Unlike the other five marathons in the World Marathon Majors, the Tokyo Marathon started as a massive race from its first year. Over 25,000 runners finished the Tokyo Marathon in its inaugural year of 2007. Five years later, in 2012, nearly 36,000 runners started the race which travels through the …
Unlike the other five marathons in the World Marathon Majors, the Tokyo Marathon started as a massive race from its first year. Over 25,000 runners finished the Tokyo Marathon in its inaugural year of 2007. Five years later, in 2012, nearly 36,000 runners started the race which travels through the main tourist attractions of Tokyo.
Historically, Japan is known for its elite marathon races with very strict qualifying standards. Many mass races are also held throughout the nation. But they are, in most part, separate races that cater to different types of runners. At the present time, no other mass marathon in Japan, with the exception of the Tokyo Marathon, has an extensive elite field, and no other elite marathon has such a huge participatory field like the Tokyo Marathon. Thus, the Tokyo Marathon is a very unique marathon in Japan; it is the only marathon in Japan that matches both the elite field depth and mass participation base of the other major marathons in the world.
The Tokyo Marathon is also unique in one other respect. Through its theme, “One Step Ahead,” it symbolizes how each and every person enthusiastically advances step by step, in their own unique way. The Tokyo Marathon is also steadily moving forward to provide people with the joy of running and what lies beyond it.
Glad to have run, but not a spectacle
Superbly organised for over 36,000 runners. Very glad to have entered and run. About 10 degrees on the day, which helped. Great fellow runners and watching crowd. Lots of lops … MORE
Superbly organised for over 36,000 runners. Very glad to have entered and run. About 10 degrees on the day, which helped. Great fellow runners and watching crowd. Lots of lops so constantly see those ahead and behind,
which I am not a fan of. Tokyo has some great sites but the route I primarily a concentre and neon jungle with not using some of the spectacles you could see. So a great run just not an iconic run.
Least Favourite of the Majors
Loved Japan, loved the city of Tokyo, loved the course volunteers. This race is well organized as everyone says. However....was not fond of not being able to carry my own … MORE
Loved Japan, loved the city of Tokyo, loved the course volunteers. This race is well organized as everyone says. However….was not fond of not being able to carry my own water. All of the other major allow it. It is quite a crowded course so going into the water stop tables becomes a high risk move.
Initially they were not going to allow for clothing to be dropped at the start line. Race organizers eventually relented at the last minute. Thank Goodness as it was chilly at the start and you do have to be there early to jump all the covid and security hoops.
They didn’t allow for runners with Tour groups to have finish line bag drop, which seemed goofy as they already had that organization in place, a few hundred more wasn’t going to be that difficult. The robe they provide helps but not enough.
The crowds were great but the course is a concrete jungle, it doesn’t have the boroughs or neighborhood feels of NYC, London, or Chicago.
Other than water and Pocari Sweat no other post race nutrition, not even a piece of fruit or cookie, NOTHING!! Again the problem of having no bag drop where runners could have stashed a snack.
The race wanted you carry everything. They mandated carrying cell phone, they wanted you to carry post race clothes, post race snack. I was envisioning needing wheel barrow for this race.
This is a race you really want to love but the hurdles put in by the Tokyo Marathon Foundation are a significant hinderance.
Good race with significant negatives
I have run 40 marathons including the 6 majors, so I have some data points for comparison. Overall, the Tokyo Marathon was a positive experience with some significant negatives too. … MORE
I have run 40 marathons including the 6 majors, so I have some data points for comparison. Overall, the Tokyo Marathon was a positive experience with some significant negatives too.
NEGATIVES: Getting these out of the way first: The health tracking cell phone app was a source of considerable frustration and anxiety. It crashed on me three times, giving me the white screen of death. One crash was when entering the expo – which caused me to spend 45 minutes at the help desk getting it reinstalled and functional. Other people I spoke to had similar issues, though most did not. Based on a very limited sample size, I’d estimate the failure rate to be about 5%. Fortunately, even though the app crashed the morning of the race, it sprang back to life at the race entrance, avoiding my worst case scenario of being denied the opportunity to run. However, since I got to the starting area about 7:15 to give plenty of time to resolve app issues, I spent 2 hours in the cold. Hopefully, for all involved, the app will not be required next year.
The expo was a major disappointment (for reference I arrived about 11:00 Thursday). After spending 45 minutes at the help disk fighting with the app, I spent about an hour in line to get the bib. Since all international runners were assigned to lanes 15-21, the lines were long and slow. Lanes 1 to 14 were virtually empty – very annoying.
The lines to enter the merchandise areas were so long I didn’t even attempt to enter. The line to pick up the race tee shirt was probably and hour long. Proof of purchase, using another cell phone app I assume, was required. Glad I didn’t order the shirt. The expo is configured in a manner that you must walk through the entire concourse (similar to an IKEA).
On race morning I got in line for a block of toilets (labeled as “western style”) an hour before the corrals closed. I eventually made it with about 5 minutes to spare. These toilets were near the D and E corrals, so toilets elsewhere in the starting area may had shorter lines. They have toilet monitors that direct people to the next available toilet as they come open.
POSITIVES: The race itself was exceptionally well organized and run. Even though there was no sort of wave start, the wide streets (often 6 lanes, no less than 3) allowed enough room to move around slower runners without too much trouble. Within 1 or 2 km I had hit my stride and could maintain my pace without problems. There were no pot holes or tripping hazards anywhere on the course (median strips excepted). I appreciated the countdown to the finish, with I km markers starting 5 km from the finish line.
The course itself was nothing to write home about – several out-and-back sections through a dense city landscape. It was fun to see the elite runners go by on the opposite side. It was very sad to see some of the trailing runners getting swept up.
The water stops were well organized, and each had a small army of volunteers. Tables were in 5 sets, with the intent of having those with bib numbers ending in 1&2 stop at one set, 3&4 at the next, etc. I’m not sure how many adhered to this policy. There were separate sets of tables for water and Pocari Sweat. Not being allowed to carry water bottles or running packs made water stops a requirement. Pocari Sweat was a very good sports drink for me, as good or better than any others I’ve had. I had bought some in advance to try out before the race.
The finish was well organized with another army of volunteers to assist. It was a bit of a hike, but not too different from NYC. I got a bag with a water bottle and some Pocari Sweat to start with. Then farther down the line got some sports gel, and a tangerine. Then there was the clothing pickup area. Next came the thermal blankets, and finally the hooded terry cloth robes that are unique to Tokyo. At the end were a group of changing tents before the exit to the meet & greet area and bus access.
So in summary – a well organized race made possible by a huge army of friendly helpful volunteers. I would have enjoyed it more without the anxiety about the health tracking app, but that was largely due to my own attitude problem. Don’t set your heart on a thrilling expo experience, and plan on 3-4 hours just to take care of the basics. But if you can afford the expense, I recommend this race experience.
Great course but crowded
The course itself is nice and would lend itself to a PR but not if you are in the later corrals. The crowd never seemed to thin out. All of … MORE
The course itself is nice and would lend itself to a PR but not if you are in the later corrals. The crowd never seemed to thin out. All of the pre-race requirements resulted in lots of extra anxiety- in addition to cutoffs, app to track temps and wifi needed on race day to verify results and poor crowd management at Expo. As well as no liquids to carry allowed – couldn’t find any containers small enough. Made me wonder if they want to be a world major and have international runners. Maybe they aren’t quite ready post COVID, perhaps Abbott should reassess periodically.
Nervous and Anxious
Make sure to read in detail all the guidelines for the race. There were so many this year that it added stress. Give yourself enough time to get to your … MORE
Make sure to read in detail all the guidelines for the race. There were so many this year that it added stress. Give yourself enough time to get to your corral. We went through 4 checkpoints. Make sure to carry your own fuel. Be aware bathrooms could be located 3 blocks off the course…the one at mile 18 was far…lost about 5 minutes. Enjoy the people and the course. Check the course map out ahead of time to find landmarks. Also, there’s entertainment throughout the course, but it may be set back from the course. If you hear drums, music, etc…look for it so you don’t miss it. Be aware you’ll have several out and backs so you turn around in the road to go back. At one point, you’ll see the elites running towards you.
Challenging race endless concrete jungle
challenging race- not allowed to carry own water bottle/water, had to carry cellphone the whole race as app required to gain entry to start corrals, soulless course through endless concrete … MORE
challenging race- not allowed to carry own water bottle/water, had to carry cellphone the whole race as app required to gain entry to start corrals, soulless course through endless concrete jungle, almost no live music, poor atmosphere. Many boring out and backs.
Arigato gozaimasu, Tokyo!
As someone else said in a review of 2023 race, the bib pickup was sub-optimal. Almost all foreign runners had to pickup their bibs from a limited number of booths, … MORE
As someone else said in a review of 2023 race, the bib pickup was sub-optimal. Almost all foreign runners had to pickup their bibs from a limited number of booths, while the majority of booths were empty. This lead to long waits on a concrete floor so my hips were killing me after 2+ hours. Another long queue to get into the Asics store at the expo too (I didn’t bother) as I just wanted to get out of there!
The race itself was excellent.
Easy to get to the start (I stayed in Ginza close to the finish line) via the free metro ticket which was valid for 24 hours (I used it the day before too to get maximum usage).
A little tricky to find my starting corral as I had missed a sign held by a volunteer but I asked one of many volunteers who pointed me in the right direction.
Long queues for the bathrooms too in the starting area so I opted to use one on course to avoid the stress of missing the gun.
The course is extremely flat with barely any up/down except for a downhill around kilometer 4 (I think).
Lots of our & back legs on the course are not my favourite feature but probably a necessary evil of course management and limiting the number of roads closed in a very busy city.
My fifth world major, a BQ for me and definitely an experience not to be missed!
Fabulous Tokyo Marathon 2023
This turned out to be my favorite race so far. We had to jump through so many hoops to participate in this race...Health Apps to record our temperature for several … MORE
This turned out to be my favorite race so far. We had to jump through so many hoops to participate in this race…Health Apps to record our temperature for several days, 2 x Covid Test, a final temperature at the entrance to your corral. I pass everything so I was allowed to run!
The course has 4 out and backs which became boring. However they had nice cultural on course entertainment.
I am a back of the pack runner so the strict cut off times were a concern. I ran the 1st half faster than usual to build a cushion. This lead to a PR!
There is no real food on the course except for a pouch of “Apple Jelly” which I didn’t eat. I packed all my on course food…thank goodness I didn’t drop anything.
At the finish line we were given: beautiful robe, 1 bottle water, 1 bottle of sports drink Pocari Sweet, and one small pouch of “Body Conditioning” (I didn’t eat). No banana! I wish I would have paid for the bag drop so that I could have packed some post race food. I was so hungry after the race.
All in All this was an amazing race!
I definitely recommend this race because the Japanese people are welcoming and friendly. Tokyo is also a very safe and easy to navigate city.
Unique year to run this race
I believe that this year's race (2023) will be unlike previous and future occurrences of this event. So please keep that in mind with my recap below. Japan in general … MORE
I believe that this year’s race (2023) will be unlike previous and future occurrences of this event. So please keep that in mind with my recap below. Japan in general and the race specifically had many protocols in place due to COVID.
Traveling to and within Japan: Additional pre-arrival step required to show proof of vaccination. Masking indoors and outdoors remains nearly universal throughout Tokyo.
Race COVID related protocols (this year):
-Runners had to download a health app and register daily temperature starting 10 days prior to race day
-At the expo the “goody” bag included some flyers, a mask, and 2 COVID tests. [Race shirts were optional and needed to be purchased.]
-The COVID tests needed to be taken prior to race day and recorded in the app
-On race day, runners were SUPPOSED to use hand sanitizer (provided on the course) prior to grabbing anything from the aid station. Compliance looked low to me.
-On race day, runners were SUPPOSED to go to the aid table corresponding to the final number on their bib. Again, compliance looked low to me on this. And, as the race went on, those first tables were all out of liquids so everyone was forced to later tables anyway
-On race day, masks were required in the start area through the crossing of the start line. And masks were required after crossing the finish line.
-I traveled with a tour group (Marathon Tours – which I use for most of my international races and would recommend). I believe that international tour groups were recommended to go to the expo the first day (Thursday). I had one of the worst expo experiences of my 125+ marathons/half marathons. There were 21 stations for bib pickup. Stations 1 through 16 had volunteers but no runners waiting. Stations 17 through 21 had volunteers but a ton of runners waiting. My line took 1 hour to get through. From what I heard, over the next couple of days, runners’ expo experiences greatly varied by the time they arrived–some sailed through quickly, some encountered long lines.
-Next I waited 3 hours to get into the official store. After about 2 hours, I thought I was close when the line suddenly went outside. By then I felt I had invested so much time, I couldn’t leave! [But that was my choice.] Even though it was the first day, many of the shirts were already sold out. Oddly, there were no official jackets or race hats this year. That was disappointing. After waiting the 3 hours I did buy a shirt–even though I bought the biggest size, it is aspirational. I hope I can fit into it one day! 😂
-It was unclear to me (and others) that there was another whole level of the expo (downstairs). I didn’t spend much time going through that area as I was wiped out by then.
-After my experience at the Expo I was scared about race morning. It wasn’t too bad. Yes, there were lines to get into the start gates and then start corrals–runners had to show their health app, get their temperature taken, and go through security–but it was (relatively) efficient.
-Port-o-potties: Be aware that at the start and throughout the race there was a mix of “western” and “Japanese” style toilets. On the course I thought that they did an excellent job to highlighting what style each stop was and how far it was to the next stop.
-I was in the last corral (L), so I was nervous about how long it was going to take to get across the start line. It took exactly 30 minutes from after the gun went off. Because the Tokyo Marathon has 8 strict cutoff points, based on gun time, I had to do what you are not supposed to do–go out too fast and pull back later. I knew this going in and I believe that the race organization is quite clear about these requirements. I know some people in our tour group got pulled, I don’t know how many overall were cutoff.
-I mentioned a bit about the aid stations above, but I will also point out that there were a lot of them, which I appreciated.
-Race course was relatively flat, city streets the whole time.
-Amazing sites to see as you run through the city.
-I had heard that there are normally big crowds–but that wasn’t my experience. I found that there weren’t a lot of spectators this year. [This might be just an off year due to the COVID protocols.]
-The volunteers were great! High spirited.
-After the finish line, runners picked up a bag with water but no food. There was some sort of squeeze thing that was supposed to be food-like, but I didn’t try it.
-International runners (or at least those of us with tour companies) had a bus back to the start, which was a great thing to have.
-I stayed at the Tokyo Hilton, which was great. Nice hotel, at a good location. Very close to the start area.
-The Saturday Friendship Run only had a physical finish line (no start line–because of COVID protocols). There were only a small number of bibs available and was sold out by the time I tried to sign up.
-The food in Tokyo was great!
-The people were all extremely nice.
-Everything (except the expo 😂) is extremely efficient. After those 8 cutoff times, things are broken down quickly. By the time the bus get us back to the start, you couldn’t even tell there had been a race there that morning.
Due to no race in 2020 and limited runners in 2021 and 2022, this year had a lot of runners looking to get their Abbott World Major Sixth Star. According to Abbott, “The 2023 Tokyo Marathon set a new Guinness World Records title for the most people to earn a Six Star medal at a single marathon. 3,033 runners earned their Six Star Medal, smashing the previous record set in Tokyo in 2019 of 732.” It was inspiring to see and I congratulate all the Six Star finishers (I have one more star – Boston – to go!).
At the end of the day, I’m super excited that I completed this race. It was not only my 5th World Major Star, it was also my 7th continent. I’m glad I did the race…there’s just that small part of me that would have liked to experience the Tokyo Marathon that past participants experienced. Their experience seemed to have been just a little bit better.
Good race, arrive early
I ran in 2023 which required installing and using a health app daily for 10 days. The expo had a limited amount of official Asics race apparel. I chose not … MORE
I ran in 2023 which required installing and using a health app daily for 10 days. The expo had a limited amount of official Asics race apparel. I chose not to wait in line for two hours to get into the booth to see it. They sold out of all shirts before the end of the first day of the expo. Asics or the race decided not to produce an official race jacket in 2023.
Runners received a bib and shoe timing chip at the expo (along with two covid test kits in 2023). After the race, runners received a medal, heat sheet, sweatshirt like material poncho, and a recovery bag that had two drinks and some sort of food item in a squeeze pouch. Every runner did not automatically get a race shirt. Those had to be reserved and purchased (with limited availability).
The race did not allow any handheld bottles or hydration vest bladders. I ordered Pocari Sweat online in advance of race day to practice using it. There were plenty of well manned fluid stations along the race. There are also plenty of porta potties along the route. I did not need these but be aware that some of several (200+) meters off the course and can have wait times of 10+ minutes.
I was assigned corral G and I think it took me about 15 minutes to cross the start line. This gap is important if you’re a slower runner because the course has multiple cut off spots that are based on gun time. I was fine but someone who is in corral L will need to be mindful to not waste time on the course.
The course is all city streets. Their streets are very well maintained. There was not even one pothole along the entire course. There are a lot of out and backs so you will be running on one side of the road while seeing other runners on the other side. The scenery is a mix of big city buildings with some iconic landmarks thrown in. There is a lot of crowd support but don’t expect to have spectators yell your name out loud. There is a variety of course entertainment too.
The medal and poncho are definitely worth keeping. The only thing I wish was different was not having any substantial food item in my bag. I noticed in the finish area that they might have had oranges earlier in the day. They were all gone by the time I finished.
This race is a WMM sleeper, folks.
When I first decided to pursue the Six Star medal, I had already done Boston twice and was just about to run the 2016 New York Marathon for the first … MORE
When I first decided to pursue the Six Star medal, I had already done Boston twice and was just about to run the 2016 New York Marathon for the first time. It had always been my understanding that Tokyo and Chicago were the weakest majors of the six and Boston and NYC were the crème de la crème of all races. I remember going into my first Chicago with tempered expectations and came out thinking it was awesome – so I went into Tokyo taking the opinions of other runners with a grain of salt.
First of all, the city is great and very beautiful. Not a lot of English is spoken outside of the hotel concierge, so there is a little bit of a barrier there. The sushi and ramen is (needless to say) unbelievable, and so is the shopping. I stayed in Shinjuku, so the trek to the start line was easy. The restroom lines at the start of the race are otherworldly long, and I heard you definitely don’t want to use the restrooms while racing because they have lines, are a couple of blocks off the course and are primitive. Since I didn’t need them while I was racing, this was a non-issue. The weather was lousy, but that is about all I can complain about. The race was well-organized, the street surfaces are as nice as you will ever run on, the water stations were clean and orderly and the crowds were interesting and enthusiastic. The finish is kinda nondescript, but the support of the volunteers was really appreciated. Reflecting back on this race, it was my very favorite until I ran London a couple of months later.
In short, don’t let some know-it-all ruin this race for you before you ever run it. I thought it was awesome.
Great course. Start line is messy.
Loved the city scenery on the course, although I do I wish it was on all new roads the entire time instead of an out-and-back after the 10k mark. Start … MORE
Loved the city scenery on the course, although I do I wish it was on all new roads the entire time instead of an out-and-back after the 10k mark.
Start line is very messy and it was hard to even get a spot in the corral, so maybe some additional waves would be better.
Tokyo - Fast Race with Smiling Faces
I’d highly recommend this fast race through an ultra clean & friendly city! As a slower, interval runner that started way back in a slower pace group, I was constantly … MORE
I’d highly recommend this fast race through an ultra clean & friendly city! As a slower, interval runner that started way back in a slower pace group, I was constantly working to beat the aggressive and oddly placed cut-offs throughout the race, although I was impressed they had count down clock at each cut-off to show how close you are to the cut-off time, so no math was required! Hooray! Don’t worry – all of the cut offs are clearly outlined in the handbook. I started with a bit of a delay not reaching the starting line until 20 min into the race due to the large number of runners, but I made it! Overall, this race is flat, fast and has excellent support on the course! It was great to have a few areas of “out and back” where you could see the top runners at the front of the race for a shot of inspiration! What impressed me the most about the race was the enthusiasm of the race volunteers, even for the back of the pack runners like me. Even though it rained the ENTIRE race, they never lost their spirit to cheer for every runner! Several Japanese groups danced and played music along the route giving lots of entertainment. Was great to see early blooming cherry blossoms amid the route! I didn’t try the electrolyte they offered in the race, called “Sweat” but there were plenty of aid stations. Finish line was not in sight until the last 100m so was hard to stay motivated at end but I did truly appreciated how they had signs to “count down” the distance towards the end of the race to help keep you focused. After having an incredible lift seeing my amazing friends for the 1st time close to the finish line, and then crossing that line, achieving my goal of running on all 7 continents, I was on a high and then quickly & harshly brought back to reality to then have to walk a loooonnngggg way (almost a mile) on a cold, windy path with lots of uncertain turns that kept me questioning if I should really be following the runners in front of me, all to get back to the bus depot to catch a shuttle that dropped me off fairly close to my hotel. I wasn’t exactly prepared for that part, but a hot shower soon after cured all! I did find many friendly fellow runners in the race as well, as you’ll often find in the back of pack, so it wasn’t lonely running on my own at all. I’m amazed at how such a huge city could keep their streets so clean & truly bring the most enthusiastic people out to work the event and cheer for people they didn’t even know, but Tokyo exceeded my expectations of a global marathon in a major city! Arigato Tokyo!
A Godzilla-size celebration
BOTTOM LINE: Tokyo is big, it’s bold, it’s bonkers. It’s eclectic, electric, hypnotic, frenetic. And it’s a heck of a place to run a marathon. As the most populated metropolitan … MORE
BOTTOM LINE: Tokyo is big, it’s bold, it’s bonkers. It’s eclectic, electric, hypnotic, frenetic. And it’s a heck of a place to run a marathon. As the most populated metropolitan area in the world, Tokyo feels like New York City — on steroids. Coming from Los Angeles, I felt strangely at ease with Tokyo’s vast urban sprawl, which others may find unsettling (though if you’re only in town for the marathon, you may not experience it). And speaking of unsettling, the city is remarkably clean — never would I have expected to find myself in an urban setting of 13+ million residents where trash bins are both unavailable and unnecessary.
If you’re an American planning to run the Tokyo Marathon, odds are you’re doing so in your quest to run all six World Marathon Majors (Tokyo, Boston, London, Chicago, Berlin, NYC) and earn the coveted Six Star Finisher Medal. Either that or you love banging your head against the wall, because Tokyo (along with London) is the most difficult marathon in the world to get into; last year alone, the race received 330,271 applications for fewer than 37,500 slots.
With that in mind, if you’re determined to run Tokyo then your best bet is either to run for one of the race’s approved charities or to travel, as we did, with a tour operator like Marathon Tours — though be aware that given the high demand, Marathon Tours conducts its own mini-lottery to distribute its available Tokyo and London entries. And though you will pay a premium through Marathon Tours (this is their business, after all), it’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker for runners with Six Star fever on the brain.
Plus, the company hosts a Friday city tour and pre-race pasta buffet, as well as a terrific post-race party replete with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, the latter held in the swanky 39th floor ballroom of the Park Hyatt, the hotel where the movie “Lost in Translation” was filmed. (Apparently the Park Hyatt was also destroyed by a UFO in the movie “Godzilla 2000,” but hey you can’t win ‘em all.) As part of the post-race festivities, two Seven Continents Club finishers (including our friend and fellow Antarctica adventurer Louann) as well as over 100 Six Star Finishers were recognized. It was a unique opportunity to meet fellow traveling runners, and the perfect ending to an amazing day.
As for the race itself, Tokyo is quite possibly the most high-energy marathon you’ll ever run (I can’t speak for London yet, though apparently it holds its own). It’s a sporting event on a global scale, hosted by folks who know how to throw a party. Even in the cold and rain, the streets of Tokyo were lined with spectators and supporters holding signs and cheering loudly. If you’re the type of runner who’s motivated by community support, Tokyo will inspire you from start to finish. And being able to see fellow runners coming from the opposite direction on the out-and-backs was a nice distraction, as I scanned the soggy crowd for familiar faces. One word of warning: the combination of soaring skyscrapers and frequent turns may cause your GPS to betray you at times (mine claimed a final distance of 27.3 miles, along with a 6:26 mile 19 and 6:39 mile 20 that I’m confident I didn’t run).
Like the other World Marathon Majors, Tokyo is decidedly unique in the way it carries and presents itself. It’s the very definition of a well-oiled machine, professional and buttoned-up without sacrificing its luster and charm. After the race we were greeted back at the Tokyo International Forum by smiling volunteers holding signs that read “Congratulations! Tokyo loves you.” And the feeling was mutual.
PRODUCTION: Tokyo Marathon 2019 production can best be described in terms of pre- and post-finish. From the start line alongside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to the finish line on the grounds of the Imperial Palace, race day production didn’t miss a step or skip a beat. Similar to Chicago but unlike Boston and New York City, the start corrals were easily accessible and within walking distance of the host hotels. And volunteers posted every 50 yards or so along the course held trash bags to ensure that every scrap of trash found its happy home.
To be able to organize and mobilize 38,000 runners (including 500 10K runners) from around the world through the streets of a densely packed city like Tokyo without incident is an extraordinary accomplishment, one for which the organizers deserve huge props.
The only downside to race day (aside from the challenge of finding Katie amid throngs of raincoat-clad Asian people) was the long walk from the finish line to the Tokyo International Forum building, where friends and family waited for finishers. Fortunately I was wearing gloves and wrapped in a heat sheet; nonetheless the 30-minute walk in the cold drizzle was a bizarre end to such an impeccably organized event. But in the words of every pro athlete who’s ever been interviewed, it is what it is — and honestly I was too busy basking in my post-race high to focus on much of anything else, which made the lengthy stroll feel more like a slow victory lap.
As far as nutrition goes, with the weather virtually eliminating my thirst I didn’t take advantage of the plentiful aid stations, so I couldn’t tell you what Pocari Sweat (the on-course electrolyte drink of choice) tastes like — no reason to try something new on race day if I didn’t need it. And understandably given the sheer size of the race, post-race food was limited to a bag of munchies, the best of which was an odd custard-like peanut-butter sandwich which most runners seemed to agree hit the spot. That, and I always bring my own supply of Tailwind Rebuild for after the race.
The pre-race expo was unlike any I’ve experienced in the US or abroad. Strolling the expo was like stepping into a game show/video game, with high-pitched voices, alarms, bells and whistles assailing the ears from all directions. If you’re generally not a fan of busy expos or high volume, you may not appreciate the Tokyo expo; admittedly, though, I found it oddly fascinating and difficult to leave. Luckily, few of the booths were of real relevance to me (in part because, well, language barriers), though we did visit our friends from INKnBURN whose headquarters is located near us in SoCal. Due to ongoing construction as the city prepares for the 2020 Summer Olympics, this year’s expo was held in a new outdoor venue, a tent city set up at the Odaiba-Aomi Event Area, across the Rainbow Bridge and about an hour subway ride from the marathon start line in Shinjuku City. Whether the expo will return to this same venue in 2020 is unclear.
One note of warning: I’m not much of an expo shopper myself, but I heard several folks say the official marathon jacket sold out quickly, so if that’s your angle you’ll want to hit the expo on Thursday to beat the crowds.
Not surprisingly, Tokyo’s race photos were expensive — in fact, the most expensive of any of my 40 marathons to date. Even so, $39 per picture or $195 USD (21,600 yen) for the entire set felt like highway robbery. So if you have your heart set on buying professional photos of your Tokyo Marathon experience, be sure to factor that cost into your budget.
SWAG: Much like the other World Marathon Majors, Tokyo swag for me was all about the finisher medal, which is colorful and distinctive. On the other hand, I’ve yet to remove the short-sleeve white race tee from its plastic wrapper, since having seen it on others I know I’m unlikely to wear it. Cooler than the tee, though, is the full-size towel emblazoned with the race design and logo that we received at the finish line and which will come in handy.
In the end, completing the Tokyo Marathon is not only an awesome experience and a humbling achievement; it’s also one step closer to the ultimate prize of the Abbott Six Star Finisher medal. Five down, London to go!
For more about Tokyo 2019 (and there are a lot more words where these came from); check out my race report at https://blisterscrampsheaves.com/2019/06/23/tokyo-marathon-race-report/
Crowded but easy to navigate
Large crowds, duh. Semi-elite wave is the way to go! Expo was underwhelming - outside and not many sizes. Marathon logo store was nice for souveniers and trinkets. Transport to … MORE
Large crowds, duh. Semi-elite wave is the way to go! Expo was underwhelming – outside and not many sizes. Marathon logo store was nice for souveniers and trinkets. Transport to race start was ok. Plenty of porta-potties. Transport after race was difficult as many of the streets were closed and not many traffic cops understood anything. Spectators were often facing away from the street to watch the entertainment instead of runners.
First time in Tokyo - Awesome race
. So after an exciting few days in Tokyo which was filled with sightseeing and great food ( will definitely write a post about these later on ), on the … MORE
So after an exciting few days in Tokyo which was filled with sightseeing and great food ( will definitely write a post about these later on ), on the Thursday we went to the Expo to pick up my race number.
This year the expo was in a different location and it was under many tents. It really didn’t bother me, but read on Facebook that loads of people didn’t like it at all. We got there just after 11am and I was out of the bib pick up tent by 11.15am. So really didnt’ take long. Because I was a charity runner I had to go to a specific table. There they taken a photo of me and also got a wristband with a barcode. So with all these security measures they really did try to prevent cheaters. Because they have your photo if anyone would have run with someone’s number they can easily be identified.
After picking up my race number we went to the next tent where I was given my pink Asics charity top and a 500 yen McDonald’s voucher. It turned out McDonald’s was one of the race’s main sponsor. In the next tent we were able to purchase all the official merchandise. Couldn’t say no to the cutest teddy bear.
Then we went to a massive exhibition area. Not people spoke English, but at the end we ended up 4 bags full of freebies. Who wouldn’t want a few slices of walnut bread or even a Zero calorie alcohol free beer?
As I said earlier loads of people didn’t have a great expo experience, but I did have fun. It was different, but I do believe it was well organised.
Sunday, wow, can’t believe how fast the last 7 days gone by. On Saturday I tried to go to bed early, I think at the end I managed to sleep around 7hours.
Few of us stayed in the same hotel, so I met with Shelly and Judy at the lobby at 7am, so we could go to the start together. Shinjuku station was only a few stops away from our station, so took us about 10mins to get there with the subway. Really not far at all. It turned out all of us were at a different starting block, which meant we had to use different entrance gates. I said goodbye to them and off I went to gate Number 3.
The security check felt like I am at an airport. Metal detectors, back check, no fluids more than 250ml etc. But I got through in a few mins. By this time it started to rain, which was unfortunate. The forecast said it will rain, but it said it should start around 11am. So 7.30am was a bit too early for it. Went to drop my bag off and tried to find my start coral. Because I’m a slow runner, my starting pen was L. Got there just before 8am, hardly any people around. Quick loo break and went to the start area. Loads of people warned me that the loo breaks can be bad, but as yu can see in the photo below, hardly anyone was there.
Then the wait begun. Tokyo had a really strict policy about the starting blocks. If someone wasn’t in their start pen by 8:45am, then they had to go to the back of the last coral. So I really didn’t want to risk starting from the back of the last coral.
The rain was contusions, and I started to feel really cold. Wearing a jumper and a space blanket didn’t really keep me warm. But it wasn’t too long till the race start so I was hoping I can wait in the cold, before I get hypothermia.
The race guns went off at 9.10am, but I didn’t cross the start line till 9.33am.
Tokyo has a really strict cut off, first of all the measure everything with gun time, so the overall cut off was 7hrs gun time. But they also have intermediate cut offs, and balloon pacers. If someone get to one of these check points after the cut off time, well then they get a DNF ( do not finish ) and have to get on a bus, and get carried back to the finish area.
So after running Chicago in 5:58 I knew that I can’t make any mistakes in Tokyo . I have to make all the cut offs, it’s such a long way to travel and then fail.
My training went really well, and I was really hoping for a 5:30 finish. But after loosing 10mins at km 14, because of an emergency loo break I knew that time is out of sight. But I tried to think about positive things, and concentrate the journey ahead of me. You can’t just give up at 14km because your time is out. You need to push through and do your best.
Even with the horrible rain, and cold temperature 6-8 Celsius, I had an awesome race.
Japanese people are so friendly, and incredibly helpful. Also they look after the cleanliness of the city really well. In every few hundred of metres they had volunteers with plastic bags and they were collecting the rubbish from runners. Also at the aid stations they had massive boxes for rubbish, so there wasn’t any rubbish on the streets. So after running London and New York and tripping over so many plastic bottles and paper cups, Tokyo was great.
The course had a few out-and-back parts, and it was so hard to see runners going at 41km, when you are only at 31. But running is a mental game. I know that my body can do the distance, but the human mind is so powerful. One bit of wobble and I do start to question my ability. But I tried to keep calm, and just think about ‘parkruns’, – Ohh it’s only 2 parkruns to go till the finish, I can do parkruns, Its easy, Anyone can do a parkrun -.
Not many people spoke English, but the main phrases were ” Go go go ” and “Fight”.
Also they had so many motivational signs out there in English. So even though they didn’t shout my name around the course, I didn’t feel lonely. Like in Berlin I had a horrible time, because I don’t speak German and they don’t speak english .
The only negative thing about the race was the Tracking app. We didn’t manage to download it from the UK app store, but was working perfectly fine on an Android. So not many people were able to track me. But a lovely friend of mine from Australia kept posting on my Facebook ,so others were able to see my progress.
At the end I crossed the finish line in 05:39:05, which is a massive 19 mins PB.
It sounds a lot, but if I tell you that 5 months ago in Chicago I thought I gave my best and couldn’t run any faster , than this 19 mins a massive achievement.
I’ve done most of my training sessions, and I do believe my tri club run sessions do help a lot as well. Before hand I never done anything like that. If I had to run faster I went a bit faster. But at the run session you really need to go faster. Also coming last in every session makes my mind stronger. It took me a really long time to realise that I’m racing against me. It doesn’t matter if others finishing their runs way ahead of me. I’m coming last but I’m still getting faster. As long as I keep pushing myself at those session I should improve.
Look at my splits below. Other than the 15km one ( lost 10 mins at a loo queue) I was running every 5k roughly in the same pace. I never really been consistent with my running pace before, but I clearly getting better.
Also note that as I said Tokyo does gun time, so my ‘official’ time is includes that 20mins wait around the start.
Other than finishing the race, this is what I’m most proud of. I started the race as the 6846th Women, but when I finished I was the 6403. That doesn’t sound a lot, but if you see that at 15km mark I was 8123, the finishing position is great. After loosing 10 mins, I managed to pick myself up and kept going.
All in all Tokyo was an awesome race. If you chasing the Majors, I do think you will love this race. If you not a Major chaser than I still do recommend it.
If anyone interested about the charity registration process, you can read my experience on my website .
29 days time I’ll be lacing my shoes up in Boston and will chase that Unicorn and collect my 6 star medal. I can’t wait. But more about that in my next post.
This was my first international marathon and it was a doozy! I had been to Tokyo once before so I knew I liked the city and the culture, and I … MORE
This was my first international marathon and it was a doozy! I had been to Tokyo once before so I knew I liked the city and the culture, and I was excited to run my first international marathon at this particular WMM. It did not disappoint. Though giant city races are not my favorites at all, I do enjoy them from time to time. I view these iconic marathons as bucket-list races, and am happy to do them once and be done. Chicago, NYC, Boston, and now Tokyo, have all been fantastic for their own reasons.
It is a long trip to Japan but well worth it. Tokyo Marathon is probably the most well-thought-out and well-organized race I’ve ever done, and considering the size of the city and the logistics involved, it’s impressive they pull it off so well. We stayed closer to the finish area near the Imperial Palace (a quick 5 minute train ride from Tokyo Station for us to get back to the hotel (Prince Gallery Hotel, it’s luxurious but if you’re an SPG member and can use points, it’s soooo worth it). The subway and train system is superb and we purchased PASMO cards at the Narita Airport so taking the train everywhere was a breeze. We took the train to the expo on opening day (Thursday) and I was glad we did. There was already a line waiting to get in but everything moved quickly once they opened the doors. There’s a lot of security associated with the race; as a foreigner, bring your passport to get your race number, then you get a wristband that gets scanned race morning and they take a photo of you with your number. You get your shirt and then follow the yellow path through the enormous expo. There was a ton of stuff to see and lots of swag. The assortment of official race shirts was astounding; I bought two nice marathon shirts and a pair of gloves, plus the race teddy bear and some bib magnets. I did hear that the expo on Saturday was insane, so if you can go on the first day or even the second, do!
Amongst all of your stuff from the expo will be a map with very useful start and finish area information including what gate you have to enter through. You also get a 24 hour metro pass. I was a “white bib” which showed I had elected not to check a bag and would get the cool Tokyo Marathon poncho upon finishing. This was the first year for the poncho, so not sure if they’ll keep doing that or not. Jumping ahead, it was a very cold after finishing the race – walking through the chute toward the exit I received a nice navy blue fleece zip up jacket and then the race poncho on top of that, which helped enormously!! You also get a finisher towel and a few goodies to eat and drink. I absolutely am glad I didn’t check a bag.
Jumping back to the race, it’s you and 35,000 of your closest friends. Getting to Shinjuku from where we stayed was a cinch. Everyone else seems to like to stay in that district but I am happy with our choice to stay closer to the finish; it’s quieter and not as crowded and busy as Shinjuku plus it’s less than ten minutes by train. Once at Shinjuku station, we just followed the crowd out of the station to my numbered gate. They had volunteers with signs pointing you to the right area. Security to get in (especially without any baggage) was quick, not sure about later as I got there around 7:15am. They are strict on what you can bring with you (i.e. liquids) so check the handbook to make sure whatever you bring is allowed. I used the facilities then went to my corral (D…corrals go from A to L and are easy to find and enter). The race started right on time at 9:10am, I crossed the line maybe 3 minutes or so after the gun.
It’s a big city race and the crowds are fantastic pretty much the whole way. There are several out and backs and never really any “quiet” areas. I saw the elite men run by on one out and back which was very cool. While it never thins out too much, I didn’t find the race to be too overly bunched though I probably weaved and darted enough times that I added another .3 miles to my distance. Water and Pocari Sweat (the electrolyte drink offered) were fairly frequent though only on one side of the course so keep your eyes peeled. I loved that sports drink but did order some from Amazon before leaving for Japan to make sure it didn’t cause any stomach issues. It’s tasty! This race is amazingly clean too; volunteers were everywhere and cleaned up any cups or other garbage that missed the trash bins so you never felt like you were slipping around on wet cups or Gu packets.
The course itself is fine. The roads are great, no potholes or obstacles. It’s a city course so not a lot in terms of scenery though the cityscapes are kind of cool and there are some iconic sights here and there. The crowds make up for any lack of actual scenery. Lots of costumes and other on-course entertainment.
The finish area was a little anti-climactic but it’s also a new course and a new finish area, so maybe they’ll improve that for next year. You walk a pretty good distance from the finish to the medals and ponchos, and even further for any baggage you might have checked. Again, it was frigid so I was happy to get that poncho!! The medal is very pretty and almost elegant in a way. It’s not huge, but the ribbon is beautiful and its simple design is very Japanese. Tokyo Station is right there so my husband and I were able to meet up at our train and take the quick ride back towards our hotel, after making a stop for ramen at our favorite ramen house!!
I highly recommend Tokyo Marathon for anyone looking for a cool marathon, and international experience, or a tourist/marathon destination. Obviously it’s one of the Majors already so if you’re chasing those, it’s already a must-do, but I really loved it and feel blessed to have gotten in through the lottery on my first try. Good luck to any and all who run it next year!
High-tech, Fast and Flat...
Extremely well-organized race event. Huge Expo (easy to get lost in it). Security is tight at the start. ***Long walk from finish line to post-race area/family reunion site*** Plenty of … MORE
Extremely well-organized race event. Huge Expo (easy to get lost in it). Security is tight at the start. ***Long walk from finish line to post-race area/family reunion site*** Plenty of water/aid stations along course. Race winds past many historic/scenic sites. Course is flat with lots of spectators.
Hello Tokyo! =^.^=
Running the Tokyo Marathon is like being launched into a pachinko game. 30,000 runners shoot up from beneath the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building into sunshine and a block-long confetti shower. … MORE
Running the Tokyo Marathon is like being launched into a pachinko game. 30,000 runners shoot up from beneath the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building into sunshine and a block-long confetti shower. Bouncing through tight streets, flashy sites and cheering spectators they land at the bottom of the city, the docks of Tokyo Bay. It’s World Major run through a true World City.
Application for 2017 run is open from August 1 – August 31, 2016.
A runner trying to smash a P.R. will face some challenges. The course is tight and the crowds of runners are dense. Some aspects of a Japanese style run will be unfamiliar to some runners. No one wants a surprise when focused on a challenging time goal; Such as, a sugary clear drink at the aid stations that can be mistaken for water. Cherry tomatoes are a fantastic aid station offering, but we all know that Mile 19 is not the time to experiment with a new running food. If you want deep details on race conditions, feel free to contact me.
See as much of Japan as your time and budget allows. It’s fascinating and people are very helpful to tourists. In Kyoto you can visit historic temples and shrines, and one week you run Tokyo you can cheer the runners in the smaller Kyoto Marathon. https://www.kyoto-marathon.com/en/
Shinjuku is the perfect home-base neighborhood for exploring Tokyo. You can walk to the marathon Starting Line from Shinjuku Station, the world’s busiest train station. You can get to anywhere in Tokyo or Japan from there, including Narita International Airport.
The marathon is a point-to-point course. You’ll run 26.2 miles from Shinjuku to the Tokyo Big Sight exposition center. The Expo is also at Tokyo Big Sight and you can get there from Shinjuku by train in about half-an-hour.
The Expo is large, crowded and exciting. Runner check-in and packet pick-up are like a shinkansen bullet train; smooth, fast and the model of Japanese polite efficiency. They make things very easy foreign runners and everywhere you look you will see someone holding a sign saying, “I speak English”, “Hablo Español”, you name it. The vendor area was not the greatest in my eyes. But I don’t really shop at Expos anyway.
I strongly recommend the International Friendship Run 5km, held the day before the marathon. Traveling with companions who are not running the marathon? If they can run a 5km, they can part of the fun. Runners from all over the world meet for a 5km with a finish-line located at the Expo.
This wacky event lets you meet other runners, participate in silly stretching exercises lead by adorable local school kids and meet marathon royalty (the Race Directors of all six World Majors are there, hanging out with runners). It sells out fast, is limited to 1,500 runners and costs ¥ 3000 ($29).
The starting area of the marathon is as crowded and hectic as any other big run. The main waiting area is below ground level, beneath what an American would call “City Hall”. Most of the port-a-johns are Western-Style toilets but some are traditional Asian-Style squat-toilets. Choose your line accordingly! Getting to correct coral can be crazy so leave plenty of time.
The course in entirely urban and very dense. The route is shaped like a four-pointed star and has two long out-and-backs sections. There are few changes in elevation. The first 5 km has a gradual descent along the Kanda River, which is really more of a concrete canal.
At approximately 7 – 10 km the course runs along the steep walls and moat of the Japanese Imperial Palace. It is a great sight and crowds line the palace walls. In fact the crowds through-out Tokyo are some of the very largest and most enthusiastic you will ever see. There were an estimated 1.5 million spectators in 2016.
There is a hair-pin turn at 15 km in Shinagara and runners head back toward the palace. You’ll be able to see other runners across the road street, both out and back. The route continues through the packed streets through the high society and shopping of Ginza at 20 km.
There is another hair-pin turn at Asakusa; about 27 km. Runners pass the historic Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine complex here. Normally quiet and reverent, it is a madness of drums, bells and cheering crowds.
At 35 km the run goes past Tsukiji-Hongan-ji, the world’s largest fish market. Hopefully you have already been there and had the freshest sushi you can imagine. Following Tsukiji the course heads into the docklands to the Finish Line at Big Sight.
For this westerner the Tokyo Marathon was a chance to visit Japan and to run a World Major. I loved the run and the wonderful people, sights and food of Japan. Arigato gozaimsau Tokyo!
least favorite of the majors
Currently running all 6 of the majors. Tokyo was major number 4 and marathon number 50. Always best to start at the beginning so here we go Expo - the … MORE
Currently running all 6 of the majors. Tokyo was major number 4 and marathon number 50. Always best to start at the beginning so here we go
Expo – the first thing we noticed about Tokyo was the crowds. There were people everywhere. Arrived in Tokyo Friday evening before the race at 5 pm at the main subway station used by 3 million people. It seemed all 3 million were there at that time. Went to the expo on Sat. Packet pickup was easy and well organized but after picking up your packet to leave you have to walk thru the vendor area. This is an assault on your senses. instead of just the normal people behind the tables in booths there are people in the aisles yelling and screaming at you in Japanese and trying to constantly hand you flyers of who knows what. Blaring music, flashing neon signs, and what seemed like hundreds of thousands of people add to the assault.
Tokyo – the people of Tokyo were so nice and polite. City is spotless and easy to get around on via subway and or taxi. Food was great. Great big city but it is a big city. Change the signs from Japanese to English and you could be in NY. After the race we left Tokyo and spent 4 days in Kyoto. Highly recommended. If you want to learn the history and see the major Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples be sure to do Kyoto
The race – this is where it went downhill for me.
The start – our hotel was right at the start. There were 7 lettered starting areas a thru g. To get to your assigned starting area you had to go thru one of 6 gates. So I was in gate 4 start F. Had to walk a mile or so to get to gate 4 to get into my starting area F which was a block from my hotel. So confused from the start but finally made it.
The weather – great day for running. Partly cloudy mid 40’s to mid 50’s.
The course – flat, boring and crowded. The first 6 miles are actually downhill then a couple of 4 mile out and backs before heading to the finish line. It was jammed packed with people the whole way. Never a break. So of course passing people constantly added distance to the race. Nothing to exciting to see on the course. All the majors are big city runs and I guess I am becoming jaded running by not being interested in running by the Tokyo bus station or the ministry of Health. Have run so many more interesting courses. The only really interesting part are the costumes. There were more costumes worn than any other race I have run. Anything you can think of. Don’t know what any of them had to do with running or marathoning. The finish was horrible boring – in the parking lot of a coliseum type building which they then funneled you thru. Took about an hour to get thru shuffling a step at a time with the thousands of other finishers.
Crowd support – unbelievable. Bigger and better than NY or Chicago. Of course everybody was yelling at you in Japanese but still fun.
So overall final comments. Japan was great. People and food were great. Marathon was boring but well run. Kyoto was great. So to do the six majors you have to do Tokyo but don’t expect any wow factor at all. Just another big city marathon.