The Sunny Side of Travel Blogging, Part 2 – Tokyo Marathon 2015

Traveling the world, and writing about it.

Sounds like a semi-charmed life doesn’t it?


Well, it is in a way, but it also isn’t without sweat and frustration, if you don’t put some planning into it.


And our latest trip to Japan for two weeks, really did take a lot of planning. The language barrier, the shear enormity of geography, navigating the multilayered transport system, juggling baggage up and down platforms, and catching the speedy, illusive Shinkansen, weaving through human traffic, were challenges we looked forward to taking on with great gusto.


I also had to do all that, yet save enough strength for my Marathon – running a 42KM course, in the second week of my travels.


The first week, we would visit, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and Mt. Fuji, ending up in Tokyo for the Tokyo Marathon on the 22nd of Feb 2014. And the second week would be spent exploring Tokyo.

Seeing as I had to travel and walk a lot and also run the marathon, I had to plan my gear properly. The temperature in Tokyo was averaging 5 – 9°C, so I really need to be prepared. The wind factor and the glare of the sun, all came into play, when deciding on my travel gear. I decided on compression pants and top, a light wind breaker, gloves, and for eyes, protection from the glare (UVA, UVB) and dry wind, my Polaroids.


Though your eyes might not hurt immediately after sun exposure, but more often damage accumulates over the years, leading to sight problems. The ultraviolet rays from the sun – in particular UVB, the same spectrum of ultraviolet that causes the skin to burn – are most damaging to the eyes. Sunnies are a must for me, when on my travels. And not just any sunnies, but Polaroids.

Anyway, best thing about arriving early was that I got to acclimatize and check the weather, fine tune my running gear, with test runs, before the big day.


I had heard that Osaka was a runners paradise, and it turned out to be true. On the second day of arrival, after a hefty breakfast, and a short rest, I hit the area of Osaka Castle to run round the park.


Osaka Castle was built originally by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Japan’s revolutionary leader in the late 16th century who rose from peasantry to become one of the three unifiers of Japan and put an end to a long, bloody period of feudal warfare. Completed in 1597, the castle was the largest, most intimidating castle in Japan at the time, and acted as a catalyst for rapid growth of Osaka.


This area is also a runner’s paradise I tell you! The castle tower is surrounded by secondary citadels, gates, turrets, impressive stone walls and moats and a lovely running track that goes around it parameter. The entire Osaka Castle Park covers about two square kilometers with lots of green space, sport facilities, a multi-purpose arena (Osakajo Hall) and a shrine dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The Nishinomaru Garden, encompassing the former “western citadel”, is a lawn garden with 600 cherry trees, a tea house, the former Osaka Guest House and nice views of the castle tower from below. The area around the castle requires no admission fee.


We joined the many runners around Osaka Castle and the neighbouring park, for a run. I had no doubt in my mind that some of these runners would be heading to the Tokyo Marathon this weekend, just like us, because 36,000 participants with a huge contingency from home turf, is not something to scoff at. Not at all. Anyway the weather whilst blisteringly cold at 8°C was just gorgeous and sunny. I was surprised how intense the sun was – blindingly sunny with a strong glare, and also some wind factor while running.


Fortunately I had my lightweight running sunnies were ideal for this running conditions. It cut out the glare and protected my eyes from the numbing wind. I didn’t have to squint in the sun, which meant less wrinkles too. My one tip for any runners in winter in Japan would be – bring your Polaroids! So I did my taper run of 20K here, one week out from marathon day, with no problems whatsoever. In my mind, I was fine tuning my run and psyching myself up for the big day next week.


After that, it was a flurry of activity around Japan – our travels took us from Osaka, to Kyoto and Nagoya. In Kyoto, I managed to do a short 5KM run around the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Many runners can be spotted here too and I probably should have rested, but the place was just so spectacular, wouldn’t you have gone for a run as well? 🙂

Finally 3 days out from the Marathon, we arrived in Mt. Fuji.


With 3 days to go, to the marathon, I did a short warm up run of 4KM around lake. Again the conditions while super sunny, were frigidly cold too, at 2°C. But shortly after running, I was warmed up again and felt the energy surging through my limbs. I felt I was as prepared for Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, as I’d ever be. I was thankful for my Safilos because the cold, dry wind were so painful on the eyes, when running at a certain speed. The Polaroids shielded my eyes, and part of my face from the numbing wind. It also protected my eyes from the damaging UVA and UVB rays, reflected by the lake on an all round sunny day.


Finally we arrived in Tokyo, and it was the day of the run! I packed all my gear, just as I had planned the week before, prepared myself for my big day.


Walking to the designated gate, Gate 5 took a rather long time, but we met many fellow runners on the way.. some more outstanding than others! Got to love Japanese culture and costumes – the kits were just epic!

P2228526 these 3 geese, I mean guys, weren’t quacks at all.. they were rather cool.. 


36,000 runners headed for their gates from Shinjuku station – there were many signs along the way and clear instructions, to make sure the runners did not get lost..


Security was efficient and tight, to make sure there were no mishaps or calamities..


This event was massive to say the least.. just look at the sea of people at the gates waiting for flag off!




security again checking to make sure things were in order and that everyone was safe..


Then it was nearly time for the gun to go – 9am felt like forever.

Everybody stood to attention as the national anthem was sung.

And then…


.. We were off!


Some off to a flying start.. and some easing into the race.


I found my momentum, and ran a steady 6:30 pace. Not too slow, and not too fast.


I was running with the pack.. and it felt great!

Spotted ninja’s, the Tokyo Tower, Superheros,  Kawaii (cute) dolls and all sorts of bizarre, super cool costumes.. but boy, can the Japanese run!


The streets were incredibly clean – talk about Japanese efficiency.. hardly any litter on the roads 

The day of the marathon, it was not sunny, but I still kept my sunnies on, to shield my eyes from the wind. And luckily I did. The temperatures were still a frightful 8°C .. not warm at all. The wind was still enough to numb your face and dry your eyes out.


In the end, I ran my best at this race.


Runners called it, PB, or Personal Best.

Clocking 5 hrs or so, for previous full marathons, this one turned out to be a surprise. For this Tokyo Marathon, I clocked 4:54  for 42.9KM! It was definitely a personal best, of Sub 5, and one I am proud of.


What an amazing marathon .. the 22 Feb 2015 will forever be special to me. So honored to have been a part of history. I think most runners would agree with me, when I say, no people have more iron tenacity, and yet a bigger heart, than the Japanese.


RUN + SMILE = HAPPY! Local Japanese supporters who cheered with all their hearts for all runners, no matter which country, were the pulse and heartbeat of this event!


The God sent weather, the daunting, magnificent backdrop of Tokyo City, the Feverish prayer & anticipation of every single Runner, and finally the astounding Climax of a People who were behind the Runners, 100% of the way – I’ve never seen anything like it! The last 195 meters were epic – the sound of the drums, the flags going crazy.. it’s the like unified chant and pulse of the supporters lifted you off your feet, past the final few yards of your life. Thank you, Tokyo for making this the best marathon I have run to date.


 the atmosphere was charged with electricity .. the end was nigh.. 


They danced, they sang, they beat the drums and waved huge colorful flags…  egging each runner on in their own way.. 


You only had to follow the rhythm to the finish line… 




The last 195m.. like music to every runner’s ears! 





With a little bit of planning, the right training, the right gear, mindset and attitude, you will make it past that finish line, in record time. Trust me, it’s a given!


Awesome finish! 


A big tip for running in cold weather – you need your gloves, compression pants, windbreaker and Polaroids to shield you from the elements, and optimize your performance. These are travel essentials that I would not forsake no matter the circumstance!


Domo arigato Tokyo.. the race was incredible, the experience priceless.. see you again next year, if you will have me! 

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