Running Full Circle – Sixth and Final World Major Marathon
Tokyo, here we come!
In the marathon world, there are six majors: Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York City and Tokyo. Until recently, I ran five of these six races. Tokyo has been on my radar for the last five years and finishing this race will check off a major (pun intended) bucket list item on my journey to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s.
The Tokyo Marathon course symbolizes the past, present, and future of Tokyo. This year, over 35,000 runners from Japan and around the world wound their way from Tokyo’s famous Metropolitan Government complex in Shinjuku on the city’s western side, to Tokyo Station on the east, running past scores of cheering fans and several of the city’s beloved landmarks.
10 Takeaways from the 2018 Tokyo Marathon
1. Registration – Simple supply versus demand mathematics. The Abbott World Marathon Majors demand continues to skyrocket year after year, while the supply remains fairly fixed. Ask any runner what their odds of winning an online lottery entry spot for a major and you will likely hear 7-10%.* For example, over 300,000 runners went online to log-in for the Tokyo marathon…and then prayed for months eagerly waiting a confirmation email or a likely “unfortunately, you did not receive a lottery entry, but we look forward to your application next year.” Why? The Tokyo marathon lottery provides a total of 30,000 spots. To avoid such chaos and stress, I registered through the “Run with Heart” charity option which opens on July 2 and runs through July 31. Run with Heart accepts 5,000 runners on a first come, first serve basis. In order to obtain a charity runner status, a runner must make a $1,000 contribution to one of twenty-two different charities offered by the race organizer.
*Boston marathoners must qualify for this race or raise $5,000 through one of their partner charities for a spot.
2. Security is tight – Carrie and I stayed at an Airbnb approximately a 10-minute walk from the start line. On race day, everything was blocked off and we ended scrambling around for over 30 minutes to find an entrance (at an underground train station). At this point in time, we had to separate due to the tight security. Carrie was somehow able to find me before I crossed the start line. Moral of the story: leave yourself, as a runner and a spectator, plenty of time in the morning (easily 30-45 minutes longer than any other race).
3. Average temperature – this year was unusually cold with temperature’s starting in the low 30s! Normally, the temperatures average in the mid to high 40s. This was literally the first time in my life that I wore gloves and a fleece for the first two to three miles of a race (with the exception of Antarctica).
4. The race atmosphere is incredible! – Spectators line the streets for the entire race (similar to the Boston Marathon), and although they were predominantly cheering in Japanese, you can still absorb the amazing vibes even if you don’t speak the local language. I smiled all the way around and soaked up the spirit of the Tokyo Marathon.
5. KM not miles – there are no mile markers, only kilometer markers that go from 1 km to 42 km.
6. Aid stations every 5 kilometers – once in the corrals, the race is exceptionally well organized with aid stations every 5 km which provide water, bananas, and even tomatoes!
7. No one drops any litter – it is amazing how many volunteers line the course with trash bags to collect everything from gel wrappers to cups and bottles. Don’t even think about throwing your empty gel or starbursts on the ground. I was too scared to drop even the top bit, so I ended up with a rather sticky pocket! I think this is a great idea; having seen the debris and aftermath of other races, this is something that should be implemented more often.
8. Navigating as a spectator – as a directionally challenged individual, navigating Tokyo on a normal day can give even the most directionally savvy person an anxiety attack. The train system is…the worst! Nothing goes where the map says it will go and people working at the underground stations aren’t that helpful or friendly. With this in mind, on race day, ask questions and follow the crowd. How Carrie was able to find me three times along the way was absolutely mind-blowing! I would have literally been crying away in some corner because you feel like a mouse trapped in a never-ending maze. Kudos to you Carrie Reese!
9. Grab a snapshot of the elites – since the course has a small loop near the halfway point, you might be lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of the elite runners flying by you at a 5ish per mile pace!
10. Sushi and bling go hand-in-hand! – any bling from a marathon major is worth showing off and keeping safe.
Of course, when you are in the land of sushi, you must celebrate with some freshly cut blue fin tuna!
SO Now What?
What does one do after running all 6 majors, 7 continents and 12 marathons to date? We decided to make our way west by train to Kyoto, Japan, one of the most beautiful and ancient cities in the entire country. While in Kyoto, we visited the Golden Temple, Bamboo Forest, fed snow monkeys (totally worth the 2 mile hike), ate some of the best sushi and wagyu beef in the world, and most memorably paid a visit to Nara Park. This park, similar in size to Central Park, is known for their bowing deer. Yes, you read that correctly. You bow at them, they bow right back at you.
After walking around the park for over an hour, I decided to pull out my drone in an open space and film some of the deer bowing. I told Carrie to look up at the drone and while she was smiling and dancing away, I said, “I bow to you” (just like we had been doing for the past hour).
Carrie: “I bow to you.”
Me: “Well unlike the deer, I bow to you for life!” And I pulled out an engagement ring.
She screamed. She cried. She screamed some more and in between shouted “Yessssss, yeeeeeesss, yessssssss!!!”
So what now? We will see where the next adventure(s) take us…
And in case you are wondering about the drone footage…yeah, I was a bit nervous and forgot to hit record!