mary Pickford, you might also want to take a look at El Presidente, which we covered a few weeks back.

Finally, If you’re curious to get a glimpse into what the big deal with Mary Pickford was, you can see her accepting her special Oscar in 1976. It’s worth a look and only a touch “Sunset Boulevard“-esque.

  

Tokyo Marathon Live Blog: The day before

It’s been a fun couple of days since I arrived in Tokyo Wednesday evening, highlighted by my self-guided tour around the city yesterday afternoon in advance of the 2012 Tokyo Marathon Symposium that the members of the press tour attended Thursday evening.

Representatives from three of the world major marathons — New York, London and Berlin — spoke in great detail about the recent explosion in popularity of running in general and marathons in particular, looking ahead to what challenges face the major marathons and what goals the sport as a whole has in mind going forward. Tokyo, with 35,000 runners selected from more than 300,000 applicants, hopes to join the list of major marathons in the coming years. This will be the sixth annual race, and the organizers hope it will be the best yet.

I’m about to head out into the rain for the start of the International Friendship Run, a 2K fun run set up for international runners the day before the race. Then it’s off to the course for a preview of the race and then to the expo to pick up my race gear. I hope to check in later this evening with more details prior to the race tomorrow morning (or Saturday evening at 7:00 pm EST, to those following along at home).

  

Friday Video, Academy Awards Edition – Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence”

Click here to listen to The Best of Depeche Mode Vol. I on Spotify

If you’re wondering what Depeche Mode has to do with the Academy Awards, the answer is: they don’t. Ah, but silence, that is another matter.

If you haven’t filled out your Oscar pools yet, take this to the bank: “The Artist” is going to win Best Picture. Not because it’s particularly the best film of the year – truth be told, the movies of 2011 are as weak a batch as we’ve seen in ages – but because it has a lot of things working in its favor, namely two captivating performances by the two leads Jean Dujardin (he’s this writer’s pick for Best Actor) and the lovely Berenice Bejo, but that’s not all. It has the advantage of being the one movie that is truly like no other nominee in any category – seriously, a black and white silent film in 2011, that takes balls of steel to make – and most importantly, it’s being distributed by the Weinstein Company, and if anyone can turn a film like this into an Oscar winner, it’s Harvey Scissorhands.

There is a great story surrounding the arrangement for “Enjoy the Silence,” which serves as the best argument anyone will ever need for why Alan Wilder was the most significant contributor to Depeche Mode’s success. (We even told him as much when we interviewed him in 2010.) As they were recording the tracks for their then-new album Violator – in a studio housed in rural Denmark – principal songwriter Martin Gore had turned in a tender ballad called “Enjoy the Silence” But they couldn’t get it off the ground; each time they tackled the track, it didn’t work. Finally, Wilder and producer Flood told the rest of the band to get out, hit the town and have some fun. We’ll figure this out. When the rest of the band came back, Wilder and Flood had taken Gore’s demo – which consisted of a vocal and a harmonium – and transformed it into a dance track. Immediately, the band realized that this was going to be massive. Flood got Gore to play that signature guitar line, and the rest was history, as “Enjoy the Silence” became the band’s biggest hit to date, hitting the Top 10 in eight countries.

For those who are curious to hear what Gore’s original version sounded like, check this out. Pretty, but holy cow, Gore should give Wilder a co-writing credit for his contributions.

  

Are you Awake?

This new show from NBC seems pretty wild.

  

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