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The 2017 Tokyo Marathon

After running the New York Marathon a couple times, I wanted a bigger goal and set my sights on the six Marathon Majors. I started on the road to completing them by running the Chicago Marathon then the Berlin Marathon a year later. Now it is over two years later and I set my sneakers to the pavement in Tokyo.

Visiting Tokyo was exhilarating. It was exciting to visit all those places I’d seen in movies and anime over the years, but even with the jet lag of the 14 hour time difference and the wonderment of being a tourist, it was time to run on the morning of February 26.

Finding the gate to enter the corrals was a bit of a problem and once finding it, there was a long line for 3 porta potties for all the runners within the corrals of the fourth gate (1/5th of all the runners). Of course, some more enterprising runners availed themselves of nearby bushes (myself included). Once my bladder was empty, I made my way into the corral and waited with the other 35,500 runners to start our race.

The race started with a bang and we moved towards the start line as our corrals permitted. Once past the start line, we headed east into Shinjuku. Immediately from the start, it was obvious that the Tokyo Marathon was a big deal for both the runners and spectators. From the very start to the very end, people were packed in two and three deep to watch the runners, cheer them on, and occasionally hand out snacks.

We ran five kilometers east before curving north around Chiyoda. We curved along the north end to the east side and starting an out and back north towards Taito at the 10km. We took it 4km up then on the way back detoured east for another out and back to the 21km point for a turn around. At the 9 mile mark (I was tracking my distance on my watch in miles, while the course tracks in kilometers), I needed to stop to use a porta potty again. I was feeling good at that point and on pace to where I wanted to be, and even texted Andrea to let her know how I was doing while I waited.

After 21km, we turned back up north and at 25km, we were back heading south from the original out and back. This brought us towards our third and final out and back at the 28km mark. It was around noon as I reached this point and I started to notice that the overhead sun was causing a reduced amount of shade. I was running south through a cavern of concrete, glass, and blacktop that reflected the sunlight and heated the roadway, causing me to overheat and dehydrate.

It was great seeing Andrea early in the out and back and it really motivated me to keep going, but it wasn’t enough to keep me moving the entire way down to the 36km mark for the final turn around. Thankfully I began to hit shade again another kilometer or two up and was able to regain my goal pace, but it wasn’t enough to regain all the lost time. Andrea surprised me again a kilometer or two before the finish, but wanting to just finish strong at that point, I smiled and waved instead of a quick stop. A couple quick turns before the final kilometer and it was a big finish.

What I have learned running marathons is that each race is a mix of physical and mental. For me, the Tokyo Marathon was a great mental race, as proven by my ability to hold pace for the first 28km and the final 10km, but the overwhelming heat of for 15km gave me a bad physical race. I was still able to finish the Tokyo Marathon in 5:05:55, completing my 4th Marathon Major and 9th marathon overall.

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