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  • Tokyo Marathon 2013 Write-Up I

    Posted on March 9th, 2013 Michele Sun No comments

    Finally jet lag is fixed and now I can write up my Tokyo Marathon 2013 without woozy head!

    Before I left SF Bay Area, I was set out to enjoy the race and have fun in Tokyo, but it turned out Tokyo Marathon 2013 has gone nothing I have expected, and the whole experience felt very different than last year. The experience and excitement of running in the center of Tokyo and the amount of support received from the volunteers and residents of Tokyo are same or even more so than last year, but the running part did not go too well though.

    I arrived Tokyo several days prior the race day, and took my time to explore Tokyo which I will leave them out for another post(s). Now will just focus on the race related activities and experiences. Before coming to Tokyo, I already decided that I would log in my last taper run around the Imperial Palace where I did my post race recovery run 2012. I also wanted to try the RUN Station experience which I discovered online; apparently RUN Station  is getting very popular in Tokyo as number of marathon runners are growing tremendously in Japan. RUN Stations are usually located near popular running routes, and runners can have access to locker and shower, which allow them to come before or after work to run few miles. I have chosen the adidas RUNBASE because it’s a very new facility just opened last year, and it also has the most recent running gears rental, plus running clinic which of course I won’t understand but would like to check out how people train in Tokyo Metro.

    Friday Feb 22nd, from my hotel in Shinjuku to the adidas RUNBASE should take less than 20 minutes via Marunouchi subway line and about 12 minutes walking, so I left around 7:00am thinking that would leave me plenty of time in case I got lost. However I got SO lost after arriving Akasakamitsuke station (赤坂見附駅) and ended up spending at least 30 minutes walking around trying to find that adidas place. One thing I learned from this adventure is people here don’t use street address, and when I thought I was smart about “二丁目” must be only couple streets down from “四丁目”,  I could not be more wrong! Comfort to say that one thing, among other few, I am good at is not afraid of asking for help, so I asked people who were heading to work, high school student, and the clerk inside Lawson, but each one of them gave me different directions. The Lawson clerk even brought out a map book that was as thick as 5 stacks of Yellow Pages.

    When I  saw the adidas RUNASBE  situated at a corner from the Museum and looked so simple and low key, I was so happy that I had finally made it. I walked in and asked the guy at front desk if my Google friend was here and he said “ah, you are Michelle from America; your friend just left 5 minutes ago because he thought he was too late and you have left.” Oh man… I totally goofed up this time. However, Kiyoshi was here waiting and I gave him a big hug thanking his meeting me this morning. Kiyoshi and I both ran Tokyo Marathon 2012, and we have met on Facebook.  I  had brought running cloth with me, but did ask for the locker room, shoes rental, towel rental..etc,  all for experience purpose. I went into the women’s lock room and put all my belongings in the small locker — remember this is Tokyo, everything is supposed to be compact and neat.

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    The store front has the typical running store look, shelf of running shoes against the wall, tech-t, tights, jacket.. on racks, and gears like Garmin, Seiko and Timex in display case. It looks just like any running store back in US except much smaller, however the running clothes and shoes are quite different — way more colorful. I saw the adidas “adizero takumi sen” looks really sleek and fast, so checked out a neon pink pair that look totally shockingly bright. But hey this is Tokyo, I got to blend in 🙂

    The plan was to run around the Palace, and the first few minutes was feeling very surreal — I am back again! When I saw the sunlight, trees, river, a sudden bittersweet sensation hit me and tug my heart. I slightly shake my head trying to toss the memory, but did not work very well though, because I kept seeing the familiar smile and  signature strides in my head. I ran at a very comfortable pace with Kiyoshi while he explaining why Imperial Palace is a very popular place for runners in Tokyo, especially for women. I can see there is no stops or traffics lights since we are running around the Palace, but most importantly this place is safe — so many policemen are on duty here. Ahha.. learn something new today! When we came to the main entrance, there was Tokyo Station on my right hand side, and Kiyoshi told me that it has just completed the remodeling not long ago and he suggested we ran into the Station — there was something he wanted to show me. So we made a right turn and ran into to this brick-built building and entered the Station through Marunouchi frontage. Inside I saw people were looking up the ceiling so I did just the same, and it’s a beautiful cream and yellow flowery patterns. Kiyoshi told me that at one point this used to be a hotel and now is part of the train station.

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    We left the station and continued our way back to the Palace and ran one huge loop. Now I can recognize the Eastern garden, the pond, the swans, the sculptures, and slightly up and down rolling hills. There were several spots that I particularly remember from last year,  and it sadden me a great deal but I hid the feeling well. We concluded our run with sight of a very modern building and I was asked to guess what it was. “Museum?” No, it’s the Supreme Court (最高裁判所) in Tokyo. Impressive!! I asked Kiyoshi do Japanese pay high income tax? But he did not quite understand my question, so I assumed not high enough for him to complain?!

    Back to adidas RUNBASE I used the very nice shower where Kiehl’s products were provided, and blew dry my hair with the Ion infused hair dryer, totally geeky out here while reading the running clinics calendar posted on the wall. When I came out I looked around at stuffs like the miCoach display and more colorful clothing. Kiyoshi told me about another running store very close to my hotel that would give great discount and opened early for Tokyo Marathon runners on the race day. I was in need for post run coffee, but I didn’t think Kiyoshi is much into coffee, so I said we could go find something to eat in Ginza on our way to the Tsukiji fish market. So the cost of one day use of RUNBASE is ¥700, shoes rental ¥100 and towel rental ¥300, experience – priceless 🙂

    (Skip Tsukiji fish  market adventure and fast forward to the race Expo)

    We took JR from Ginza to Big Sight in Odaiba where the marathon Expo held, and looking at the site in daylight was quite different than what I remember from last year — it appeared to be much bigger. I climbed up that evil stairs which I hated last year, and once again I was remembering about how tired I was and how Max had come to rescue on this stairs!  Kiyoshi and I took couple pictures at the Tokyo Marathon 2013 sign and I did an air jump to show how much energy I got in me. We went inside and more pictures under the World Marathon Majors signage, getting really excited here! I was at the counter where my bib number was under and the obasan examined my passport before handed me my bib, and she saw that I am from US. The volunteers were all ojisan and obasan, and  I kneeled in front of the counter wanting to take a picture with them. They spoke in Japanese obviously about me, then before I knew it they all came up behind me and started clapping and chanting “Gambatte”. So cute and so heart warming, and brought tears to my eyes!

    Geeky out at the Expo and still found it very different than expos in US. Here runners really engaged with the exhibitors, and most runners lined up to try running gears, workout machines, filling out surveys…etc. I wish my Japanese could be good enough to understand everything happening here.  Kiyoshi got me some freebies, including an extremely colorful CWX goodie bag that got tattoo arts painted all over and it echoed to their line of tights; I am not sure any of my guy running friends would wear those here though. Picked up a pamphlet for Berlin Marathon, yeh can’t resist it. Saw the current fastest female Japanese runner 千葉真子 giving speech, and the volunteer lifted the rope  and invited me to join in and listen, but unfortunately I could only scissor my hands and said “wakarimasen” 🙁

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    I did not see GU here since they are not in Japan yet, so I gave assorted flavors of GU Gel, Chomp and Brew to Kiyoshi as gift, and wish one of these days GU will come to Asia since it’s a huge market waiting for great products. I bought two shirts and two hats as souvenir for myself, one with Tokyo Skytree at the back,  and few items for my friends back home. And  once again, I found it really interesting that so many cute Japanese guys here, wonder why they don’t come to US :-p  Before my eyes got sugar high, I asked Kiyoshi to join me for coffee at Tully’s which I saw earlier, and to my surprise I saw a very blonde and very blue-eyed Marco sitting by himself at the corner while I was savoring my hot latte, aha!! Nice to meet you before our carbo-load dinner tomorrow night!

    I said good bye and thank you to  Kiyoshi around 5:00pm, and headed back to Shinjuku for I was going for my Kill Bill restaurant adventure, clue —  Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu. So, stay tuned…

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