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  • Tokyo Marathon 2012 Write Up – I

    Posted on February 21st, 2012 Michele Sun No comments

    As I finished an easy 4ml taper run this morning, I also finished my 16 weeks training program for Tokyo Marathon. Next time I put on my Brooks will be Sat morning near Meiji Shrine in Tokyo 🙂

    Every runner has a bucket list that s/he wants to check off and nothing wrong with my New York, Rome, Paris and Tokyo.  Tokyo Marathon is the largest marathon race in all of Asia, and without doubt the land of the rising sun, Japan, is one of the most marathon crazy nations in the world. The event has about 30,000 places for the marathon, for which almost 300,000 people apply, with final selections based on a lottery. Originally I was planning do it with someone once was very close to me, but after that heart wrenching summer I wasn’t sure if it would happen as I had wished for. But with wishful thinking, I entered the entry raffle for Tokyo Marathon on Aug 1st and hoping I would get picked and things would return to the way it was before. I was dreaming that person would be there for me when I crossed the finish line. Of course, I eventually realized and saw it clearly how stupid I was. Then on 10/1 I received an email with my entry acceptance confirmation, and you cannot imagine the degree of thrill and excitement, plus sense of HOPE; I felt that finally I was about to bounce back from the bottom of bottom, and everything would just be brighter and better onward. That race entry was a token to Expressway Out of Hell.

    In the last couple years I have completed several marathons, but I know I am still a very slow runner compare to 45% of marathon finishers –my best time was 4:55 in Surf City on 2/7/2010. For the first half of 2011 I was focusing on my speed rather than the distance, and I managed to slash off one minute per mile by June. After my 1:54 PR at Summer Breeze Half in the summer, I felt I should and I was ready for a different training program and the desire of running a faster full marathon was slowly shaping. After some research online, I decided to follow Hal Hidgon Intermediate 2 with some modification. Basically I would be running 2X during weekday of  5 – 8 miles, and long runs on Sat and followed with a short 5ml recovery run on Sunday, with 2 x 20 miles built in.

    Unfortunately I got knee injury after pacing NorCal Half in San Jose, and stupid me was rushing back to running that I got re-injured and ended up taking longer to recovery. Lucky that I found Living Room Acupuncture and Paul has been nothing but a true blessing. His experience of  working with athletes gives me complete confidence in the treatment plan he had for me. I started getting acupuncture treatment 3 times a week for the first couple weeks, and then decrease the frequency to twice a week; eventually once a month for conditioning. Paul’s treatment approach and community acupuncture philosophy not only healed me physically but also mentally. I not only became stronger, injury free, more energetic, I am mentally very positive and strong.

    From the race website, I knew it’s going to be a race in very cold weather. Come on, Feb in Tokyo? So I was committed and determined to train hard this winter. I routinely get up at 5:30 to do my 6, 7 and 8 miles weekday runs, and all of these insane morning runs were solo run with headlamp, beanie, and gloves. People complained about how cold it was, but I embraced the weather as it’s essential for this race. It was very painful for me to run in such early cold mornings – I had no issue to get up early and step into the cold, but my body won’t wake up and run at good pace. The only times that I felt I am running at a right marathon pace were during Sat long runs.

    First day of my training run, I asked my friend Michael if he would join my run. But Michael had his share of injury, and I really should not ask him to get up so early for a race that he did not sign up for. But on Sat, he has been my best running partner and pacer despite how slow I was, and a buddy that would take me running across Golden Gate Bridge to keep my runs interesting and spirit fresh. The silhouette I had seen at the top of Lincoln Blvd had pushed me to shuffle steadily and overcome the uphill without giving up, and I sincerely want to tell the whole world that I owe Michael for everything I have accomplished this winter and it’s not just all about the running.

    Then there are the logistics of going to Japan to participate this race. To start with, its 5,400 miles away and it’s a country where English isn’t spoken commonly; knowing me well Max even teased me about “Whatever you do, do not stop when you see 26.” So I will have to deal with not only lost in translation, but also lost in conversion and that’s just so GREAT!  However lucky that I have Anita who is fluently in Japanese and Max who is a smart geek, and they will travel to Tokyo with me for this race. I got my air ticket and hotel taken care of in Nov, then bought Ghibli Museum ticket in Dec. and a 7-day JR Pass in Jan for my post race adventure in Japan. I really can’t wait to hop on the Shinkansen and travel around Japan after the race with Max, or to play with the toilet remote control and listen to bird singing :-p

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    Racing in a marathon crazy nation and “interesting and weird” Japan must be very different than running in the U.Ss,   so I looked up as much information as possible on the official website and Facebook page. Guessing from the pictures and help of Google translate,  I found out what sport drink would be provided, so I ordered a box of Amino Value from Rakuten – a popular e-commerce site in Asia. I also have to deal with time difference, so in Dec. I went to my family doctor and asked him to prescribe sleeping pills for me. The purpose of getting Amino Value and sleeping pills in advance was simple – I would test out the drink and pills during my 18 & 20 miles long runs to make sure my body would function well with those in me, and I won’t bunk at mile 5 or 20. On my last 20 miles long run, I even mimic the race day scenario and play it as the day it would be;  it just so happened to drizzle a little in the morning, and I put on the shirt, arm sleeves, gloves, hat, tights… everything that I would wear on the race day. I ran the first 20 miles on 1/21 in 3:12 at 9:37 pace, then second 20 miles on 2/4 in 3:07 at 9:26 pace. On 2/12, I participated a local 10K fun race which was supposed to be a recovery run on Sunday, but I did it so comfortably at 8:37 min/ml pace that I was so excited and amazed with that result. Now I could see all the crazy morning runs have paid off well.

    But it’s not like I did not have any obstacles or frustration. Two months into this long, cold and lonely training season, I came face to face with the first plateau that I have ever experienced as a runner. I felt that my training wasn’t going anywhere, I wasn’t running any faster or better, and I was tired, sleepy and edgy every day. At 5:30am on Tue & Thur, I ran with my own shadow at a frustrating 10+ min/ml pace, and my legs just can’t go any faster. I felt that all I did was running, running and nothing besides running. I gave up holiday parties, social gatherings, and I even back out a planned birthday run with  Marcia simply because I wanted to avoid any possible injury. I totally stressed myself out, and I did not even want to meet with friends on my birthday because I was feeling anti-social.

    I know lots of very good runners and many of them gave me advice on how to break through that plateau, and all the technical advices were nice but did not help me – I knew all of those already. Then two people changed that. First I got a short but very encouraging message from Max telling me that I should not minimize the value of my accomplishment and the journey isn’t about the race only. He advised me to change my perspective and put the fun of running back in, race is only the bonus.  Then Chris who is in my Google+ circle, who I have never met, commented about a poem I wrote about long run and lonely heart. Somehow his words echoed how I felt for the last few months, and his reminder about eat well and sleep well went into my head and registered. And then the surprise birthday party Michael and Anita organized for me brought me tears, I have forgotten the fun of running, and I should not have neglected my friends for my narrow vision and single tracked focus on this race. They reminded me how great I am as a person and showered me with all the encouragements and greatest supports. I do not know how I deserve them in my life.

    In journey of lives, we all have our defining moments. I like to think of those that have spurred me on to bigger and better things, because they make me feel part of something bigger than myself, but also because they mask the pain from the ones that stopped me in my tracks for a moment, or have negatively altered my life journey. Very hurtfully I have come across a person that completely destroyed my faith & trust, but very fortunately I also discovered friendship that’s uplifting and empowering. Without them, I could not stand up tall again and believe in myself. I love life so much that I am not going to be a hater, and I will not allow anyone to rob my passion or alter who I really me.

    In about 36 hours, I am flying out to Tokyo with my good friends by my sides!! No matter how fast or how slow I finish this race, this winter training experience has been nothing but a very wonderful journey. Before I sign-off this training season, I want to share something I found truly inspiring —

    “On the journey, preparation is the reward. The slow movement along the path requires you to practice your running diligently. You live for the training runs. You begin to enjoy your workouts, not just for the workouts, but for the whole experience of running – how it makes you feel physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually. This is the real treasure. The medals, trophies, and accolades at the end of the race are simply the by-products of this experience. The true prize is the practice, the in-the-moment warrior running experience.”
    ~~ From the book: Running Within, by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott

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