The Lifelong Memorable First Marathon Experience : Tokyo Marathon 2019
From the excruciatingly cold and windy weather, to the heartwarming supports provided by the Japanese locals from the sideline.
As an avid runner who ran mostly to keep myself fit, in the back of my head, however, I have always this goal in mind about attempting to complete a full marathon. Maybe it's something about a sense of achievement/accomplishment that allures me about it, or that it is an opportunity for me to push myself further to my limits. Either way, I never did set out to achieve my goal, simply because I thought I am still not ready.
After much contemplation and a series of self-doubts, eventually I decided to take up the opportunity provided by ASICS and RunSociety to participate in the Tokyo Full Marathon 2019. And the journey begins…
Training For the Marathon
For the next three months until the day for the Tokyo Marathon, I began to tell myself to run, albeit more regularly, like at least 5km to once a week. But due to complacency and lack of urgency, I only manage to run roughly less than 2km per week. Needless to say, I am sorely unprepared for the Tokyo Marathon. The only redeeming counteract for my training had been the 30km Marina Run just a week prior to my flight to Tokyo.
In a blink of an eye, before I realise it, it's the day of my flight to Tokyo Japan already.
Tokyo Marathon Expo 2019 : Race Pack Collection
Tokyo Marathon Expo 2019 was held in the Odaiba-Aomi Event Area from Thursday, February 28 to Saturday, March 2, 2019. I went to collect the race pack on Friday at round 2pm with the rest of the media representatives.
The moment I reached the venue, I was immediately greeted and guided warmly by event ushers to the race packet collection point.
At the collection point, there were like up to 22 booths and mostly filled with people queuing and wandering around. It can get a little overwhelming at first glance.
In no time, however, the usher helped to print my necessary documents and directed me to my booth. What comes after the race pack booth is the participation jersey collection booth.
A couple of minutes later, I successfully received my race package and participant jersey. The staffs also gave me a waterproof and resistant proof wristband which I was required to wear until the race day itself. The entire process was very smooth and efficient!
From here on after, we moved on to explore the race expo, which was super huge, with tons of exciting things, snacks and ASICS merchandise for runners to look at and shop! There were also many interesting booths selling and promoting running related stuffs and events/marathons.
Check out the video walk-through of the expo below!
ASICS METARIDE Running Shoes:
One of the main attractions and features of Tokyo Marathon Expo 2019 is the launch of ASICS’ New MetaRide Running Shoe. Regarded and highly promoted as one of ASICS’ most important innovations in its 70-year history, the MetaRide was designed and innovated specifically to make long runs easier.
The shoes is primarily headlined by Three stages of technological innovations:
- First Stage (Superior Cushioning): A combination of FLYTEFOAM, FLYTEFOAM Propel, and rearfoot GEL technologies being placed in the midsole enhance responsiveness and reduce muscle fatigue during heel impact
- Second Stage (Optimal Sole Curvature): A new sole delivers optimal curvature, reducing ankle movement and giving a smooth, effortless running motion while providing traction GUIDESOLE technology, 3D GUIDANCE LINE technology, and ASICS grip sole
- Third Stage (Easier Leg Swing): The unique construction places the shoe’s center of mass toward the rearfoot, helping the runner swing through each stride quickly and easily GUIDESOLE technology, 3D GUIDANCE LINE technology, ASICS grip sole, METACLUTCH technology, KNIT UPPER and eyelet
At first glance, the shoes are very slick looking: They consist primarily of a colour combination of red and black, which to me adds an image of boldness and power. A slight hint of gold tint around its iconic logo image, which adds to it a classy touch of exclusivity. It is definitely scoring on the style points as well.
I got to try out and had a brief test run with the MetaRide shoes. The initial feeling I get is it is very bouncy and less energy consuming! The Guidesole technology really puts it to work! The cushioning also felt very comfortable too. The most important thing is, wearing the shoes made me feel it was helping me to run/propels forward slightly faster and further!
Overall, it just felt like I was more separated from the ground than usual. I insisted to test run a couple more short laps because it felt pretty surreal.
Which lies a strange issue/dilemma faced by runners, be it for a seasoned runner or a runner just starting out. It can take some time to get used to this pair of shoes as it felt significantly different than most other pairs of shoes out there. Secondly, the price tag can get a little hefty. But considering the technology that lies behind MetaRide, I would say it's worth the price tag. Last but not least, the comments are still reserved when it comes to MetaRide’s longevity through prolonged usage and its overall stability.
Overall speaking, it is a phenomenal pair of shoes.
A Brief 4km Training and ASICS Flagship Store Visit
The next day, I decided to have a short warm up run the day before the race to have a gauge of the climate and weather. The weather was great on that day.
In the afternoon we gathered at the ASICS Flagship Store to attend a soft launch of the MetaRide Shoes. Really cool looking store!
Full video of the store is down below.
I woke up in the morning at round 6.30 a.m. due to congested nose and sinus, and I only have sinus when the weather is overly cold. That's when I looked out the room’s window and saw that it's raining mildly and seemingly freezing wind.
In round 7.30 a.m., I started heading off to the front gate of the race village. From the front entrance, the ushers started guiding and leading us to our respective categories, lanes (Bag Lane and No Bag Lane) and Pens (ranging from A-M).
In total, there were around 13 pens from A-M for runners of different estimated finish time. I was in J pen. Bag deposit was facilitated according to different pens as well. As expected, there were so many people! I think the overall estimated number of people were around 36,000!
Despite the amount of people, the entire logistics were super smooth, within like 15 minutes or so, I am already waiting to start my race. Here comes the worst part of the race : The waiting.
The entire wait lasted for roughly 30 minutes as well, but it was pretty agonising because the weather was simply too cold and wet. It was beginning to drizzle heavily as well.
Everyone, including the locals, was shivering from top to down. During this wait, they had concert bands, choirs and cheerleaders performing through the PA system for us, likely because our pen were far behind the starting line.
The marathon started flagging off at 9.10 a.m., and I started crossing the starting line about 15 minutes later. As soon as I started, we runners were immediately greeted with loud cheers from the locals on the sideline. I thought these cars will only happen in the beginning and towards the finish line. But I can’t be more wrong.
Throughout the entire marathon, the cheers from the locals just didn’t stop. As the marathon stretches from the main city area at Tokyo Metropolitan Government, into more residential areas, locals came out from their home windows to cheer for us as well. All of their cars were very encouraging.
Furthermore, many locals also offered a wide variety of snacks and foods for the runners as well, such as mochi, grapes, chocolate, chips and warm miso soup, etc. There were even performances along the route, such as musical bands, cheerleading etc.
The distance markers were very clear and accurate as well, and there were so many hydration points as well, supplying both waters and Pocari Sweat. Each hydration point stretches a long way too. Some of the hydration points provided banana and muffins as well.
Portable toilets were frequent too, but the queue was way too long. I tried queuing for one of the toilets, but I gave up after waiting for about 10 minutes and saw that the queue line isn’t progressing.
Medical tents in red were present throughout the race as well in case anyone needs help along the way.
Reaching 21km half point mark, I was surprised to feel that I still have the a lot more energy than expected to finish the marathon. I was beginning to feel a certain level of runner’s high. I felt even more pumped and motivated to finish the second half of the marathon. I have never felt more ready.
Then, I incorrectly landed my foot on the ledge of the 21km half point mark, and I injured my left ankle slightly.
One of the locals notices me and asked if I was okay. I told him I was okay and I just need to rest my ankle for a while. The man encouraged me by saying “Ganbatte, fighto!”, patting on my back new times over. It didn’t take me long before I continued running. That instance, was very heartwarming.
Throughout the rest of the marathon, I am starting to feel a strain on my right calf muscle, possibly because of over reliance due to injury on my other leg. Wind resistance is getting stronger, and the weather is getting colder. I was seriously contemplating dropping out on the sideline. But there are so many people cheering, and I thought that it's kind of disappointing or embarrassing to drop out in front of so many cheerers. Funny enough, that is one motivation that kept me going.
Finally, at the final 1km stretch, suddenly there are signs and cheers everywhere telling runners that its the last 1km stretch left. That kept me continuing as well, even giving all my remaining strength left. That last 1km stretch is actually 1 straight stretch through many tall buildings, before turning towards the last 195m. I was wondering where in the world is the finishing arch.
And finally I crossed the finishing arch, possibly as one of the last few finishers.
But I was still proud, at least I completed it. What comes after is a long stretch of road filled with people putting medals on our necks, giving out space blankets, warm towels, finisher items, snacks and drinks etc.
In total it was about a 1km stretch of walk, extremely cold too. The rain instantly got heavier.
Finally, we were led to our baggage collection point and finally a large warm resting area with a four walls and a roof over. The resting area had foot massage areas as well as changing rooms.
When I finally sat down to rest, that's when I started properly looking at the medal I earned. It’s pretty small on hand, but gorgeous and classy looking. Its gold in colour with a crescent moon cut out. On the front of the medal it features the Tokyo Marathon 2019’s name and logo pattern, and on the back it features the entire 42.195km route’s icon with the finisher word and date.
It is possibly the most memorable marathon for me even in years to come. Aside from being the first full marathon, I ever ran, it is also a very painful and yet heartwarming experience. It really is eye opening to witness the hospitality and efficiency of the Japanese people.
Not to mention, the scenery throughout the marathon is pretty stunning too despite the weather. My overall Tokyo marathon 2019 experience makes me appreciate the Japanese culture even more now too. The Tokyo Marathon 2020 will be held on Sunday, 1 March. Now I can’t wait for the next marathon attempt!