The 2018 Tokyo Marathon is my fifth World Marathon Major in my quest to get World Marathon Majors Six-Star Finishers Medal. I wasn’t meant to run it this year, but peer-pressure got the better of me and I entered. And then I was the only one of our bunch of four who got in, which meant my husband, Kev, was issued an ultimatum: I’m going to Tokyo, are you coming with me or not?
Anyway, five months further on and we’re in Tokyo, and rather than write a review of the Tokyo Marathon (which is great by the way: really well organised with awesome volunteers) I thought I would regale you with my thoughts as I ran, or as best as I remember them…
Before the start (while listening to the announcements about what to do in the event of an earthquake): WTF! Well that’s a new experience for me at the start of a marathon.
In the first 50 metres: Confetti cannons! Ooh, heart-shaped confetti. Pants! Some of it has gone down my top and into my sports bra, I’d better dig that out now or it might chafe later.
In the first mile: 7:16 pace that can’t be right, oh no now its 9:55 pace. Bloomin’ tall buildings playing havoc with the Garmin. Oh well, this feels about target pace, just less than marathon effort to start so I’ll just see how I’m doing at the first mile marker.
Mile 1: Have I missed it?
Mile 2: Nope, there’s definitely no mile markers, only kilometre markers. (Insert swear word) I don’t know what pace I should be running in km/min. I can work out about 5km time though. I want 8:40 pace so that’s 8 x 3 miles is 24, plus 40 secs x 3 miles is another 2 mins, plus about 40 seconds for the 0.1 of a mile, that’s 26:40.
5km: 27:38, (insert swear word), that’s a minute slower than I need to be. I’d better speed up.
8km: That’s five miles in. (200 metres or so later the watch beeps) What!! My watch thinks I’ve run 6 miles already. This is going to be way off.
9km: I need to double 26:40 for my 10k time. So that’s 53:20.
10km: 55 mins. (Insert swear word)! This isn’t going to plan. Sod the plan, I’ll just run at marathon effort.
14 + quite a bit km: Ooh, there’s that Sensō-ji temple Kev and I visited yesterday!
16km: No idea, how I’m doing, but here’s the turn that leads to the lumpy bit with bridges in it. 9kms of bridges and then it’s pretty much flat all the way to the finish.
20km: Coming up to halfway and the plan was to get to halfway in 1:52:30. So let’s see how I’m doing.
Halfway (21.1km): 1:53:50. Hmmm, if I carry on at that pace I won’t beat my NYC Marathon time. I should beat my NYC Marathon time, as I’m not going to be running as slowly as I did in the first 10k. Actually, I’ve pulled back 20 seconds since 10km.
Halfway and a little bit: There’s a bloke in a Fulham FC top (as he overtakes me). I’m going to follow him and try to keep up.
24km: I’m keeping up with ‘Fulham’.
25km: Ooh, I’ve sneaked ahead of ‘Fulham’.
Author’s note: For the next couple of kilometres sometimes ‘Fulham’ is slightly ahead of me and sometimes I’m slightly ahead of ‘Fulham’. Around 26km we start talking to each other, mainly about how we don’t trust our Garmins and we have no idea what pace we’re currently running. I mention I’ve been trying to follow him and keep up with him, and he replies that he’s been doing the same to me. ‘Fulham’ is aiming for sub-3:45 and I say that sounds good to me and we agree to run together as much as we can. Sometimes we run side by side, sometimes ‘Fulham’ is slightly ahead of me, and sometimes I’m slightly ahead of ‘Fulham’.
30km: Can I push on? No, it’s feeling like hard work, but I can keep going at this effort.
Just after 30km: (Watch beeps) 20 miles, just 10k to go and an hour and five mins to do it if I want sub-3:45. Yes! (Pause) Er, no. 20 miles is 32km and I haven’t even passed 31kms yet. (Insert swear word)! Oh, look! There’s the 1km to go sign on the other side of the road. Not sure I can do 12.2kms in just under an hour and 4 mins.
31km: Just keep the effort level up, you can do this.
32km: 10km to go. 54 mins to do it in. I think it’ll take about 55 mins. I don’t think I’m going to make it. I may be a minute or so over.
Just before 36km: That’s the last U-turn, it’s the run for home now!
37.2km, at 5km to go sign: Just a parkrun to go. I need a 25:46 final 5km. No idea what pace that is so just try and keep it as low 8 min/miling pace – if the Garmin is remotely accurate.
4km to go sign: It’s going to be close for sub-3:45.
3km to go sign: Where’s ‘Fulham’ gone? I can’t wait for him, I’ve just got to keep going.
Author’s note: At this point, my head is thinking ‘It’s going to be close.’ But my gut feeling is that I’ve got this, I’m going sub-3:45 – there’s no doubt in my mind.
2km to go sign: Not far to go, 12 minutes of pain.
Approaching 1km to go: Nearly there, the 1km to go sign will be coming up.
Just after 1km to go: Where’s the 1km to go sign gone?
Running down the last street before the turn to the finish: Where’s the feckin’ turn. This last kilometre is going on forever. Ah, there’s the turn. Oh no, that’s not it. Where the feck is it? Is that it? No. Oh, come on! It’s got to be round here somewhere. Are they sure this is just 1km? It feels like more. Was the sign in the wrong place? Where’s that turn? Yay, the turn!
Turning the corner with about 100 metres to the finish: (Glances at watch) 30 seconds for sub-3:45, that’s loads of time.
Author’s note: The runners around me start to sprint for the finish. I’m not letting up, but neither am I sprinting it. I’m going to enjoy this. Just before the finish I back off and cruise across the finish line arms aloft.
5 metres after the finish: Where’s ‘Fulham’? (I hang around on the finish line until I spot him and then I yell as loud as I can “Come on Fulham!”)
Author’s note: ‘Fulham’ crosses the line; we’ve both done it in 3 hours and 44 minutes. Job done! We hug, take photos on his phone and chat a bit more. Then we go our separate ways as we’re in different colour/bag zones.
Walking down the finish funnel: I’m cold; I want my medal and a foil blanket. Where are the blankets? They’ve got to be round here somewhere. Is that a towel they’re giving people? Yes, it’s a towel. (As one is placed around my shoulders) A warm towel! How do they manage that?
A bit further one: There’s the foil blankets. (One is placed around my shoulders) Ah, I’m feeling quite cosy now. (Insert swear word), I’m knackered. There are the medals.
Author’s note: I continue down the finish funnel collecting my medal, goody bag, drinks, bananas, and my drop bag. The volunteers here, as throughout the whole of the Tokyo Marathon, are awesome, high-fiving the runners, congratulating them and giving us all a round of applause. I’m directed to the changing tents, heated changing tents, where I stretch out and put some warm clothes on and then it’s off to find the husband and acquire a celebratory drink (or liquid aesthetic depending on how you look at it). Tokyo has been awesome.
Author’s final note: ‘Fulham’ was Andy Fickling who was running the marathon after an operation last year to have a pacemaker fitted, previously he was a sub-3:30 marathoner. By completing the Tokyo Marathon Andy would also get his World Marathon Majors Six-Star Finishers Medal, the same medal I hope to collect when I complete the Chicago Marathon in 2019. He is such an inspiration, nothing was going to stop him, and I am both honoured and proud to have shared the second half of the Tokyo Marathon with him