Tokyo Marathon 2019 – race recap

Wow I can’t believe that race day was already 2 weeks ago. I’m so behind with all of these posts. Sorry.

So after an exciting few days in Tokyo which was filled with sightseeing and great food ( will definitely write a post about these later on ), on the Thursday we went to the Expo to pick up my race number.


This year the expo was in a different location and it was under many tents. It really didn’t bother me, but read on Facebook that loads of people didn’t like it at all. We got there just after 11am and I was out of the bib pick up tent by 11.15am. So really didnt’ take long. Because I was a charity runner I had to go to a specific table. There they taken a photo of me and also got a wristband with a barcode. So with all these security measures they really did try to prevent cheaters. Because they have your photo if anyone would have run with someone’s number they can easily be identified.


After picking up my race number we went to the next tent where I was given my pink Asics charity top and a 500 yen McDonald’s voucher. It turned out McDonald’s was one of the race’s main sponsor. In the next tent we were able to purchase all the official merchandise. Couldn’t say no to the cutest teddy bear.

Then we went to a massive exhibition area. Not people spoke English, but at the end we ended up 4 bags full of freebies. Who wouldn’t want a few slices of walnut bread or even a Zero calorie alcohol free beer?

As I said earlier loads of people didn’t have a great expo experience, but I did have fun. It was different, but I do believe it was well organised.

Race day:

Sunday, wow, can’t believe how fast the last 7 days gone by. On Saturday I tried to go to bed early, I think at the end I managed to sleep around 7hours.


Few of us stayed in the same hotel, so I met with Shelly and Judy at the lobby at 7am, so we could go to the start together. Shinjuku station was only a few stops away from our station, so took us about 10mins to get there with the subway. Really not far at all. It turned out all of us were at a different starting block, which meant we had to use different entrance gates. I said goodbye to them and off I went  to gate Number 3.

The security check felt like I am at an airport. Metal detectors, back check, no fluids more than 250ml etc. But I got through in a few mins. By this time it started to rain, which was unfortunate. The forecast said it will rain, but it said it should start around 11am. So 7.30am was a bit too early for it. Went to drop my bag off and tried to find my start coral. Because I’m a slow runner, my starting pen was L. Got there just before 8am, hardly any people around. Quick loo break and went to the start area. Loads of people warned me that the loo breaks can be bad, but as yu can see in the photo below, hardly anyone was there.


Then the wait begun. Tokyo had a really strict policy about the starting blocks. If someone wasn’t in their start pen by 8:45am, then they had to go to the back of the last coral. So I really didn’t want to risk starting from the back of the last coral.

The rain was contusions, and I started to feel really cold. Wearing a jumper and a space blanket didn’t really keep me warm. But it wasn’t too long till the race start so I was hoping I can wait in the cold, before I get hypothermia.

The race guns went off at 9.10am, but I didn’t cross the start line till 9.33am.

Tokyo has a really strict cut off, first of all the measure everything with gun time, so the overall cut off was 7hrs gun time. But they also have intermediate cut offs, and balloon pacers. If someone get to one of these check points after the cut off time, well then they get a DNF ( do not finish ) and have to get on a bus, and get carried back to the finish area.


Balloon pacers, if someone got behind them they were in serious trouble


Check points in roughly every 5k



Cut off times on the course.

So after running Chicago in 5:58 I knew that I can’t make any mistakes in Tokyo . I have to make all the cut offs, it’s such a long way to travel and then fail.

My training went really well, and I was really hoping for a 5:30 finish. But  after loosing 10mins at km 14, because of an emergency loo break I knew that time is out of sight. But I tried to think about positive things, and concentrate the journey ahead of me. You can’t just give up at 14km because your time is out. You need to push through and do your best.

Even with the horrible rain, and cold temperature 6-8 Celsius, I had an awesome race.

Japanese people are so friendly, and incredibly helpful. Also they look after the cleanliness of the city really well. In every few hundred of metres they had volunteers with plastic bags and they were collecting the rubbish from runners. Also at the aid stations they had massive boxes for rubbish, so there wasn’t any rubbish on the streets. So after running London and New York and tripping over so many plastic bottles and paper cups, Tokyo was great.

The course had a few out-and-back parts, and it was so hard to see runners going at 41km, when you are only at 31. But running is a mental game. I know that my body can do the distance, but the human mind is so powerful. One bit of wobble and I do start to question my ability. But I tried to keep calm, and just think about ‘parkruns’, – Ohh it’s only 2 parkruns to go till the finish, I can do parkruns, Its easy, Anyone can do a parkrun -.

Not many people spoke English, but the main phrases were ” Go go go ” and “Fight”.

Also they had so many motivational signs out there in English. So even though they didn’t shout my name around the course, I didn’t feel lonely. Like in Berlin I had a horrible time, because I don’t speak German and they don’t speak english .

The only negative thing about the race was the Tracking app. We didn’t manage to download it from the UK app store, but was working perfectly fine on an Android. So not many people were able to track me. But a lovely friend of mine from Australia kept posting on my Facebook ,so others were able to see my progress.

At the end I crossed the finish line in 05:39:05, which is a massive 19 mins PB.

It sounds a lot, but if I tell you that 5 months ago in Chicago I thought I gave my best and couldn’t run any faster , than this 19 mins a massive achievement.

I’ve done most of my training sessions, and I do believe my tri club run sessions do help a lot as well. Before hand I never done anything like that. If I had to run faster I went a bit faster. But at the run session you really need to go faster. Also coming last in every session makes my mind stronger. It took me a really long time to realise that I’m racing against me. It doesn’t matter if others finishing their runs way ahead of me. I’m coming last but I’m still getting faster. As long as I keep pushing myself at those session I should improve.

Look at my splits below. Other than the 15km one ( lost 10 mins at a loo queue) I was running every 5k roughly in the same pace. I never really been consistent with my running pace before, but I clearly getting better.

Also note that as I said Tokyo does gun time, so my ‘official’ time is includes that 20mins wait around at the start.



Other than finishing the race, this is what I’m most proud of. I started the race as the 6846th Women, but when I finished I was the 6403.  That doesn’t sound a lot, but if you see that at 15km mark I was 8123, the finishing position is great. After loosing 10 mins, I managed to pick myself up and kept going.


All in all Tokyo was an awesome race. If you chasing the Majors, I do think you will love this race. If you not a Major chaser than I still do recommend it.


Tokyo is Done


I Love my finisher Towel


5 down 1 more to go

If anyone interested about the charity registration process, you can read my experience here.

29 days time I’ll be lacing my shoes up in Boston and will chase that Unicorn and collect my 6 star medal. I can’t wait. But more about that in my next post.

Till then loads of love,

Gabi xx

2 Comments on “Tokyo Marathon 2019 – race recap”

  1. Wow, thank yiu for sharing your Tokyo Marathon experience. I’m looking forward to running mine this March for my 2nd star.

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