It was the first time I ever tried racing three marathons in three months i.e Singapore Marathon on 7 Dec, Hong Kong Marathon on 25 Jan and Tokyo Marathon on 22 Feb and I wasn’t quite sure if my body could handle the training and stress. But Tokyo was my last shot to better my marathon timing and hopefully get a nomination for SEA Games 2015 within the window period.
I only had 4 weeks to prepare for Tokyo Marathon after SCHKM in late January. So it was back to training after 4 days’ break. I kept my volume light for the first week, with only an easy 10.5km run on Thursday and 18km long run at Sentosa on Sunday. Luckily, I had Jackie to accompany me for the long run even though he has no need to train for any upcoming marathon. It was especially motivating to see Andy, Gen and Derek doing their long runs on the warm Sunday morning too. Total mileage for week one: about 30 km
I stepped up the volume in Week 2 by running 5 times that week. Had not quite recovered from the marathon, hence I did a slower 1km tempo intervals, easy runs and tempo runs at 5min/km pace instead. Ended week 2 with a 28km long run at ECP. Total mileage for week two: about 71 km.
I continued running 5 times a week in week 3 and added more intensity into my workouts. Monday: 9.5km easy run + (6x30s) hill sprints, Tuesday: 7km + 5km tempo run inside Jurong Central Park, Wednesday: 16km run home from work, Thursday, 14km run from MF safra to Botantic Gardens and back. Saturday: 20km long run at 4:45″/km at ECP. Total mileage for week three: about 76 km.
Week 4 was tapering week and I only managed to do a 5x800m short intervals on Tuesday. Missed working out on Wednesday and Thursday due to CNY. I had wanted to do one last run on Friday when I arrived at Tokyo. However, this did not materialize due to time constraint.
Fast forward to race day, 22 Feb 2015, Sunday.
It was still drizzling when Peyling, Jamie and I stepped out of our hotel at 615am in the morning. It was cold as expected. Temperature was about 6-8 degree Celsius. We hurried to the train station to board the train to the race start at Shinjuku. We were running a little late to meet Yana-san and Kaifen as we had difficulty finding the hotel.
Asked a volunteer for directions, and we finally located the hotel and met up with Kaifen and Yana-san. After some photo taking, we hurried toward the start line. We need to clear the security check before we get to deposit our baggage. There was already a long queue at the security check counter and I lost Kaifen after clearing the security check.
After depositing my baggage in the assigned truck, I spent some looking for the right staircase to get to my allocated pen B. Managed to squeeze in some time to queue for the portable loo before entering my pen which was already crowded with runners. I tried to move closer to the front but to no avail. It was just too packed. I decided to stay put and wait patiently for the race to start. Suddenly, someone came and stood in front of me. He was wearing a jacket and pants, with a buff across his face, covering his mouth and nose. It took me more than a second to recognise that was Gen behind the buff. He was looking around for Andy but couldn’t find him in the crowd. There was about 15 minutes more to the race start. I removed my poncho and old t-shirt, re-tied my shoelaces, adjust my gloves and arm sleeves. Glad that I had Gen for company to chit-chat and distract me from the race jitters. As the time crept closer to 9am, the crowd moved forward and closer to the start line. I ate a packet of gel, checked my Garmin to make sure that it has captured the satellite.
At exactly 9:10am, the race started. Pen A was flagged off first. It took about 1:30min for Pen B to go next. I saw Gen raced off right from the start. He had to run on the elevated road divider to pull away from the crowd. I fumbled as I crossed the starting line when I realised my Garmin suddenly lost its GPS signal. I went with the flow and it was only 300m later, it recaptured the GPS again.
Got a shock after I passed the 5km mark in 24:13 mins. I had wanted to make sure I do not get carried away from the start as it was a gradual downhill. But this was much slower than what I have thought, possibly due to the crowd and my legs took a much longer time to warm up in the cold weather. I ran on, determined to get into my target race pace from 5km onward to make up for the lost time.
Things seemed to be looking up after that for I clocked 21:42min for the next 5km. I was finally getting into the zone and was looking forward to the first u-turn at 15km mark at Shinagawa. Managed to sustain the pace and clocked 21:57min for the next 5km. There were more supporters along the side of the road now cheering for the participants. The distance alert from my Garmin sounded even though I was a few hundred meters away from the distance marker. My average pace was about 4:23″/km according to my Garmin, which was exactly my target race pace but I knew I still have to run a little faster because whatever pace shown on my Garmin is not be accurate anymore. I pressed on and ran 22:08 for the next 5km. 20km done.
I thought I was running well. But when I checked the time at halfway mark 21.1km, it reads 1:33:23, I realised I was about 1 to 2 mins behind my target time for my first half! I was still feeling ok, but could feel fatigue setting in and I could feel myself slowing down bit by bit. To distract myself from the fatigue, I tried to smile at all the cameras I could see. There were really a lot of photographers! My 5km split to 25km mark was 22:30min.
By 25km, I was beginning to feel cold. I couldn’t even grab a cup of water from the table properly using one hand. Thankfully, the drink stations stretched long and I managed to grab a cup of water using both hands. At 29km mark, I fumbled clumsily to retrieve my 3rd packet of gel which was in the front pocket of my short. It shouldn’t be that hard to retrieve it, after all it was just a piece of Velcro keeping the gel in place. However, my fingers were so numb that I could not even bend them properly. Struggled for so long with the pocket and even thought of skipping the gel altogether. But I needed a boost for my run. Eventually, I removed my right glove and finally pulled the gel out from my pocket successfully. Then, I wasted more time trying to put my right glove on which was now inside-out. 5km split at 30km mark: 23:13min
With only 12km more to go, I tried to look for runners who were ahead of me as targets. Saw quite a few female runners with a different colour bibs and I told myself to catch up with them. This plan seemed to be working well until at around 35km, a veteran female runner dressed in Elsa costume came cruising past me. She was all smiley and waving to the supporters. I was losing focus but I was amazed that she could run so fast in a costume and still look so calm and composed. Tried to follow her but had to let her go as I could not keep up anymore. 5km split at 35km mark: 23:13min.
There was a steep incline at around 36km – 37km mark. I took my last packet of gel as I pounded up the hill. Time was running out and at the pace I was running, I probably wouldn’t be able to do a PB. Still, I pressed on, hoping I could find my second wind after the hill. 5km split at 40km: 23:18min.
One last slope at 40km mark and it would be a smooth flat route to the finishing line. The time reads 3:01hr here was no chance for a PB unless I am able to run sub 4min/km for the last 2.195km. I picked up my pace, running as fast as my legs could carry me. As I made a left turn towards the Tokyo Big Sight, Akiko from Asics shouted for me. Spotted Yana-san too who was taking photos of the runners.
I knew the finishing line was near then. There was another right turn and I could see the finishing banner just ahead. Completed the marathon in 3:10:41 (nett time). Happy that it was all over, but disappointed I did not manage to do a PB. Still am contented with a second best.
Overall, it was a great racing experience, with first class organisation and support and endless cheers along the way. Though the run did not quite work out the way I hope for, I enjoyed every bit of the it. Still have much to learn about pacing (not to rely on Garmin too much) and racing strategy especially in a course like this.
Very happy to strike another World Major Marathon off my bucket list too! =D