Friday, April 19, 2013

Tokyo Marathon 2013: Epic Awesome!

There are things you've done which you still can't believe have really transpired. It's been two months since my trip to Tokyo, Japan. It was one of my dream travel destinations, and running in the recent Tokyo Marathon was just an icing on the cake.

It all started with a blog site I frequently visit - Patrick Concepcion's Runningshield site. Early 2012 he was making blog entries on his race preparations. He had everything documented until race day, which I was excitedly anticipating to read. As I read his Tokyo Marathon 2012 experience, I told myself someday, someday it will be my turn. I just didn't think it would be that soon. The universe conspired.

The man behind the inspiration to run Tokyo Marathon - Sir Patrick "Runningshield" Concepcion (Notice his photo, and one of my photos later, hehe!)
I knew it will take crazy luck to participate in Tokyo Marathon, as it involves a lottery, what with the sheer number of runners who'd want to run in Tokyo soil. The first of August, 2012, the lottery opened. I submitted my entry.

My lottery entry
All I can do is wait and pray for the odds to be ever in my favor. I kept thinking "The Secret". I even changed my various account passwords to Tokyo2013 (crazy huh?).

The registration ended at the end of August. The statistics were then released via email - a total of 303,450 submitted their intent to join the marathon, with only 30,000 available slots to be given. 10% chance. I sighed realizing my slim chances.

26th of September - I got a text message from my running teammate Jesy that he got an email indicating he's in. I was driving that time but I got hold of phone, keyed-in my yahoo account credentials, and nervously waited for my email to show. I had one email from the Tokyo Marathon 2013 Entry Desk. I clicked on the email and there it was, the only word I wanted to read - CONGRATULATIONS! "The Secret" worked!

Best email ever!
After all the celebration, it now dawned on me that there are a lot of preparations that I need to do. It will take an awful lot of cash damage, as we all know that Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world. And of course, the difficulty of getting a Japan Visa. I worked on the requirements and submitted them to a travel agency January 2013. My Team Alpha1 teammates Jesy and Eugene backed-out due to personal reasons so I was left alone. I just couldn't let this opportunity pass. A couple of days and I had my Japan Visa stamped on my passport.

Moshi Moshi! Japan Visa approved!
Airline booking, hotel booking, shopping for race gear, packing winter clothes, itinerary and budget preparations. I was dead nervous. It's my first time traveling alone to a non-English speaking country. I was reading and re-reading Tokyo travel guides. I kept staring on maps, familiarizing myself with the different area names and landmarks and tourist spots. I need to maximize my 5-day stay in the city.

And just like that, February 21 came. Had my 4-hour flight to Narita Airport, an hour train ride to Tokyo, a quick check-in to the hotel, and I'm off to the race expo at Tokyo Big Sight! Took me less than 5 minutes to claim my race kit.

Tokyo Marathon 2013 Expo at Tokyo Big Sight
I've never been to a race expo of this magnitude. Can't help but drool over all the merchandise from participating brands. I bought an Asics shirt and the official Tokyo Marathon 2013 poster (made up of the names of the 30,000 participants forming the marathon race route, which was waaaay too cool to pass up).

By the way, 2013 marks the year that Tokyo Marathon became part of the World Marathon Majors. It now joins London, Berlin, Chicago, New York and Boston - the biggest and best marathon destinations in the world.

World Marathon Majors
Photo Op at the Race Expo - Bib Number H38199
The trip to Tokyo would not be complete without some sightseeing. I was at awe at how beautiful Tokyo is, and at how easy it is to go around the city due to its very organized transportation system. Here are some of the highlights of my "side trips":

Diver City Tokyo and the 30-foot Gundam
Tokyo DisneySea - the only DisneySea in the world, and still the happiest place on Earth!
The Two Towers: Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree (the highest functioning broadcast tower in the world)
Meeting Hachiko at the Shibuya Station
I was on a mission to get my hands on a variety of KitKat flavors, and my hours of store-searching did not go in vain. The green tea and wasabi variants are my all-time faves. I gave these away as "pasalubong" to friends and family.

KitKat Hunt: Mission Accomplished!
February 24 - Race Day. Forecast is fair weather with temperatures ranging from 2 to 7 degrees Celsius. This would be the coldest temperature I'll be running in (previous was HongKong but that's around 18C). Gun start is at 9am, but it will still be freakin' cold! My gear is ready, but am I?

That's a lot of gear!
Ibis Hotel Shinjuku - had my photo taken by the receptionist. I was scared of the cold weather outside.
The assembly area was a few minutes walk away from the hotel. I did not have difficulty finding it since I just had to follow the sea of runners walking outside. My excitement just keeps building up!

One of the things I was really looking forward to see is how the organizers will handle the logistics of a race with such magnitude - 36,000 participants! I was overwhelmed by what I witnessed. As I was walking, directional signs were everywhere - there were easy-to-follow signs, depending on a runner's wave, and baggage trucks were numbered and all lined-up at the side of the street, with each truck being manned by a dozen of friendly, smiling marshals.

Baggage Truck #38
I just had to take a photo with this ever-smiling race marshal
With the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings at the background
Long queue at the portalets - I think it took my 10-15 minutes before I got my turn to make a pee break
While walking, spotted this runner in costume. He happily obliged when I told him I'll take a picture of him.
The long wait to gun start
What few minutes to gun start felt like forever - waiting in the cold, cold roads of Shinjuku. I had to squeeze my way in the crowds to find an area with sunlight. It helped a little to warm me up but the winds that day were brutal. The breeze was chilly and I just couldn't wait but to get my legs moving.

It took around 12 long minutes before I crossed the starting mark from gun start. As a passed the starting line, I removed my jacket and threw it at the side of the street, together with all the other disposable jackets of other runners. Lots of jackets wasted that day.

The marathon race route
The next photos you are about to see are the official photos from the race which I purchased for a whopping amount of 11,000 yen. It's the most pricey set of photos I've ever purchased so forgive me for the vanity, LOL! I just had to post the best of the best pictures here.

with the Tokyo Tower at the background
By the way, did I mention this is the first time I'm wearing compressions? It definitely protected me from the cold.
I'm not particularly sure what this clock building is, but it's one cool shot!
More than mid-way - at KM23. Love the Mexican-inspired attire of the runner at the back.
Spot the Tomato Heads
My favorite Tokyo Marathon shot - makes me look like I'm ahead of everyone else.
At KM31, I just had to take a pee break. Unfortunately, I was not aware that following the toilet signs will lead me to a subway rest room! It took me a while to get there, and going down and up the stairs was hell! I wasted 8-10 minutes of my time just to relieve myself.

Surprisingly, this is the longest I've ran without walking. Usually, I hit the wall at KM26 to KM28 but since it's too cold, I still had the energy to continue running. And the cameras didn't even catch me walking at any point of the race. (Thankfully I did not have a picture of me hoarding a lot of M&Ms at one of the hydration stations haha!)

Now what's that head gear supposed to be? A chicken?!
There were moments in the race when I just closed my eyes andprayed to God to help me finish injury-free. I think this photo captured that moment.
And there were just times I'd try to spot the photographers and do goofy poses, like this one. FORTY TWO, YEAH!
Less than 5 kilometers to go!
Two thumbs up for the best race experience ever! I LOVE TOKYO!
I just had to mention this very important observation. There was never a point in the race where there were no spectators and cheerers at the side of the streets. From KM0 up to KM42, people were cheering runners on, and some were even offering lots of goodies (and even beer!). For me, this is the most amazing aspect of the race. "THE DAY WE UNITE" - this year's theme. The Japanese really united to make this event a success of epic proportions.

My finish line moment
Where's Waldo?
As I crossed the finish line, I didn't even feel tired. The high energy of the people around me was contagious that it didn't even feel I ran a marathon. As I walked going to Tokyo Big Sight, I continued to witness why Tokyo Marathon is a success year by year. A number of volunteers and marshals greeted runners from handing of post-race giveaways - towels, medals, energy bars, post-recovery drinks, up to baggage claiming. They were the people donning yellow jackets - TEAM SMILE - I applaud them for the dedication and work they put on this event.

Marathon finisher towels
Finisher medals
Proud, proud finisher (See the similarity with Runningshield's photo?)
The most organized baggage claiming I've ever seen!
The entire hall became one big dressing room.
Post-recovery stations. I didn't even attempt to go near the place. Just took a photo.
The only difficult part was getting out of Tokyo Big Sight. 36000 runners plus families and friends and other spectators, it was crazy! It took me around 45 minutes to get to the nearest train station which will bring me back to my hotel. I rested a bit and then it was time for a post-race meal with my running teammate Joric, who was currently on assignment in Tokyo. I had the yummiest ramen at Ippudo!

Ippudo ramen
I had a blast writing this blog post, reminiscing about my Tokyo trip. I hope that in my own little way, I was able to make you feel you were running in Tokyo Marathon with me. ARIGATOU GOZAIMASU!

Oh I forgot, I finished with an official chip time of 4:37:08, a new PR but still a long way to go from my sub-4:15 marathon target. In due time. 


  1. WOW!

    Naka-blog na din! Inabangan namen to...

    Ang haba pala ng storya ng Tokyo Marathon journey mo...

    Congrats! Hope to run there too pero ang mahal lang mas gusto ko mamasyal na lang...

    1. took some time to create this blog entry, effort much. hehe!

      yes tokyo is definitely one must-travel location. kahit hindi marathon. go go go!

  2. Inspiring man! I would like to have a shot on it too! :) It seems that people are more supportive outside of the country than here eh? I love the pictures and the whole post, makes me think I was there with you too. I hope I can join this race by 2015. (Hears dream on song by aerosmith on the background :-P)

    1. why not? in my case, it all started with just a dream too, i just had an opportunity and took it. thanks so much for the visit by the way! cheers!

  3. This is so nice!!! I wish I could do another international marathon real soon. Now I'm inspired!!!

    1. go go go, allan! this is a marathon event on a totally different level.

      thanks for reading! :)

  4. Replies
    1. game, try na magapply at baka swertehin sa raffle! :) sub-4 ka dyan for sure, junjun!

  5. nice blog! very informative. will be running there in 2014, any tips? thank you.

    1. it will be cold! so planning your gear is important. and don't forget to wear a disposable jacket cause the wait to gun start will be long. and one more thing, stay at Shinjuku area (near the race starting line).

      Best of luck and enjoy the race! :)

  6. This is the best blog post related to a running event that i have read so far.

    1. wow, those words are so flattering! thank you very much and happy new year to you!

  7. Wonderful race report, thanks for writing/sharing! I'm excited to run Tokyo this year. A few Q's... when did you go to expo, didn't seem too crowded? Did you notice race jackets for sale and how big was the poster you got? I always try to collect race posters but concerned about it getting damaged the rest of the trip.

    1. hello! thanks for the kind words!

      for your questions:
      1. i went to the expo thursday late afternoon. well there are a lot of people but with the large venue for claiming, it didn't feel that crowded.
      2. there are race jackets being sold by asics i think. lots of tokyo marathon-related merchandise to choose from
      3. the poster's about 28" x 40". it's large! hand-carried it on my flight home.

      Good luck on your Tokyo Marahon 2014 race! I'm sure it will be a blast!

    2. Do they give discount on Asics products at the Expo?

    3. hello Hcg Manila. i don't think so. merchandise on sale seem to have tags with regular prices. at least from what I saw last year.

  8. ok thanks, sayang. anyway, their SRP is much lower than ours i guess.

  9. Running this year. Question about the post-recovery stations (foot onsens). I'll be meeting my family. Are the foot onsens before or after meeting the family? TIA.

    1. hello there! if my memory serves me right, I think the post-recovery stations are located after the family meeting area. excited for you! have a great run!

    2. also i remembered just now. your race kit will have a map of the layout of the post-event area. that will confirm the location of the post-recovery stations and the family/friends meet-up area.