Running / Travel

Tokyo Marathon – The Race

I stood in my hotel lobby watching runners go by, many holding umbrellas, all hunched over trying to keep the wind and rain away from their faces. My hotel lobby was filled with soon to be marathon finishers, many looking out at their fellow marathoners, pensive about the rain. I leaned against a column in the middle of the lobby and rethought my race outfit. First I switched my jacket from end-of-marathon pullover, to the rain resistant one.

I looked out again onto the street and saw some of the wheel chair racers come into the hotel, all of them a bit wet. I checked the weather forecast again, the night before, the forecast called for the rain to come in the afternoon, about the time that I would be crossing the finish line. I was ok with that. I asked the concierge for confirmation of the weather – rain.

I second guessed my outfit and went bag to my room to change into long tights. I debated between getting my legs wet or running with soggy tights. I figured the with the wind factor, long tights would be a better choice for -me.

I left the lobby with about an hour to go before the start of the race, leaving many of my fellow soon to be marathoners in the lobby. Unless they had some sort of fast pass  to the start, they would be in for a surprise and a mad dash to their corals.

15 minutes of walking and done a set of stairs, I arrived at the security check for my baggage truck. When I finally made it into the drop off area, the 30 minute warning to get to the start was on repeat over the PA system. Bag drop was effortless, and the area was filled with lots of energy, with runners going North, South, East and West trying to find their baggage truck and onto their start corrals.


I was thankful for the red raincoat that Puma handed out at the Expo and was glad that my “join a line” strategy at the EXPO paid off.

I looked around a lot, searching for a familiar face, butterflies in my stomach building, with the cold, damp rain filling every space that was not covered. There were lots of cheering and confetti and off we went, in a slow walk, with runners around me taking selfies.

Running in kilometers seems so much longer than miles. A marathon is about 42.2 kilometers and 26.2 miles. I’d always trained my self to count down the miles – “only 5 more to go” “that’s just one loop around your local park” but looking at 1 kilometers and knowing I had roughly 41 more to go, well, I just had to accept it.

We were off to a slow start, the course was crowded and it took until the first 10K for me to get some space.  After the first 5k, I needed to shed some clothes, off went the red rain coat (some people ran the entire race with that plastic coat on-don’t know how they did it). Then I tried to remove my rain resistant jacket, since I was finally warming up. In the process I dropped my wrist band filled with my drivers license, insurance card and emergency money. So, I had to turn around and try my best to avoid the oncoming runners to pick it up- I was somewhat successful.


After that, around the first 10k, I needed to use the restroom. Well, the marathon had a combination of porta potties and public bathrooms, and along that stretch, we relied mainly on the available public bathrooms, which meant long lines. I ran for another 5k until I had to give in and wait my turn in line for the restroom. There goes my time.

I rejoined the race and tried my best to make up for the wait. Along the way, I saw so many cute costumes, I’m still amazed that people can run in full costumes. At one point I was running alongside Elvis, then Michael Jackson and saw Mario reuniting with his brother Luigi. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and while no word were exchanged, just gestures, I finally felt like a part of the marathon. Turns out we were wearing the same jacket from Lululemon.


My favorite part of the race was running up to the Dragon’s gate and seeing the giant lantern. The crowd participation throughout was fantastic. I didn’t understand any thing that was being said to me, but appreciated the encouragement.


The course is out and back course on several parts of the course and the stretch between kilometer 25 and 32 were the hardest for me. Making the turn around 25k, I looked across and saw the 32k marker and for some reason it seemed so much closer than it was. For some reason, I decided that at 32k, I’d take it easy, maybe even walk. I have no idea why, but that’s what my mind did.

But first came my second and longest bathroom break. I obviously drank way too much water the night before. This one was a public bathroom, with one stall per gender, which meant a 15 minute wait. I had no choice, I ran as past as many long potty lines as I could up to that point. So I surrendered to the process and waited.

After that, I was way off of my time and didn’t have enough energy to try to make up the time. So I soldered on, forgetting what was behind me and trying my best to look forward to what’s ahead me and trying not to get discouraged along the way. When I got to 32K, I did start to walk. I wasn’t tired, I did have some foot pain, but that was nothing new. My brain simply decided to stop, especially after seeing the 4:30 pace group run by.

While I was training for this race, I experienced a similar thought process and my coach told me that I had the potential to be faster but my mind was weak. I took offense to it at the time, but what I did at mile 32K was exactly what he meant, and I saw that, but I couldn’t stop it.

So the last 10K, I was in the red, with my pace per mile falling slower and slow, from 8:49, to 9:39, 10:05, 11, 12, back up to 9:20 then down again. I really wanted it to stop, but I didn’t know how.

Towards the end of the course, there are a series of small hills, and looking ahead at the runners, most of them walking trying to make it over each hump didn’t do much to keep me encouraged. I walked over every one of them. I saw the 5 hour pace team pass me and at that point, I was mentally defeated but still moving. There’s no way they were running for a 5 hr finish, they started before I did and I finished under 5 hours, but I didn’t know that at the time.

During the last 5K, I chose targets – “run to this traffic light, then walk to that sign” “run to that hill, then walk, then run down” and on and on until almost the end.

Then I saw the sign, the one that says, “Last 195 M” and of course I picked up the pace again – “I will not stop until I see the Finish Line” and I didn’t.


As I got closer to the sign, I heard a large group behind me and I got tossed a bit by a large group running through the finish. Many runners stopped short of the Finish line to take selfies. I was just happy to finish.


My finish time was my fault, I didn’t train and while it was my slowest time of any marathon (I blame the bathroom breaks-ha!), the Tokyo Marathon was one of the most rewarding races I’ve done.  It brought a new self awareness to me that I’d been missing in this marathon journey. As I was collecting the medal, I decided to take a break from running and focus on getting stronger physically and mentally. I’m starting from the beginning and rebuilding my body and retuning my mind to be a better runner.

People ask if I would run the race again, I don’t think I will. Some things are better left at once and done. Thank you Tokyo for reminding me of what I need to do to run the world.



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