Monday, February 18, 2008

Tokyo Marathon 2008 Race Report

To cut to the the purely statistical description of my race click here.

Qualitatively, what can I say? It was simply the most satisfying race I've run. Or at least very close to it. Not because it was the best result, but because I think I ran the best that I possibly could for my fitness level. In particular, I am quite sure that being just that little bit more conservative in the first half was instrumental to not suffering a nasty fade. Though maybe there were other factors. The only blemish was the pee stop at 12 k. I tried to run through it, I tried to ignore it, I tried to pee into a used sports drink cup while running along (take it from me, it doesn't work!), I thought seriously about just letting go on the run ...I actually did that in the rain of last year's race, but just couldn't manage to do it here in the dry ... in the end I decided that the improved comfort would be of more overall benefit to my race than the short stoppage. As it was, 53 seconds was quite a lot longer than I expected it to take.

After the pee break it was really just a story of controlled running. I had one of those wrist bands with required split times for a three-hour goal (freebie from Nike at the marathon expo). I was about 50 seconds behind the required target at 15k and could have probably been forgiven for just giving up on the sub three then and there...I mean who apart from elite runners and people who start very conservatively picks up 50 seconds in the last stages of a marathon? But I knew that this deficit wouldn't be quite so bad on net time, so a really good run might still jag me a net sub-three. So I didn't give up.

At the halfway point I'd shaved some time off the deficit, but was still 30 seconds or so slower than 90 minutes. I felt that a 30+ second negative split was highly unlikely, time to the start line and pee break notwithstanding, but the fact I'd reduced the deficit slightly gave me some cause to stay positive. From there I kept telling myself over and over, just hold it together until 28k (from the Shinagawa turnaround at 15k to the Asakusa turnaround at 28 k was into a light headwind -- here's a map of the course). Fortunately the section of the course from around 20 km to 33 km, roughly from Hibiya through Ginza and up to Asakusa and back again, was just the most fantastic part of the course for crowd support. Huge crowds of flag-waving, cheering people lined the road on both sides (we ran up one side and back the other). Many strangers reading our shirts and cheering "Namban Rengo, fight!", "Namban Rengo, ganbare!". I even heard one little kid go, "Ganbare gaijin-san!" There were also taiko drummers, dancers, bands. It was jsut fantastic. So even though there was this light head wind, the crowd and my motivation just kept me moving along through this section at or about goal pace.

After the 28 k turnaround I gradually found that the readout from my footpod was showing some very fast paces. I knew I was now running downwind, but was worried that it was too early to be making any kind of major move, that it may come back to bite hard. So I attempted to curtail the worst excesses whilst still allowing the faster pace to occur naturally. By this time my legs were starting to ache all over, and the front ball of my right foot was quite sore, yet they were still doing the job. So I just kept plowing along. As the pain levels rose I tried to channel as many positive thoughts and images as I could. I tried to keep a good running posture. I thought about good runners, I thought about motivating factors like the people who sponsored me for the Tyler Foundation, my dad, who is not well, my family and friends, the lovely people who read this blog...any reason I could think of to just keep it going.

As things progressed after 32 km, the watch was starting to give some really freakish readouts, like 3:50/km, 3:48/km, 3:40/km. I knew I was moving well, possibly faster than I had been all race, but didn't think that it was quite that good. So I stopped worrying about it and just concentrated on doing the best I could. Soon there was only 7 km to go, then 5 km, then 4...there are a few nasty little rises for bridges and expressway ramps after 35 km, two of them after 40 km! Somehow my momentum and hunger to get there, knowing I was now ahead of the target time, allowed me to take these at a good pace and I was passing people constantly. Even nearly ran right up the arse of one guy who had come to a stop. Good to know the old footy side-step was there when I needed it!

The last few km passed really quickly. There were much better crowds than last year, but by this time I was just totally zoned out and was only just barely aware of them let alone able to respond. I knew I had to concentrate on holding pace, yet I was able to relax because I thought I had a reasonable buffer. And so it proved, though it was a bit nervy making the final turn to the finish line with 2:59:00 on the clock, but the line appearing some way down the long will it take to get there? Just keep going, keep going hard. It took 36 seconds is how long it took. And then I was there. Finished. Did it, sub three. Just fantastic!

To see me finish, follow this link. Then type 10512 into the search line and click "Search". When the little "Play" signs drop down, click on the one on the right.

Checking my data in the watch later, I discovered the reason for the fast pace readouts. For some reason the pod suddenly started measuring long. Early in the race it had been great, measuring splits to within 1-2% of actual, but it got put out...not sure what would cause that, but it was pretty amazing thinking I was running around sub 4:00/km late in the race, when in fact I was probably going more like 4:10 to 4:15 /km .. still not to be sneezed at, I might add.

Well, I think I will end this tome here. Thanks for all the the wonderful congrats and comments on yesterday's brief post. And without going into details, yes, I did do some damage to quite a few beers through the course of the evening. And Ewen, yes, what you wrote in Japanese makes sense, especially if you intended to say "My, what a handsome beard you have!" ;-)


Christian said...

Congratulations, Steve, Great run and nice story!

Jeremy said...

Great stuff, Steve, and absorbing story. A rest, now, and let that injury recover?

Mary said...

What a great run and a great story. Thanks!

Pete said...


Congratulations again on a great race result! I really enjoyed your race report as well. You captured the physical and emotional marathon challenges (not the least of which anre bridge and on-ramp upgrades late in the race).

Well done!


Tesso said...

Great report Steve. Sounds like you ran the perfect race.

Ewen said...

No, I intended to say "If you weren't suffering from shrinkage, peeing wouldn't have taken 53 seconds".

Doing warm-weather training in Sydney definitely worked :)

Rachel said...

Fantastic result! It's so nice when it all comes together, well almost, but for that 50 seconds :)

Jeremy said...

I think the 'pee-break' enabled you to go under 3 hours...

David Motozo Rubenstein said...

yep the greatest victory, my man!

plu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
plu said...

Hi Steve,
Love it. What a read and experience.

You continue to give me motivation to fix my issues and plan, like you did, for a good run for the fitness level I have.

Top stuff.

cheers plu

Luckylegs said...

Fabulous reading, Steve! It made me feel like I was running all the way with you. Or rather, well behind you!

Congratulations on a brilliant run.

Robert Song said...

I'm a bit behind in my blog reading, so a belated congratulations on your race. I really liked all your mental tricks that helped you through.

When I find the secret to not having to have a toilet stop in a race, rest assured I will pass it straight on to you. Sadly it is a problem that doesn't seem to get any easier as you get older.