I nearly wept with relief when I saw the egg sandwich. Sian and I had been travelling and awake for 24 hours by the time we got to Big Site the location of the Tokyo marathon Expo. It's fair to say that by the time I picked up my race number we were both quite punch drunk. We staggered around the venue trying to find something which didn't have meat or fish in it, which brought us to the egg sandwich. We finally threw in the towel and went into a Starbucks, which was a rubbish place to eat in for our first meal in Japan, but we were desperate. After we got to our hotel we stayed up as long as we could before collapsing in a heap at around 7:30pm.
Setting a pattern for the next few days we'd sleep for a few hours, wake, sleep for a few more then wake up finally at Stoopid O'clock. I went out for a final twenty minute trot on the Friday as they began to set up the barriers for the start line. I felt completely drained on the run, which didn't alarm me as I've felt like that before pre-marathon and I had another day and a bit to recover and rest.
I had the usual nervous before the start line, but not as bad as I had before Edinburgh when I thought I'd be running in a storm. I had been told that Tokyo would be freezing, so had brought a few layers to run in, but on the day it was surprisingly warm, and I thought "Yeah I can handle shivering a little at the start line." so I decided to run in my top from Boston marathon. I try not to put any baggage in as it's a pain in the ass to get at the end, and I thought it wouldn't be too bad getting the shuttle bus back to the hotel from the finish.
After nearly two years of planning and training I was on the start line talking to a man from Yorkshire and then in a burst of confetti we were off! Then I stopped, three minutes into the race I needed a slash, which is pretty typical. I was chasing a sub three hour time, and waiting to have a pee pretty much hobbled my first mile, but I picked it up after that.
The first few miles are for me always about gauging how I feel, and I felt pretty good and hit my pace for for mile 2 and 3 and thought that with a bit of luck I could keep it up for the course. However after that I started to hover around the 7 minute pace. I don't know why. It was a pretty ambitious pace. I found that I had to stop more often than I would have liked for water but that shouldn't have impacted too much on my time. I knew pretty early on that I wasn't going ti get my hoped for sub three hours so I concentrated on getting the best time I could,
The course itself was flat but a little dull. It was 26 miles of unrelenting tar-mac which were harsh on my knees. Most marathon courses gives the occasional opportunity to run on green, but Tokyo doesn't afford that luxury. Also Tokyo having been largely rebuilt in the last fifty years doesn't have the landmarks of the other five Major marathons so it is a little samey, but it does mean as a runner you can concentrate on chewing out the miles. It's an Identi-kit city, it's mashed together bits of North American cities, especially Chicago and New York. It ain't a pretty city but does processes a certain brutal charm and it's crazee in a way I can't describe. It's full of energy and provides a complete overload of visual information. It's a city which you have to run to stand still.
I did have a bit of a wobble at mile 10, but I spent most of the course just putting one foot after the other. At mile 20 my hips and knees began to hurt so I slapped on the Deep Heat. I knew I was doing a good time and had an opportunity for a Personal Best and so dug deep for the last few miles. The course didn't have mile markers so I had to rely on my Garmin. My watch was showing that I had run 24 and half miles but ahead of me I saw a huge sign saying 24 and groaned. It turned out to be a 24 hour garage. I had a weird feeling of regret in the last few yards of the race as it marked the end of my Six Major Marathons, but with relief that it was over and elation when I crossed the finish line with a new PB of 3:18, 6 minutes off my Edinburgh time.
I picked up my medal and commemorative towel (!) and walked for around 40 minutes through Big Site to get to the shuttle bus. On the way I was high fived and had a round of applause when I got on the bus, which is how life should be. I met up with some of the runners on the Sports Tours trip with me and enjoyed talking times, paces and courses. I seemed to be the only runner who liked Berlin!
So that's it. The Six Major Marathons done. I thought I'd feel deflated having completed them, but instead I feel proud, it feels like an achievement. What now? I do think I've got a sub 3 hour marathon in me, so until they add a seventh Major Marathon perhaps London again....