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Conquering the Tokyo Marathon: Your Coach's Insight

Hey there, fellow runner! So you've got this crazy dream of running the Tokyo Marathon, huh? Well, buckle up, because it's a ride unlike any other. In this blog post, I'm gonna spill the beans on how to get in, what to expect, and how to train smart for this unique marathon. Plus, we'll chat about the charity route, the Tokyo Marathon's quirky features, and a workout that suits its flat course.


Scoring a Spot in Tokyo: First things first, let's talk about how to get your foot in the door. There's the good ol' international lottery, where you cross your fingers and hope for the best. But there's also the "charity bid" route. This one's cool because certain charities will give you a guaranteed spot if you commit to raising a specific amount for their cause. It's a win-win, really.


However, unlike other races that hold the lottery first and then apply for a charity spot, Tokyo requires you to place your charity bid long in advance before they open the lottery. So don't wait. If you need this race to make your 6-star finishing dreams a reality, then this is the time to get to fundraising and secure your spot.


Also - don't forget the Marathon Tour - travel group entry. They handle the logistics and help you stay the course, it even includes hotel and transport accommodations. Out of all the races, I feel that with the cultural and language barriers, the tour group route may be the best for this race.

Training Tips, Coach-Style: Now, training for Tokyo is a bit different. This race is as flat as a pancake, so you won't be battling hills. Instead, you'll want to focus on endurance and nailing your pacing. Start with a solid mileage base, running four to five days a week. Don't forget the staple long runs, where you practice holding a steady pace. Here's the secret sauce: endurance tempo runs. These babies help you lock in your pacing game for the race. They mimic the flat course while making sure you can keep the pedal to the metal all the way to the finish line. Here's a great Tempo workout to add.




Don't forget to mix things up with cross-training like swimming or cycling to stay injury-free and keep things interesting.


Additionally, if you are in the northern hemisphere, you may find that you are training for this early spring race in formidable winter conditions, so your treadmill may become your best friend. Don't shy away from adding some "fun" to your treadmill routines by varying incline paces, and when in doubt consider breaking up the long run into halves so you can pop off the treadmill for a wee bit and then get back to it.

Tokyo's Quirks: Now, Tokyo's marathon has a couple of quirks. One of the big ones is the strict checkpoints. You've gotta keep up a certain pace to hit those checkpoints, or they might kindly ask you to exit stage left. So, when you're training, think about those splits and practice keeping your rhythm steady. While other races have course cut-offs, rarely do they enforce them the way Tokyo does. They are a culture of rule-following and need to open up their bustling metropolitan city. Therefore, if you do not meet the checkpoint, do not think you'll be allowed to finish on the sidewalk, you will most definitely be put on a bus and sent to the finish line where you will not collect a finisher medal or an official time. I don't say this to freak you out, but rather so that you are cognizant and aware of going into this race with the knowledge of how to tackle those checkpoints. This may be one of the few races that, depending on where you start or if you are a back-of-the-pack runner, you may need to start the first half a bit more aggressively than you would at other races.

Race Week, Expo, Where to Stay, and Race Day:

Okay, you've had an awesome training journey now let's board a very long flight where you wear your compression socks, make sure to get there early and consider downloading the Timeshifter app a few weeks before you fly out to help you reset your clock to the time change.


To ensure a smooth and successful race experience, consider these tips:


Race Week: Taper your training volume during the final week to allow your body to recover. Focus on nutrition, hydration, and sleep to optimize your performance.



Expo: Attend the Tokyo Marathon Expo to collect your bib, explore exhibits, and learn about the race. Be mindful of your time on your feet and avoid excessive walking. The expo is flawlessly organized so don't worry about the language barriers. I found this expo to be a bit on the smaller side and didn't really care to pick up much items there, but this is where you still start to learn that Tokyo and Japan are a very "cash" oriented society. So if you plan on getting gear or souveniers take yen. Don't count on exhibitors taking credit.


Where to Stay: So many folks say that the transportation is easy in Tokyo. Truth. But it's also hella confusing until you get the hang of it. Personally, this is a race that I feel it is imperative to start near the start line in the Shinjuku district. It will be pricey, but unless if you are a seasoned traveler in Japan, it will be worth it to minimize race day issues.


Race Day Strategy: Plan your race strategy based on your training, pace goals, and course knowledge. Tokyo offers a unique blend of modern and traditional sights; enjoy the scenery as you run through the city.


Fueling & Hydrating: Practice your fueling strategy during training to ensure it works for you. Utilize aid stations on the course and carry your own nutrition if needed. Order the on-course drink Pocari Sweat from Amazon and train with it. They are strict about personal hydration flasks, bottles, and vests. So minimize "something new" on race day by training with their official drink.

In a Nutshell: Running the Tokyo Marathon is like being in a real-life video game set in Japan. It's gorgeous and surreal. Whether you're going through the lottery, taking the charity route, or exploring other avenues, get ready for an unforgettable experience. Train smart, embrace the flatness, and don't forget to enjoy every moment. The Tokyo Marathon isn't just a run; it's an adventure waiting to happen. Lace up, go the distance, and make your mark on this unique marathon.


Wanna learn more? Check out the podcast here for history, fun things to do and see, and of course get the lowdown on the delicious foods, and must-see movie recommendations to get you ready!


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