My Mum loves this blog almost as much as I do, and is often coming up with blog post ideas…or infact writing blog posts for me. This time it was actually asked for (sort of!).
Since I run the actual marathons, I’m always intrigued to know what the experience of the race is for those on the other side. Was it easy to find spots to cheer? Was it easy to view the race from multiple locations? How hard was it to move around the city?
Instead of sending over a couple of tips for other spectators, I love that my Mum took the time to write out her Tokyo Marathon race day recap…
We met up with Anna and a couple of other Marathon Widows and walked up to Nihonbashi, roughly the 10k mark, from our hotel. As we were pretty early, we actually ended up walked past the turning and it was Dave (my stepdad) who remarked ‘there are cars parked in this road’ and we quickly realised we had come too far north.
Heading south again, we saw that the 10k race timing pads had been put out, and so, more confident of our location, we turned down to the course route – which was already pretty full of spectators!
We squeezed in front of a road sign with Dave stood behind it on a railing – he kept getting asked to get off. At one point, I thought the ‘Team Leader’ Volunteer was going to stand right in front of me in retribution, but luckily he didn’t.
Dave was also on top of the Marathon Tracker App and told us that Charlie seemed to have crossed the start line at 9.20, only five minutes after the official start. That was impressive organisation and may have helped Charlie finish the race so freshly as she had less hanging around at the start? Anyway, we managed to text her our position and she came right up to us so we were able to shout encouragement etc. She looked great!
Tip – buy a pocket wifi (you can order one in advance to pick up at the airport) so that you can use the tracker app. The 3G is unreliable, but the tracker app works really well.
Then we squeezed out of the hedgerow and made our way to the subway where they had an excellent one way system with volunteers to guide you to the correct stairs so that spectators could move easily from one side of the course to the other. We had been standing at the 10k point, and while waiting for Charlie had seen the wheelchair racers come back down the other side. From a running point of view, there were many ‘out and backs’ which was probably quite boring to run/ demoralising when you can see what you have to come back along, however it was great for us spectators!
We walked back down to our hotel which was helpfully right on the course. Super handy for the loo, coffee and extra pairs of socks as it was quite chilly at this point.
Tip – stay at a hotel near Tokyo Station on the course and easy to get back from the finish line! Highly recommend the Courtyard Marriott Tokyo Station for both location and the breakfast buffet.
The long straight road had supporters along it, but they were largely silent. I took up the challenge of supporting every Caucasian who came through, especially helpful if they had their name or country on their T shirt, but so few did. Wierd, as London especially has all the names on! Glad I had my noisy flappy thing to make a noise instead of clapping my hands!
The tracking app worked really well on this wide straight road, although Dave did get confused with which wide straight road Charlie was on! As we were standing in sight of the 29k mark, we were able to prepare quite accurately for her arrival – still looking fresh!
From the hotel, we walked through Tokyo Station, accidentally paying a basic ticket fare of ¥140 rather than navigating our way through the maze to the other side for free!
We were given wristbands at the Friendship Run which gives you access to the spectator section of the finish line, so we walked up and down, through the bag search (where every plastic water bottle that we carried had to be drunk from), and into a holding pen about five meters and five barriers away from the finishing runners! Not sure if it was worth it.
Tip – there are actually better viewing spots in the last 1km than in the official finishing view area without the security hassle.
We decided to split up with Dave staying there with a camera to get a shot of Charlie finishing – and actually he got a great one looking so strong.
We walked, and walked, to Hibuya Park, up and down underpasses, where there were lots of helpful volunteers trying really hard with thier English and their slightly less encouraging signs ‘You may not be able to pass this way again’. Eventually we reached the long Security lines to enter the Family Meeting Area, and again had to drink more water from every bottle. We tried texting Charlie and Dave to let them know where we were, as a major flaw in our prep was the rookie error of no ‘end plan’! The texts weren’t working, and without a game plan, we didn’t even know what our meet up procedure was. I asked a lady who was standing with a huge Union Jack flag and she explained you just had to wait in this grassy area with only three red balloons on one side and three blue balloons on the other to indicate to your runner where you might be.
Tip – make sure you have a plan in advance on where to meet the runners. The park wasn’t too busy so under the balloons was actually a really easy place to spot each other.
My phone had no service at all. Luckily a kind Australian lady let me try phoning Charlie on her phone and when that didn’t get picked up, she let me send a text.
I need not have worried. Dave did not follow instructions to meet back at the hotel and had sent Charlie a text asking if she was still at the meeting point? Charlie replied ‘ I don’t know how to get there. What meeting point?’ A good hour after she had finished running, Charlie arrived, shivering! After photos with her medals, we piled all the clothing we could onto her. Luckily, I remembered Paris, and had brought one of Dave’s jumpers and a pair of my leggings for her to put on. She took his coat and gloves too! Apparently Tokyo is some 6 degrees colder than it should be at this time of year.
Tip – bring layers and water for your runner if they haven’t checked a bag. And runners – if you pack a bag, put a large coat in it.
She was so pleased to have run well and got a PB of 3hours 44 minutes and her Six Star medal too.
A one way system was in operation in Hibuya Park so the exit is not the same as the entrance for Spectators. After a little confusion on our part, and having used the loos, we headed hopefully for the sign which said Tokyo Station Shuttle Bus. This was my preferred option for Charlie as Anna and I had been concerned about the number of steps involved in the underpasses. We got on a bus straight away, but it did take ages to drive around the Imperial Palace due to all the road closures (at least it was warm and some of us had seats!)
Thinking again about steps we decided to walk straight through Tokyo Station from the Maranouchi side to the Yaseu Gates. This did cost us the basic fare but was worth it after running 26.2 miles! Charlie was questioning the wisdom of any food, but as it was 2.30pm by this time and we needed something, even if she was feeling sick, I persuaded her to hit McDonalds along with everyone else! Dave managed to procure 4 seats and I think we all felt better immediately! Dave ran back to the hotel as his coat now adorned Charlie, and we shuffled back to collapse on beds! All that nervous energy on our parts!
One of Charlie’s school friends, Joe works and lives in Tokyo and so we arranged to meet up with him in Roppongi Hills for a local meal. We went to Dan Dan’s for their famous dumplings, all different colours and flavours, plus other tasty local dishes. I had chicken fried rice, a welcome change from raw fish, and a beer. Plus a yellow curry dumpling which was indeed delicious!
Joe was reluctant to come with us to Golden Gia as he had been there until 5.00 am on Friday morning after a heavy Thursday night. But as we promised just one drink, he almost immediately agreed and off we went in two taxis.
Golden Gai is an area of older, smaller houses, packed cheek by jowl, with very small bars, often no bigger than a single room with enough stools for about 4 or 5 people. The Japanese don’t like to be overheard, so these small ‘private’ bars are perfect for discussing things with your friends.
After the promised single drink, Joe left for an early Sunday night, Charlie and Anna went to work on getting a photo in this iconic area and Dave and I talked to the young barman as to what time he shut. 4.00am! He did this shift on Sunday nights so as to improve his English and get a break from his day job, an internet based import export business run by himself and two colleagues.
I was glad to take a taxi home and be in bed before too long!