Overall Rating
Overall Rating (11 Reviews)
4.5
(11 Ratings)(11 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
1.9
SCENERY
3.2
PRODUCTION
4.4
SWAG
3.7
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 … MORE
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Recent reviews

    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.

    DIFFICULTY
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    SCENERY
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    LHausner FIRST-TIMER '19

    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!

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    M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '19

    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/

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    ZaltyZnail FIRST-TIMER '19

    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.

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    rakoczigabi FIRST-TIMER '19

    . 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.

    Expo:

    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.

    Race day:

    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.

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    M_Sohaskey Mar 18, 2019 at 3:06pm

    Gabi — loved reading this review and your blog post! Thanks for helping me relive a fantastic day in Tokyo, and huge congrats to you... as memorable as Tokyo was,… MORE

    Gabi — loved reading this review and your blog post! Thanks for helping me relive a fantastic day in Tokyo, and huge congrats to you... as memorable as Tokyo was, I can't imagine what it must have been like to set a 19-MINUTE PB. 👏 Yes, as you said, it's amazing what the mind can do when the body is well trained. I hope you'll share your other World Marathon Majors experiences here on RaceRaves, and best of luck in Boston 🦄 — run well and enjoy the day, to be able to collect your Six Star Medal on Marathon Monday is a dream come true! LESS

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    RunnerMeg FIRST-TIMER '18

    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!

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    M_Sohaskey Feb 27, 2018 at 11:07pm

    Been looking forward to your review Meg and wow, definitely worth the (very short) wait! Though not particularly good for my FOMO. :) Congrats on notching WMM #4, this is… MORE

    Been looking forward to your review Meg and wow, definitely worth the (very short) wait! Though not particularly good for my FOMO. :) Congrats on notching WMM #4, this is a really excellent synopsis of all things Tokyo Marathon, and I plan on coming back to it early and often as we start to plan our own trip for (hopefully) next year. Right now my 2019 is focused on Tokyo, and after reading your review, next March can't come soon enough. I wished after the fact I'd opted for the poncho in NYC, and so I won't make the same mistake again in Tokyo, assuming they offer it again next year. And it's funny that while you and I both prefer low-key, small-town marathons, we'll both follow the same pattern of two WMMs in two months (I ran Berlin and NYC in 2014). I committed to Berlin and then ended up getting into NYC via their (now-defunct) "Three strikes and you're in" rule. But it was an awesome end to 2014, just as Tokyo and London will be an amazing start to 2018. And then there's the JFK 50 later in the year... registration opens Thursday! :) I love the announcement on the Tokyo Marathon website that "Tokyo Marathon 2018 has done without any trouble." To say the least! LESS

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    nkuehl FIRST-TIMER '15

    The vibe is great. Super positive. Made me feel like I could qualify for Boston. All the volunteers wanted to high-five me. There are tomatoes at the aid stations on … MORE

    The vibe is great. Super positive. Made me feel like I could qualify for Boston. All the volunteers wanted to high-five me. There are tomatoes at the aid stations on the course.

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    Jackiejo1979 FIRST-TIMER '16

    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.

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    JimChicago FIRST-TIMER '16

    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.
    http://www.marathon.tokyo/en/

    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. http://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!

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    jrohlede FIRST-TIMER '16

    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.

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    richdrogpa Nov 08, 2018 at 4:33pm

    Good review, informative and useful;) Ganbare!!!

    Good review, informative and useful;) Ganbare!!!

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    Donnald69 FIRST-TIMER '16

    From the start, you notice that the organization of the Tokyo marathon is awesome. The expo was large, covering 2 floors, but spread out enough that you weren't overwhelmed. Lots … MORE

    From the start, you notice that the organization of the Tokyo marathon is awesome. The expo was large, covering 2 floors, but spread out enough that you weren’t overwhelmed. Lots of souvenirs were available with the chopsticks, labeled “Tokyo Marathon 2016” quite popular. Because it is run in winter, there is a late start, 9:00, so getting up at 3 a.m. is not necessary.
    On race morning it was still pretty chilly. Though they break the runners into a number of “gates”, it still seemed very crowded and chaotic. Nonetheless, you knew where you were to go, and at what time. They had quite a few Porta potties, including a number of “Western style”, so if one needs to go poop, they can choose their style. And they were plentiful along the course, although at times you had to go a ways off course to get to them.
    The course was awesome. Obviously you ran the streets as you are in a city of several million. They traversed the city well taking the runners by a few beautiful sites. By train, it takes over an hour to get to the finish line so I believe the organizers gave the runners a great tour through Tokyo.
    As in many big city marathons, the finish line arrives, and then the long trek through the stadium begins. I believe it added 2 more miles to my run, but heck, I walked and I ate. The best peanut butter sandwiches ever!
    The crowds along the course we’re amazing. Every step of the way you had locals and visitors cheering you on. Although there was a plethora of water stops, the beautiful people of Tokyo were also handing out drinks, oranges, candy bars and a whole bunch more options. I would say the locals LOVE the marathon and are proud to display their beautiful city. As they should be.
    And finally the swag. The t-shirt was just okay. White (ugh) and a funny textured material. A finishers towel was given upon completion and then the medal. Simple, but gold and elegant. One of my favorite medals.
    The Tokyo marathon is a fantastic destination race.

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