Tokyo Marathon – Matt U

Race: Tokyo Marathon

Runner: Matt U

Date: 2/26/17

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Results – 2:35.56

3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most

  • There were a ton of fast runners. I was with people the entire way and always had someone to run with.
  • The course was fast and there were always people along the course.
  • The weather was perfect!


Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  • Having to get in our start corrals early meant not having a chance to pee right before the start. More on how I solved this later in the report. 🙂


Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race

  • They had tomatoes and this weird gelatinous sports drink as part of the pre-race aid. People were chomping down on ripe tomatoes on the vine – I couldn’t do this. I did drink the packet of jelly drink though. I thought it was water and then was surprised at the weird texture. Then I got a little more, realized it tasted good, and so I went for it. I think it is called Pocari Sweat.
  • And I can’t forget the toilets at the start. We had toilets with no signs, and toilets with signs that said “Western Toilet”. I of course tried the regular, non-western version. They were squatty potties with a bar to hold onto as you crouch down over the hole to poop. There was a foot pump to flush the poo down. I daresay I might like this version better!


Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular

  • I felt good nearly the entire race. Having run Rocky Raccoon 100 three weeks prior and not doing any speed work since January, I was not sure what to expect in this race. I knew going into Rocky that I was in good marathon shape though so I had hope that things would go well. Things went as well as I could have hoped for. The last 5k was challenging and I slowed a little, but overall, I was on and could press the pace whenever I wanted. This was one of my fastest marathons ever.
  • I actually managed to pee my pants multiple times, and I did it on purpose! With being in the start corrals so early, and being well hydrated, that meant that I really had to pee by the time the race started. They seemed quite strict regarding public urination and disqualification from the race, and I didn’t want to test this rule. I was wearing my Salomon compression shorts and have never had a problem with chafing with these before, so I had decided before the start that I’d try to just let it go during the race. It was more challenging than I originally thought. It took real concentration to pee in my shorts on purpose. Early on I was self conscious so I didn’t let a lot come out at once. By the 45 minute mark I was into the race and didn’t care anymore. I let it all out. My shorts were wet, some ran down my legs and got my socks wet. Didn’t matter. It dried quickly, I spilled water on myself during aid stations anyway so I was already wet, and I felt lighter and relieved as a result. Major strategy win for this race!


Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • It’s a big city marathon and one of the World Majors. Logistically, this is a challenging race. You have to get here early and getting out and home is a challenge. Do your best not to get flustered or frustrated at all the standing and sitting around you’ll have to do before the race, and after.


Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

  • If I’m in good shape and ready to go, this is a race to go for a fast time. There is a nice downhill start (not steep), there are minimal hills during the race, and there are people to push the pace with all day long. Great chance for a PR at this one.


Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

  • There are no notable hills. I remember seeing a slight bump on the elevation profile around 25k, but when I actually ran this during the race, it was barely noticeable. It’s flat and fast, and the only hills to speak of are the downs early on, and they’re not as punishing as the downs to start Boston.


Aesthetics – is it a pretty course

  • We were in big city all the time with people and big buildings the entire way. One cool thing about the course is that there are several out and back sections along the course. This meant that I actually got to see the leaders, including Wilson Kipsang after he broke away and was running to the finish all alone (finished in sub-2:04!)


Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

  • As well as any big city marathon I’ve ever run. From packet pickup to the corral and toilets, it was all well coordinated.


Competition – is there a strong field?

  • Fast and deep.


Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

  • It’s a tough race to get into. I heard rumors that there were 300,000 applicants for 36,000 spots. There is a lottery for most runners. There is also a special “semi-elite” category for foreigners. I think the cutoff for my category was sub-2:50.


Aid Stations

  • Frequent, though they didn’t seem as frequent as some other big city runs with aid being every mile. Sorry, I haven’t done the research here, but it seemed like there was plenty. No gels that I’m aware of, but sports drink, water, bananas, and some other stuff. I only drank the sports drink (Pocari Sweat) and water. I brought my own PowerGel but only ate one late in the race.


Weather and typical race conditions –

  • It was absolutely beautiful. Other days surrounding the race had more wind and cold, but race day was idealic.


Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

  • Salomon compression shorts (great for peeing your pants), compression shirt, fast road shoes (Nike Elite). I had a Pategonia Houdini wind jacket I wore to the start and tied around my waist. Looked like an amateur, but it didn’t bother me at all during the run. It was nice to be warmer at the start and the finish, and to not have to deal with a drop bag.


Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends

  • The course was full of spectators throughout. Julie got to three spots via the metro, and she was traveling solo with a baby. You could likely get to more if you were more aggressive. In short, it’s possible to get to lots of spots, especially with the various out and back sections.


Awards –

  • Lots of money for the fast guys. Standard medal and a finisher’s towel for the rest of us. 🙂


The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it

5 out of 5 stars. I loved this race and the experience. I could definitely see doing this one again, either for the experience alone or to attempt another fast time.

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