Tokyo here we go by Pam O’Connell

tokyo pam

For the second year running I didn’t get a place in the Tokyo ballot so that was that…  A very good friend and her daughter booked with Sports Tours but I didn’t really have the funds. Then Max and Becs also booked their places and the temptation became too much – Sports Tours had one place left so I raided the piggy bank and booked that place and with 12 weeks until race day I started training for Tokyo!
Race day was overcast but there was no wind so pretty ideal conditions as we walked across the road from our hotel to the start. There is stringent security for this marathon – at the expo they put a wrist band on you and that’s scanned as you go through your gate, then there’s a bag check and no liquids are allowed in… There was water inside the gates but we never knew about it!  Traditional Japanese toilets are squat, not sit, which proved interesting although there were western style toilets if you could find them… (most toilets in the shops and hotels have heated seats, music and several other options – lots of fun pushing the buttons to find out what they all do).
Waiting in the pen was dull with no music but a regular announcement telling us what to do if the race had to be cancelled due to earthquake! The race started at 9.10 and Max and I crossed the line 15 minutes later – we were off… one unique but potentially critical thing about this marathon is that it’s gun to chip and there are cuts off approximately every 5km from 5km to 40km. Added pressure particularly for those of us who are slower runners!
The first 5k was a gentle downhill and a great way to settle into the race and we went past the first cut off with time to spare. There are plenty of water stations with Pocari Sweat – yeh, really, that’s the local sports drink – food stations and toilets all along the route. Max and I separated at about 7km when she needed a pee stop but the route has several out and back sections so we hoped to see each other further on the course… The roads are wide with plenty of space, fairly flat and no bottlenecks so it’s a potential PB race for sure.
I did see Max and Becs twice and also my friend and her daughter once which was lovely and gave us all a boost – always good to see your mates! There wasn’t much music and not many sights so at times it was a bit of a drag but the kilometres went by quickly.
The final stretch brings you down a cobbled shopping mall with designer shops – presumably the posh part of Tokyo – with lots of spectators applauding and all shouting “ganbatte ne” which means “do your best”. I must have heard it shouted a thousand times because it is the only thing that they call out as you pass – I would have loved to hear someone shout “you’re almost there” or “not far now”…
Having crossed the line it’s a bit of a walk to the bus that takes you back to the hotel but a good cool down during which I was given a drink, towel, space blanket, medal and lots of congratulations from all the volunteers. But my day was tinged with sadness because I knew that Max and Becs hadn’t made it to the finish line – the cut offs had caught up with them! They were both waiting for me at the baggage tent and the 3 of us got the bus together. Back at the hotel we showered and headed to the bar for a couple of cocktails.
When we got up on Monday morning we heard that there had been an earthquake in the early hours that measured 5.7 – had it happened 24 hours earlier it was big enough that the race would have been cancelled… luck was on my side!
If you want to do Tokyo marathon I’d recommend going earlier than we did because we all struggled with the time difference and were tired on race day.

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