Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tokyo Marathon 2015

I ran the Tokyo Marathon last Sunday, and although I failed to achieve a personal best (PB), I must say that I enjoyed the trip a lot. I went with my family and some friends, and we arrived about a week before the race. In the days leading up to the race, we visited Mt Fuji which was quite a long drive from the city. The tour included a visit to Hakone and we spent the whole day touring by means of a bus, cable car, a boat and finally the bullet train.

We also visited Tokyo Disneyland which was quite an experience for me. It was a rainy day and I could hardly endure the freezing temperature despite having 3 layers of clothing, a beanie, scarf and a pair of woolen gloves. I walked around for perhaps half an hour and then had to leave Mia and JJ on their own while I took refuge in a cozy confectionery shop. There, I found a godsend bench. I sat there and supported my chin with my hand; I watched the people buying an assortment of chocolates of numerous sizes, shapes and colours...

The next thing I knew was a commotion outside the window where some kids were swarming around Mr Smee, the character from the Captain Hook's ship in Peter Pan. Little did I know that I've been sleeping on that bench for about an hour! It's the kind of experience you get to remember for the rest of your life for all the wrong reasons, if you know what I mean. Figure it to yourself—I spent 6,500 Yen for the entrance ticket, and then spent almost the entire time sleeping on a cold hard bench. Mia and JJ, however, went around and JJ was quite excited that she had the chance to see Princesses Elsa and Anna as well as Olaf.

We visited a few other places and on Thursday evening, Doctors Peter and Liaw arrived from KK. It was kinda fun to be reunited once again for a race. It's been quite a while since the last time we ran together. The last one was the Sundown Ultra Marathon in Singapore. The next day we went to collect our race packs together, and there was such a huge crowd at the Expo. The venue itself was very big and one could easily get confused with one's location in the building. After a while, I said to Peter that I've lost my bearing and wasn't sure how to exit the building. Peter replied thoughtfully, asking me which bearing, the left one or right one.

I spent a long time checking out the booths and the many sports merchandise on offer. This booth, that booth, and then we somehow found ourselves at the Mexico Marathon booth. There, we became quite an attraction for the day when we posed for this photo.

I'm not sure what song Peter was singing as I was focusing on the camera. But looking at the photo now, I must admit that his gaping mouth looks very convincing! I dare say that wig suits him too!

We did not stick together all the time though. Peter and Liaw went to tour Mt Fuji on their own on Saturday morning, and I must say that I'm impressed that they actually found their way there too! I would have given them a full score that day, except that they somehow got onto the wrong train and ended up in Haneda Airport. To be fair, however, Yoke Lee and Alex, as well as Mia and JJ took the wrong train to Haneda Airport at different times too!

On race day, it was a torture for me from the beginning. We had to take the subway to the race venue. The race flagged off at 9:10am, but we started from the hotel at about 7am. We reached the race venue before 8am. It was a very cold morning, and the thing about cold morning is that you want to pee waaaay too many times. That morning alone I visited the toilet twice, but when I was depositing my drop bag, I felt the urge to pee again. I queued up for the portable toilet. Let me tell you that it was an extremely long queue. After spending about 45 minutes in the queue, I had to abandon it because they were about to close the entrance to the running blocks. Accordingly, I made my way to the allocated block, which was actually quite a long distance from the starting arch.

Standing there for almost half an hour at near freezing temperature with only a piece of running attire, though "thermal" attire, was quite a torture for me. I was shaking uncontrollably, and let me just say that suffering the cold like that while holding on to my pee wasn't amusing at all!

Then the flag off was in waves. First was the whellchair category. Then the elites followed by all the rest. Runners were let go according to their respective speed, so the faster runners were in the front blocks. It was hard to maneuver through the crowd for at least the first few kilometres. And the crowd never really thinned out because there were so many runners. One would always find that he is running in a crowd.

I ran a decent pace of about 5:30 min/km, thinking that that should be easy enough to maintain. It was a pleasant run except that all the while the thing that bothered me the most was having to hold on to my pee! I was conscious of the several toilets along the way, but each time I get to a toilet stop, I noticed people queuing up. Not wanting to waste time, I kept telling myself to hold a little longer until I get to the next toilet stop. And then the same thing happened at the next stop; always people queuing!

Eventually, I reached the 20km point in about 1:48, which I thought wasn't very fast. I wanted to pace myself well to achieve a PB, but the thing that I found disturbing was that the distance markers seemed too far apart. Somehow, my Garmin recorded at least a few hundred metres more than that shown on the distance markers along the route. I wondered if my Garmin was wrong. I'm not sure if perhaps my Garmin was affected by the cloudy sky.

Anyway, I reached the 30km point in about 2:44, and I thought I was still good for my 3:50 target. And even if I can't make that target, I could at least beat my old PB of almost 3:53. However, much to my horror, I felt the distance between one marker to the next was getting bigger and bigger, and by Km35, it dawned upon me that the 3:50 target was drifting away. To add to that, my legs were also becoming a little tired. I fought on, however, but it was obvious that I was beginning to slow down. Then I came to the climb at about Km37. Looking at my Garmin, I realised that even the 3:53 was already gone. I gave up and walked up the slope, dejected. There were several other short slopes to climb after that. I kept my cool, until I realised that far from achieving a PB, I was at risk of even losing a sub-4hour finish! Suddenly, it became a race to me once again. I started running—by then with cramps all over my legs, eventually finishing just a whisker under 4hours! The official time was 3:59:32. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed, but I'm happy with that result anyway. At one time, I thought it was impossible to achieve a sub-4hour marathon no matter how hard I tried. But I now have a few sub-4hour marathons under my belt. Interestingly, my Garmin recorded a distance of 43.18km. I know of at least 2 other runners recording 43.3km on their GPS watches; and other friends up to over 44km. It would be very interesting to know what's the actual distance of the course.

The highlight of the day was that Dr Liaw achieved a PB with a time of 3:38:56. Dr Peter achieved a PB too in 4:07:21 which was an awesome 15 minutes improvement from his previous PB. Yoke Lee finished with a PB of 4:22:15. Alex and Georgina both finished their marathons too. It was a well organised race, considering the crowd of about 36,000.

There isn't much more to tell, except that I achieved a PB in holding on to my pee for approximately 6 hours! That's an achievement that I don't think I can outdo for the rest of my life; not that I want to!

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