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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Tokyo Marathon 2014

I got a bad memory. I can't remember the last time I did a full marathon and what was my best timing. I know it was about 5 years ago and my pb was about 4 hours 45 minutes. So I went into this marathon with full of trepidation. I think I trained pretty well for this. I think with good weather I may possibly hope to do a sub 4:30. But then the snow storm came and I got worried and the fears and doubts kicked in.

But the weather was amazingly great the morning of the race. It was probably around 7°C - 8°C. Friends who had done this race before warned me to keep warm especially while waiting for the flag off. So I heed their advices and worn a long tight, shorts, long sleeve top, another tee over it and a wind proof jacket. On top of that, I worn a beanie, gloves and took along a thermal blanket. Maybe because I was in Pen H, far behind the start line and there were so many people there that the body heat generated was so great, I didn't really feel the cold. Or it was the tension. In the end, the thermal blanket stayed in the pocket.
The crowd at Pen H
The race was flagged off at 9.10 am sharp after some speech. I could hear the speeches over the loud speakers but I couldn't see the flag off or even hear the horn. It took me almost 12 minutes plus to cross the start line! That was how far behind I was. The sidekick who had managed to secure a last minute bib was in Pen E far far ahead.

Despite the crowd, running was a breeze. There was full road closure throughout. Not like the race in Singapore where typically only 1 direction is close off and this will trickle down to 2 lanes and eventually park connectors. Over in Tokyo, the whole road in both direction was closed and there was plenty of space for the 32000 + runners. I started at what I thought was a good steady pace and was rather surprised when my watch showed my pace was 6:11 at the first km. The fastest I had done in my training was 6.30 pace and even then that was only for 15 km before slowing down. So I was in unknown territory and I keep telling myself to slow down. I was conservatively aiming for a 4 hours 45 minutes finish although if I feel good, I will try for 4:30. At 5 km, it was 31 minutes still too fast for my liking. I was fearful of the unknown. What if I choke after 30 km? But damn, the weather was great and I was perspiring under the tee and the jacket. The beanie had already come off and went into the jacket's pocket. I wanted to take off the jacket as well but it contained the blanket, the beanie, gels, camera and how was I going to carry it with all those stuff?

And I was having a great time. The crowd support was great. There were all sort of performers - traditional Japanese dance, drum performances, modern dances. The people lined the street from start to end giving out all sort of foods. A whole lot of workers from BMW was outside their showroom cheering away too! And the runners! Apart from the conventional running attire, there were many in all sort of costumes.  There was a guy in suit with a brief case, a couple in wedding garb, many fellas with weird head gears, people in all sort of costume including a Chinese Warrior, a robot, cartoon characters..... I took this photo of the Chinese Warrior before the race star. 
Wonder how he going to run 42 km in this outfit?
There was some sort of code requesting runners not to take photos during the run but I couldn't resist when I saw this character! Wow, running 42 km half naked and carrying a cross! 

I was doing great and quite happy. I saw the sidekick on the other side of the road somewhere along the  25 km mark whereas I was still at the 22 km distance. That was how far I was behind her. She looks good and running well and I knew she was going to get a PB. I was still feeling good after the 36 km which was also the longest distance I did for my training.  With another 6 km to go and about 35 minutes to go to hit 4:30, I was cautiously optimistic. But from here on I was on unknown territory. And of course there has to be a twist to it. The routes so far had been flat throughout but now the slopes start appearing. And right at the very first slope, I got a cramp - not on my calf but hamstring! It wasn't that bad but that shook me up a bit and I decided to walk it off.  But the momentum was gone. And I had to resort to a run/walk strategy to complete the last 6 km which took me 52 minutes. Sighed... so no 4:30.

The sidekick had already finished and was waiting for me at the finish line. She clocked a PB by a wide margin. Me - I did get a PB in the end, by a teeny weeny 2 seconds. Lol! 
Can you spot me in this photo? That's gun time by the way
But I had no regrets and no big disappointment. After all, this will probably be the only World Majors that I will ever have a chance to run in. And just being there for the experience would have been worth it.

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