Tokyo Marathon Race Report

By Doug Schroeder

On March 3, 2019, I finished the Tokyo Marathon in 2:56:26. It was not a PR and it was probably the most difficult marathon I have accomplished for many reasons but I kept my dream alive of running all six majors under three hours. Here’s the story.

When Kate and I arrived in Tokyo on the Tuesday before, we were exhausted. Although our bodies only said it was about midnight, it was actually 3 pm local time and we just spent the last 12.5 hours on the flight. Over the next three days, Kate and I spent our days touring Tokyo. Throughout those days, we looked all over for some Gatorade so I could stay hydrated and we couldn’t find any. I did finally find an electrolyte drink called Pocari Sweat, which was good because it ended up being what was going to be on the course. I learned afterwards that the color (an opaque, off white) was designed to look like what sweat looks like since that’s what you were replacing when drinking it. I’m glad I didn’t know that until afterwards.

I took Saturday really easy to get ready for Sunday morning. We had a great dinner and I was ready to represent Northstar running on the other side of the world. Unfortunately, Sunday morning did not bring the weather I was hoping for. The temperature was great at 41 degrees F, but it was raining and windy. I had to be in the corrals early and there wasn’t any shelter so I spent over an hour out in the elements. It wasn’t ideal but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

We started around 9:10 am (6:10 pm on March 2 here) and I felt good.

After things started to spread out over the first kilometer, I was able to develop a rhythm. I felt good running but I kept noticing that I was running too fast. It was not easy to keep a good pace because my GPS was bouncing all over the place and I had to manually split every kilometer. I knew what my goal pace/km was but I only knew if I was close to that pace whenever I saw the next kilometer marker. I’m not great at running at a steady pace which made it difficult but I knew that I just had to give it my all. I was on pace for my goal of 2:50 through the half marathon mark but I faded in the second half. I knew that I didn’t have the long tempo runs in training I had hoped for with our cold and icy winter but I kept pushing. I also knew that I was very cold and wet and I didn’t want to be running any longer than I had to so I just kept moving forward. I had a big boost when I saw Kate around the 30K mark and after a few kilometers, I knew that I would make my sub-3 cut off. With about 6K to go, I started the home stretch back towards the emperor’s palace and the finish line. I was thrilled to see Kate with about 400 m to go and we both knew that it was going to be a good day as my six majors goal was still intact. I finished in 2:56:26, good enough for 1294th place out of 35440, and earned my fourth World Marathon Majors star. I was pleased with this because I knew that my training had not been what I had hoped for, the travel and touring had affected me, and the weather was less than ideal. I wasn’t going to dwell on the things that I could not control and I learned a lot from this race.

I have to say that the Tokyo Marathon was a fantastic experience. There were more fans on the course than any other marathon I have been a part of and I have never seen more Marios, Luigis, Yoshis and Pokemon. I’m pretty sure that there were multiple Marios every mile. I enjoyed some Ramen after we arrived back to our hotel and a lot of sushi that night. Both were fantastic. The next day, Kate and I submitted our application for Team Poor Decisions by hiking 10K up Mt. Inari in Kyoto on post-marathon legs but the experience was worth it. Two days later, we were on a beach in Thailand for a fantastic recovery and it was wonderful. In all, while the Tokyo Marathon was by far the most difficult marathon I have accomplished, it will go down as one of the most memorable for many reasons.