Tokyo Marathon 2012 & 2013
Background: In 2012, I was living in Phuket, Thailand at the time and being part of the Thanyapura community, triathlon and marathon running were all part of the lifestyle. I'd often thought about running a marathon, and despite not really being ready, I entered the Toko Marathon lottery and got lucky. I'd always been a runner, but marathon training was a whole different kettle of fish and although I was running regularly, I wasn't doing nearly enough training. I recall my longest run was 21km on the treadmill just 2 weeks out from the race. Definitely under-cooked, but no expectations aside from finishing.
Travel/Tokyo: It's a February race, and was on the cold side once we arrived in Tokyo. I met up with a couple of mates and we spent our pre-race days eating well and seeing a little of Tokyo. Race-packet pick-up was a big event for us and indeed for everyone, as the expo was huge - probably the biggest I have seen. Given the cold, we all bought leggings at the expo - luckily plenty to choose from. I was sleeping fairly well, so feeling okay as the big day approached. I look back now and can see the naivety as we didn't get a pre-race run in during preceding days - something to keep the legs moving and with which to channel the nervous energy.
The Race Start: I can't recall what I ate on race morning, but it was shop bought and definitely not any type of sports nutrition. I was well stocked with gels though, and was planning a to take one every 45 minutes, religiously. The Tokyo Marathon is rare in that it starts quite late - around 9:15am as I recall - so I was up early, but not crazy early like other races. The course has changed now I believe, but back then it was a couple of train rides as well as a longish walk through several subway tunnels to get to the race start. Anyhow, we arrived nice and early - all warm in our market-bought clothes that we would strip off and dump just before we started running. It's a massive feat of organization as everyone heads to their separate corrals, ready for the off. It was a long wait, and even after the gun went off, we took a good 15 minutes to cross the start line.
The Race: I had no garmin back then, so ran on feel alone - with just half an eye on the stopwatch as we passed the well-marked Km markers. We stuck together and took it very, very easy. I think we passed the 21km mark in just over 2 hours which was pretty slow, but given every Km from then on was new territory for me, the cautious approach was probably the way to go. We stuck at it, and ran all the way without any walk breaks at all. I religiously consumed my gels but pretty sure I wasn't drinking enough. We kept up our slow pace with just the finish line as our only goal. When we got there, I was obviously exhausted, and perhaps more so than I have ever been since. Just a whole new feeling. The finish line experience was good but machine-like - passing through the various checkpoints before working our way home.
Post Race thoughts: A superbly well organized and supported race and one that you should apply to every year until you finally get accepted. It's really is very well done indeed. I applied the following year and the running Gods were again in my favour. I trained a little better and was ready for my first serious crack at sub-4 hours only to miss out by 57 seconds. The course and logistics were pretty similar, but still without garmin, I didn't pace myself properly and fell away at the end. I took a break from the lottery in 2014, but started applying again from 2015 onwards and have missed out every year since. Given that I went from 2-for-2 to my now 2-for-8, I feel very lucky to have done this race when I did - a great introduction to the addictive drug that is marathon running.