Actually, this is a long overdue race report for Tokyo marathon. This year was my 2nd lucky year in getting a ballot slot for the Tokyo Marathon. 2015 was my first year running Tokyo (2nd time in Japan for a marathon event, first time was Osaka – please see my other race report on Osaka Marathon 2014). From Kuching, they were only 2 of us (Melissa Wong and myself), who got the slots. The weather in February was slightly cold, from 2degC to 10degC. Hence, you may need to run with gloves and winter running attire. Both years I was in Tokyo, it as chilly. Not to bad as compared to 2014, where the runners experienced snow during the race.
In case you may not be aware, Tokyo Marathon is considered one of the six Abbott World Major Marathons (Boston, Berlin, Chicago, New York, London and Tokyo). Thus, it was any marathon runner’s dream to be able to participate in such a prestigious marathon event.
The planning for the trip began in early October, when the ballot results were out. The race start point was at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, while the end was at the Tokyo Big Sight Convention Centre in Odaiba. We planned to stay fairly near Shinjuku area (where they filmed the famous Tokyo Drift car chase), while keeping cost and comfort as one of our key criteria. We ended up at Hotel Princess Garden, Tokyo. We paid approximately MYR760 for 3 nights/ room. Back in 2014, my family and I stayed at a cosy nice near Shin Okubo JR-station called Shin Okubo Sekitei. Unfortunately, that place was fully booked. Another key item to have readily available with you prior to your trip is a travel pocket wifi (prices starts from as low as MYR19/day in Japan).
To fly to Narita (NRT) airport from Kuching (KCH), you have several options. You can either take AirAsia or MAS from KCH-KUL-NRT. Or you could take KCH-KL via AAsia/ MAS and take ANA (All Nippon Airways). Ticket cost, can range from MYR1100 to MYR3200 for a return flight. Thus, if you are planning to go for this marathon, it is best to book your tickets during promotional offer. This year, the Marathon was scheduled on 28th Feb 2016. Typically, it is one week after Kyoto Marathon/ Senshu International City Marathon. Thus, if you really want to make full use of your annual leave/ holidays and your trip to Japan. I would recommend you to do the back to back event. It is an experience that you will not regret. You will be surprise how fast your body recovers after the race.
I arrive Tokyo on Friday, 26th Feb 2016 after flying back after my Kyoto Marathon event the week before. The reason for me to do that, rather than stayed on was due to lack of annual leave (something which is not an issue for me now J). Melissa was making her way touring the entire Japan from Kyoto down towards Tokyo. We met at the Tokyo Marathon Expo held at Tokyo Big Sight Convention centre. If you have only been to KL, KK, Penang, Thailand and Singapore marathon events, you will be shocked. Tokyo Marathon has the largest expo with hundreds of retailers. The only problem you will have are wondering what to buy, and how to bring back. You would probably need to buy an additional suitcase. Hahaha. Do not worry, everyone speaks English at the expo. If you can read mandarin, it is even easier for you to move around in Japan.
After the expo, you can head towards Odaiba city to enjoy the food and scenery by the seaside. But, if you are a child at heart. You would better off go to Tokyo Teleport, where they have the large Gundam statue. I remember how my kids just love the statue.
Going around in Tokyo is fairly simple. All you need is a your wifi, google map and your SUICA or ICOCA card. This card allows you to get on public transport; bus, trains, subway and even buy beverages from vending machines. All the signage is in Japanese and English. Hence, no worries.
For Tokyo Marathon, the runners are divided into different flag-off time, depending on your best marathon time. I was at the 4:00-4:30 hrs group. You will be surprise seeing many runners in costume at this flag-off group. The serious runners are typically at the <3:30 hrs group. I saw many spiderman, Mario, Godzilla, and many more Japanese Anime that I am not aware off. I wore my spidey costume and Hoka clifton 2 (my first marathon with my Hoka).
The starting pen will be close 30mins before the flag-off. Hence, it is advisable to go at least an hour early to the baggage drop area. Trust me, it is huge. You can actually get lost. Upon entering the baggage drop zone, all liquid > 500ml and umbrella are prohibited. There is also a strict security check with metal scanners to ensure you comply with the regulations. If you are a person who prefers to carry your own hydration during marathons, please ensure your bottle is empty when entering the drop bag area. Do not worry, they have plenty of water and bananas for participants at this area. Apart from that, the water stations for Japan Marathons are typically 3km apart with water, pocari and fruits. Hence, not to worry. There will also be many spectators who will be handing out sushi, chocolates, and sweets along the way. Feel free to help yourself and say “Arigatho” or “Domo-Arigatho”.
Medic stations are typically available through-out the course. It is normally 100m before the water stations. Medical doctors with different pace, will be running the entire marathon event. They are clearly seen with their red vest marked “Doctor”. They will also be police personal running. Basically, you have nothing to worry about during the marathon except, just to enjoy your run. Attached below was the race course for 2015 & 2016. You will experience the spectators cheering you on for the entire 42km distance, with special performances every 10km. It is an experience that is not to be missed. The spectators will keep cheering you on, saying, “Gambathe”& “Fighto, Fighto, Fighto”. The energy from them is so motivating and encouraging, that it will push you to run faster. As you approach the finish line, you can hear the cheers even louder. The finish line itself is like a 1km walk from where you cross the finish line, to where you get your finisher medal and towel, to your drop bag area. You will not feel the distance due to the joy.
Starting 2017, the organizers have decided to change the routes. The new route change is depicted below:
New Marathon Course (provisional)
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building -> Iidabashi -> Kanda -> Nihonbashi -> Asakusa Kaminari-mon -> Ryogoku -> Monzen-nakacho -> Ginza -> Takanawa -> Hibiya -> Tokyo Station & Gyoko-dori
Tokyo Marathon 2016 Course
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building -> Iidabashi -> Imperial Palace -> Hibiya -> Shinagawa -> Ginza -> Nihombashi -> Asakusa Kaminari-mon -> Tsukiji -> Toyosu -> Tokyo Big Sight
Nevertheless, if you are interested to join the 2017 tokyo marathon ballot, it is now open till 31st Aug 2016. Please follow the link below: Tokyo Marathon.