What a journey it has been to get to Tokyo Marathon. What an even bigger journey it has been to get to become an Abbott World Marathon Majors six star finisher (but that can wait for another blog). If you have been following my journey you will know that I had a place at the Tokyo Marathon 2020. The aim was huge, and it took a lot to get ready. I was trying to turn up to Tokyo and run a Boston Qualifier time, with the aim being a sub 3 Marathon. This would have enabled me to qualify for Boston Marathon 2021 and pick up my six star medal. Well that didn’t happen. I was ready, I was in a good position to give it my all, but just a couple of weeks before the Tokyo Marathon they cancelled the event because of covid.
Fast forward to 2023, a lot has changed. It was a real struggle to get my place back, a long story but eventually I got a place in the WMMajors 6th star hopeful ballot. I qualified for Boston Marathon in 2021 so ran the Boston Marathon 2022, meaning that Tokyo Marathon 2023 is now my 6th star.
Quick visit to Tokyo
Flying to Tokyo on marathon weekend is expensive. Well it was expensive when I booked in 2020, and so many people lost so much money as a result. When I booked in 2023 it was eye wateringly expensive, costing me almost double what I paid in 2020. I am very grateful that I can afford (just about) to come on this trip, and feel so lucky to be here. Not only getting a place, which is really difficult, but also to be able to afford to get myself to Tokyo, when things are so tough for everyone, is a real privilege that I’m grateful for.
To be honest I had real mixed emotions until I got here. After waiting 3 years, not being in the shape I was, and spending so much, I just really wasn’t feeling great. I also came alone and for the shortest possible time. Partly to keep costs done, save leave and also because one day I will come back with my family when the kids are old enough to appreciate it and don’t have to worry about school. However, this changed when I got here. It is such a fantastic place, so busy and so much culture to take in. I know so many people out here, but spent a lot of time with Rich, Lee and James, who were great company and really made the trip for me.
The flight went really well. 14 hkurs is a long time (longer than usual as we have to fly around Russia). At the airport it was super quick to get out. Then it only took me 45 minutes to get from the airport to the expo. I set off at 09:55 UK time and landed 09:00 Tokyo time, so I just stayed up all day thinking that would sort my body clock out. It didn’t, and every night I only dozed and was awake by 02:00 every day.
The expo was not great to be honest. There was a long queue but it didnt take long to get in. The health screening created a second queue but once this was done the bib collection took ages. I got my 2020 medal, and then wanted to get some official gear. Most clothes were out of stock on day one, and they didnt have a visor or hat. The rest of the expo was realatively low key, i didn’t need anything anyway, so i dont stop for long.
We decided to go to Futakotamagawa Parkrun in the morning. I didn’t want to push too hard but ran the same sort of pace I usually would. It was a flat tarmac course so one that could really be good for a PB. In usual style outside the UK, we probably quadrupled the number of runners they usually have. It was good fun, and an 18th place finish for me.
We had a great day together. We went for a lovely breakfast and then I got some fantastic gifts for my family at the pokemon centre.
We then went out for a great pizza for carb loading before the race. Great food, great company, what more can you ask for.
Tokyo Marathon 2023
On the 5th March 2023 I finally ran Tokyo Marathon. As I have said, it was a long road to get here, and it was so difficult getting my place. Tokyo has become one of the hardest and most desired spots for people trying to achieve their 6th star, with it often being the last star (alongside Boston). It was going to be busy in 2020, but in 2022 there are another 3 years of runners all wanting the star, with over 3000 people expected to complete their six star journey.
I had such great plans of time, but the last few years have been a roller coaster and I arrived in Tokyo no where near PB shape, and certainly not ready for a Boston Qualifier. But the thing is, that was my plan when I was running Tokyo Marathon 2020 with an aim to get the impossible Boston Qualifier, and then enjoy Boston for my 6 star. But this is my 6th star, so my expectations and priorities have changed. There is no point putting pressure on myself for a sub 3 when I know I’m not ready, and no need in this race, this is the final step of the six star journey.
It was easy getting to the start by public transport. Despite all the communication and rules that had worried runners, it was stress free in the race village. They checked your health pass where we had been recording temperature and covid tests, but you just scan a QR code and it goes green, so thus was quick. Security you just walked through. I must say though I am a little disappointed about bag drop. It was not included so we had an email that a limited number could be purchased. I didn’t bother as it would only be worth it if I could put my travel bag in and I thought it might not be big enough, and with all the restrictions I didn’t want to risk it. When I got there people had huge bags filled to the brim and I could have definitely got all my stuff in. If it was included this would have been great. In all honesty though, it didn’t really make much difference so not the end of the world. When I arrived the toilet queue was not big, but my body clock was all out of sync and I couldn’t go. So I went back later to try (unsuccessfully) and the queue was crazy. The reason was there were only a few western style toilets and the majority you had to squat and with nothing to hold on to this was bit fun haha.
It was well organised at the start. Originally they said you had to take all items with you, but luckily they changed this rule. They put a few bins to collect clothes and clearly underestimated the amount that would be left behind. It was bloody cold at the start so everyone had layers. After spending a few days in Tokyo I can see why they had this rule. Their culture is very different to ours. I haven’t seen a single bin on the street anywhere, and there isn’t any litter either. People just take everything home with them.
It was a beautiful start, and my plan was to just enjoy the day and get it done. It was far too busy for the first half mile. I started far back in my wave and it was just so crowded. But once this eased off I was at about a 3:15 pace. I didn’t expect to hold this but thought I would just so how it went.
I saw lots of people on my run, so many people I knew and so many people collecting their 6th star. I didn’t let myself get too carried away, but I did get tired, and I eased off getting to half way on pace for a sub 3:20. After thus is just gradually started slowing and didn’t really feel like pushing any harder. I haven’t slept since I’ve been in Tokyo and I wanted to get to the end in a state that would allow me to enjoy the evening, so instead I let myself ease back, took it all in, and came in with a finish time of 3:49:51.
The course was rolling. Not as flat as Berlin, probably on par with Chicago. If you got it right it could definitely be a fast course. It was constantly busy and there were spectators everywhere, but it didn’t have the huge atmosphere of many of the other Majors. The finish line looked great, but the photographers were behind the finish, and everyone stopped immediately making it difficult to actually cross the line. It was then a long walk to get the medal, but some fantastic goodies, most noticeable the poncho towel.
It was then a big queue to get the six star medal, so many runners getting it. To put into context, before today there have only been 7000 finishers. Today brings it to 10000.
Absolutely loved the experience, and getting my six star medal, hate to think how much I’ve spent on it, but that will wait for my next blog. Tokyo is certainly so different to the other Majors, it brings real culture and it is well worth the experience. I can’t believe it is done, I’ve been working towards this since 2011, completing 119 marathons along the way to get to this number 6. It has been a real desire of mine to get to this point. I am proud that I have ran 23 Majors, of this I have paced 15 times, including London, Berlin, Chicago and New York. I am so lucky and greatful for these experiences. But now the 6 star journey is over. Now the question is, what next???
7 thoughts on “Tokyo Marathon 2023”
My first marathon and Major will be Chicago 2023! A 6 star is my ultimate goal. So many things in this blog that I never would have considered that are Tokyo specific (toilets, not flying over Russia, etc). Thanks for the insight! Congratulations and looking forward to your WMM Blog, especially the cost breakdown haha.
You will get there Hillary. In my Majors blog next week I will try to make it as helpful as possible
Congratulations!!! Such an enormous accomplishment, and so much awesome bling! That 2020 shirt is amazing.
I can’t believe I am halfway through my six star journey (and fingers crossed my PR last weekend gets me into Boston 2024 for #4), so you are definitely #goals!
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the whole WMM hullaballoo 🙂 Congrats again.
So amazing being half way there. I am going to attempt to write the WMM blog this weekend so feel free to ask any questions 😊
Well done, a great achievement. What to do next? Start preparing for a trip down under. https://www.athletics.com.au/news/sydney-marathon-announced-as-candidate/
Absolutely would love to run Sydney Marathon