Tokyo Marathon Live Blog: A fitting end to a memorable weekend

I’ve only run three marathons, but one of those was Chicago, one of the five World Marathon Majors, and Tokyo sits atop my admittedly short list. Granted, the race today was a wholly unique experience for a foreigner like me, but the 2012 Tokyo Marathon was energetic, welcoming, challenging and tons of fun, a sentiment that everyone from our press tour (pictured above) shared as well.

I’ll be posting a more detailed recap next week, along with a boatload of pictures (I snapped more than 300 alone during the race today), but that opinion won’t change. The more than 2 million spectators were thrilled to be cheering on 36,000 runners this morning, no matter their nationality, and there were all sorts of costumes and signs alongside the course to help the runners briefly take their mind off the demanding task at hand.

The course itself was spectacular, and though we took a guided bus tour of the course yesterday afternoon, there were still so many things that caught my eye (hence the 300 photos). From all the colorful signs in the various parts of the city to the Tokyo Tower (below), the Imperial Palace, the Tokyo Sky Tree and Thunder Gate, there was no shortage of landmarks and other memorable sights to grab the attention of even the most focused marathoner.

Unfortunately, I didn’t run as well as I had hoped, finishing at 3:59:25 (unofficial), but as I’ve said all along, this race was about much more than my watch time. This is one I’ll remember for the rest of my life, as I was wowed by the hospitality of the people of Tokyo and the surrounding areas. The race was fantastic, and the city is even greater. As the Tokyo Marathon positions itself to join the list of the world’s elite races, any marathoner has to put Tokyo on their to-do list.

  

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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.

  

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).

  

2012 Tokyo Marathon Live Blog

As if running a marathon isn’t stressful enough, I’m traveling more than 7,000 miles this week to run another 26.2. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about participating in the 2012 Tokyo Marathon this weekend (the race begins Sunday morning in Tokyo, Saturday evening in the States), but I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t insanely excited. I’ve never been to Japan so the trip alone will be a thrill, but running a marathon on foreign soil will only add to what is sure to be a memorable experience.

In my Tokyo Marathon Preview, I outlined the basic schedule for this race weekend, with a full slate of events as a member of the press tour culminating Sunday morning at 9:10 local time with the start of the race. As that starting line approaches, I feel fortunate to be worn out but generally healthy after 12 straight months of marathon training and countless Sunday long runs. However, while I have my health heading into the sixth annual Tokyo Marathon, I also have some concerns.

© TOKYO MARATHON

For starters, I’ve never been much of an Asian food fan, which poses a potential problem when trying to fuel my body in the days leading up to the race. That’s not to say I won’t try different foods while I’m in Tokyo – when in Rome, right? – but as picky as I tend to be with my meals leading into a big race, I’ll be on the lookout for chicken and noodles more often than not. I’m also packing a few food comforts from home in case I have more trouble than anticipated with the local fare.

I’m also curious to see how my body reacts to the 14-hour time change. If my trip to South Africa a couple years ago was any indication, I should adjust relatively well once I’m in Tokyo and be grab a couple good nights of sleep heading into Sunday morning. If not, well, I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first sleep-depraved person to run a marathon.

My goal is simple: Enjoy the moment. As I mentioned previously, I’m planning on snapping a few pictures during the race, and rest assured I’ll be taking in as much of the city as I can during my free before and after Sunday’s festivities. I’m still in the process of figuring out what my body needs to compete at a high level during a marathon, and I’m hoping my new in-race nutrition plan (thanks to my triathlete buddy for the advice) will help me shave some time off my Arizona Marathon PR of 3:44:10 from last month, but I won’t be too concerned with my watch, not when I’ll be adjusting to a multitude of unique circumstances. I just want to finish, and have a blast doing it.

Be sure to check in throughout the weekend as I update this live blog with some details from my Tokyo visit, and then come back on Friday 3/2 to read my complete recap with some photos from the trip! In the meantime, I figured I’d share the view from my hotel room in downtown Tokyo. Time to get some sleep!

  

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