Last Month Alison Jones made the journey to Japan to complete an achievement which has been a number of years in the making as the Tokyo Marathon was the sixth and final event for her to complete the six races that make up the Abbott Marathon Majors. We’ll have her story from all the different events and here we start with probably the one of the most unique International events where the Japanese culture thoroughly permeates the (roughly) 26.2 miles. Here’s Alison to tell us more…
In my quest to run the Abbotts World Major Marathons I headed off to Tokyo on Wednesday 22nd February 2017 for my final race of the series. I went as part of a group, none of which I had met prior, but places for this event for non-Japanese are very rare. I believe out of 36,000 runners only 2000 runners were non-Japanese and out of this 2000 only 70 places were for British runners, although I did hear of a couple of people who managed to get in via the ballot, still we were severely outnumbered.
Arrival was on Thursday around 10.30am so we had a long day until we could get in our rooms at 4pm so off we went to the EXPO. Narita airport is quite a way from the City so we settled back for a long bus trip, which was fairly quick considering around 33 million people live in Tokyo!
The EXPO was the usual mix of sporting goods from the main Companies with some local running gear, which was very expensive, but we were about to experience the efficiency of Japanese organisation, there were more people helping than there would be runners, therefore no queue’s for numbers etc., we were given a can of alcohol free beer (never did see the point myself).
To the hotel, another bus trip on a pretty dreary, dull, cold day, which is the weather we were expecting for the marathon, so no surprises there!
As I said we could not check in until 4pm so we had to wait until exactly 4pm, no deviation from the rules were allowed.
The next morning, since I was awake from 3am a group of us went for a 10k run, which shook the cobwebs off and then we were meeting for a typical Japanese meal in the evening, the less said about that the better, also I won’t dwell on the fact I had a bird building a nest in my AC and I must have looked like a right muppet flapping my arms at the hotel receptionist trying to explain, to which she said it’s just the building moving in the night (I was on floor 25) this was meant to reassure me!
On the Saturday morning we had been entered in the 4k Friendship run over by the EXPO, so off we trotted and it was a great idea, people in national costume all taking photo’s of them with their new found friends, even the weather improved.
Sunday was here, usually I get pretty nervous the morning of the marathon, even though this is my 14th, but I seemed pretty okay on this particular occasion which was probably due to the new friends I have made over the past couple of days.
As usual your day starts in the middle of the night, up at 05.00hrs on the bus by 06.45 for a 09.10 start, believe me no latecomers allowed. Security was pretty tight, although they did give you a list of contraband you could not bring, but they took my Banana off me, although I could collect it at the finish if I could recognise it amongst the other 50,000 bananas!
A marathoners next port of call, yes the toilets, not a problem in Japan, loads of them and very orderly queues, so that stress was quickly diffused, once I realised you had to squat over them, (I knew boot camp would come in handy).
Into our pens and the elite’s went off, to the second, followed by the wheelchair racers, then the rest, me included, at exactly 09.10
A bit of a slowish start, as ever, then things opened out a bit, I have found running with Japanese in the past they have a tendency to turn round, take selfie’s and video everyone behind them, imagine that times 36,000 you have to watch where you are going since so one else is.
The sun came out, and off we went. The course was flat and fast but you had to keep your wits about you, people were diving off all over the place, to see friends, take photo’s have their tired legs sprayed with something, who knows. Water stations were every couple of kilometres along with sports drinks (Pocari Sweat) say no more and every 10 yards there was a volunteer stationed with an opened plastic bag for rubbish, amazing no one litters in Japan, even when running a marathon.
The final 10k is probably the hardest part of the course as it is a loop, so as you are running down one side of the road you can see the 3k to go signs on the other but it seems miles until you make the turn and are running up the other side, I was feeling great at this time and thought I would be on for a sub 4hour marathon, but it was not to be, I am sure they kept moving the finish, anyway my official time was 4.06.01 for running 27.2 miles, which we all agreed later we had all run and we all had different watches.
The finish area was brilliant, every volunteer along the finishing pens bowed and congratulated every one of the runners, i had neck ache by the time I got to my medal, but we were given loads to eat and drink, then I had to find the Abbotts tent to collect my Six Star medal for completing all the world majors.
We all went to the pub that night and compared notes, then you can guess the rest.
If you can afford it, the entry is not cheap, but you do get a free jacket, it has to be on your to do list, an amazing trip which I will never forget, I have also met a lot of new friends who I am sure I will meet at future events.