This is my fifth of the six World Marathon Majors, all being well today, I will just need Boston to complete the set. How I am going to get into Boston has been something that has stressing me for a while. It looks like a tour operator will be the best option. The charity places are too expensive and I doubt I will run a quick enough time to get in now the times have been cut by 5mins.
The goal for today was on paper, to set off at a PB pace of 7:30 and see how it goes, however, I have not felt well over the past 24 hours, I haven’t been eating properly, again, and I have spent some much time on my feet walking around Tokyo seeing the sights. Far from the textbook marathon prep, so I don’t know how long I would be able to hold that pace.
I was up at 6am after another good nights sleep, see my Tokyo Marathon day 1, day 2, day 3 and day 4 blogs to see how the week has gone. I ate my porridge, got my kit on and then an hour to kill before I was going head down to the corrals at 7:30.
I could see people arriving at the start gates from my hotel window, always a good idea to stay opposite the start line, that gives you more time to sleep.
At 7:20 I gave up and went down. It was only 5 minutes from my room to the entrance gate 3. I timed it last night. All part of being prepared and taking the stress out of race day.
When I got out of the lift I saw Marcel Hug heading out before winning the race!
The hotel lobby was packed full of runners about to head out or sheltering from the rain.
I found the gate easy enough and went through security without any issues.
There had been a lot of hype about the security and bags checks on social media. People worrying about what to take and not take. I took everything I take to every marathon, I just didn’t take any liquids as advised in the runners handbook. Job doe, straight through, no stress.
One of the good things about the start area in Tokyo is the vast majority of it is on the underside of the main roadway, this was perfect today to shelter us from the rain.
Once in, I went and joined the toilet queue straight away as it looked huge. Like most things here in Japan, the queuing system was super efficient with volunteers showing us where to stand, apologising for the wait and more volunteers by the toilets directing us to the empty ones. This made the queues go a lot faster than first thought.
Then it was bag drop, this closes at 8:30 so I sneaked my bag on with 2 mins to spare. I decided to put my throw away clothes in my bag and keep for another race (New York). I had my poncho on and felt warm enough.
Corrals close at 8:45 and they are really strict with all of these cut-off times. There is no arguing or blagging your bag on the truck or way into a corral if you are late. If you miss bag drop then its tough and if you miss your corral you go right to the very back of the field.
Within 5 mins of standing in the corral in the pouring rain, I quickly regretting ditching the throwaway clothes. It was FREEZING and everything was soaked. The hood on my poncho kept blowing off and my hat blew away twice. Lovely way to stand waiting for a race.
It was quite strange standing in the corrals. Everyone was standing in silence, it was so quiet. I am used to waiting in the corrals in the US races where the atmosphere is buzzing. I found it tough standing there in silence thinking about what lay ahead.
Mile 1 – 6: 7:35, 6:54, 7:05, 6:56, 7:00, 7:09
I was in corral C so once the gun / firework thing went off and corral A had gone everyone sprinted forward! I have never seen that before, they bolted to the next corral and waited for B to go then we went. I just strolled down getting in the way of those behind. I don’t see the need to waste energy running to the back of the next corral. Made no sense to me. I was in two minds whether to keep the poncho on during the run or go without. I was already shivering with the cold but thought I might get too hot running in a plastic bag so it came off and went in the hedge.
When we got going the pace was painfully slow, the course was so crowded. I wasn’t going to waste energy weaving around people to make space, I just went with the flow and took it easy. At one point my watch read 17minute pace which I knew was a joke. The GPS around the high rise buildings was struggling and I knew this was going to be the case for the whole race.
I decided to pull my sleeve down and covered the watch. I will just run the net 26 miles at what “feels” like a good pace. I couldn’t trust my watch to give me an accurate reading. I knew that if I ran 7:20 pace then my 5k splits would be 22:45. At the 5k markers I will check to see whether I am looking ok or way off the mark.
The first 4 miles of this race drop downhill by nearly 150ft so it can be very easy to go off too fast. I was conscious of this and did hold back a little but I also thought it is a good chance to bag some easy seconds by letting the legs roll.
By the first 5k checkpoint I was 2 minutes up on my target. This worried me a little, had I gone off too fast? the pace felt good and manageable so I carried on.
Mile 7 – 13: 6:45, 7:07, 6:54, 7:08, 7:06, 6:35, 6:22
At 10k I was over two and a half minutes up on target, not as fast as the first 5k but still well ahead of my target, well that’s not even goal pace. The goal pace was 7:30 but I had written 5k splits based off 7:20 by mistake.
There isn’t much to say about these splits, I wasn’t tracking them so I couldn’t see what I was doing, I was just running and felt good. The course had flattened out now and felt really good so far.
Mile 14 – 21: 7:58, 6:05, 6:45, 6:37, 6:29, 7:08, 7:13, 6:29
I hit the halfway point over nine minutes ahead of my mistakenly written down goal pace. This first 13.1 miles of 1:28.31 was actually 56 seconds quicker than my half marathon PB. So does that count as a HM PB?
By this point we were running along the first big switch back and had the elites running along the other side. Hearing the cheers and screaming as the Japanese elite runners went past gave me such a boost too. I pushed on a little harder.
I hit 25k ten minutes ahead of plan. I didn’t even look at 30k, I knew I had ran quick so it would be way ahead.
By now I was counting down the km’s. 12 to go and still feeling strong. No leg pains, feet feel great and the illness is holding off. You know what, I might actually run a PB here, then my thoughts turned to Boston. The official qualifying time for my age group is 3:10. I am already at least 10 minutes ahead of PB pace which would put me in the ballpark of a 3:06 – 3:07.
Mile 22 – 26.2: 7:11, 6:41, 6:14, 7:35, 9:54
The last four miles were where I slowed in New York and dropped roughly 7 minutes. This time I felt really good (for someone 22 miles into a run). People around me were slowing, some stopping, some on the floor, it was absolute carnage. The rain and cold temperatures were taking the toll. I was flying past so many people. I thought that I must be going far too quick here but it felt good still so I kept going.
I was using people as targets, I would pick someone down the road and try to catch and pass them. This went on until the finish line. I always find this such a great way to keep you motivated and the brain engaged during the late tiring stages of a marathon.
At 37k I looked at my watch. Saw I was running at sub 7minute pace and thought shit that cannot be right! then the time, I was 20:32 off 3 hours. I thought to myself if I could run a sub 20 Parkrun now I will get a sub-3-hour marathon.
So I went for it, I put the hammer down with 5k to go, running a 6:14 which turned out to be my second quickest mile. It was still feeling ok (not great now), I had one gel left which I was due to take at 3 hours but I went early with that to give me a kick on my sub 20 5k race.
In the last mile, we turned a corner to what I thought was the final straight into quite a strong headwind, this slowed me drastically and then not seeing the finish anywhere broke me too. I kept pushing as hard as I could. The Garmin clocked this mile at 9:54 which feels off the money, to be honest, it was slower but not by three minutes.
We turned another corner and boom, the finish line was right there in your face. Job done.
I stood leaning on the rail for a bit, then a volunteer came over quite concerned. I thought he was worried about me but he told me I was pushing the rail out of line. Charming, thanks for that.
Well!!! I just ran a 3:01:08 marathon, 16mins 36secs faster than my previous PB at the New York City Marathon 2018 and a BQ too! unbelievable!! I have almost a 9min buffer on the time required to get into Boston.
I had not trained with this race in mind, my goal race isn’t until July and I had only done 8 weeks of proper training for this with just three long runs and all of them with 7:30 pace in mind. Then I go and run 26.2 miles at 7:01 pace!! where has that come from?
I absolutely loved this race, slightly biased based off the PB but I had a blast and I always find if you are enjoying the race, running happy and smiling your body responds well to the positive attitude and you perform better.
Yes the start area was a little chaotic and confusing and the weather was shocking but these are things that are outside of your bubble, you cannot control these. Just deal with them the best you can and get on with running.
The crowds were a lot better than I imagined, they were cheering, singing, clapping and there were many tens of thousands standing out there in that pouring rain. It is one thing running in the rain, but standing still in it is something else.
I had a charity place for this one. I wasn’t expecting much from them, just a race bib, that was all I wanted but they really go out of their way to support the runners who have donated to their causes and I mean they REALLY put it on big for you.
At the expo they had stalls where you pick up a special pink charity shirt and they can’t thank you enough, it is so nice. But today, after the race all of the charity runners are filtered off to a different lane and taken into a building where we had changing facilities, drinks, and food. It was amazing. Just having a warm room to stand in made my day after all those hours out in the rain.
The only negative point I have about this whole race was the finish area. There is about a 1-mile walk to get out, which if you have run NYC, you would love just a 1-mile walk out. I quite like having the space to walk and keep the legs moving. The downside is the water is a long way from the finish and the space blankets then the medals and goodie bags. Its quite a walk without any water, I felt fine but I saw a lot of people struggling through the finish. In my opinion, on a cold, wet day like today, they should have brought the space blankets closer to the finish.
That’s it, I’m done.