I ran Tokyo Marathon on Sunday 22nd March as a pacer/supporter for Satohi (in front of me in the photo). Her previous PB was 3:19:54 and we felt she was in significantly better shape than that effort. She had been training well and finding 4:30/km pace fairly easy in training. We did a 25 km pace-run three weeks ago at a target of 4:30/km, but many splits were in the 4:20s and she felt capable of carrying on. So we had every reason to be optimistic and set a strategy of starting a little conservatively, around 4:40/km, gradually increasing to 4:35/km, then if everything was going well, moving up to 4:30/km from around 20k.
The day dawned cool but with a blustery wind. This wasn't too much of a factor until the turn from Ginza (around 34 km) out towards the finish at Odaiba, after which we were often running into a strong head wind and also having to contend with the several nasty little rises at flyovers.
The first half went perfectly to plan and we hit the half only a few seconds outside the target. The planned inrease in pace just didn't feel like the right thing to do. More patience was necessary I believed, knowing that even if we kept 4:35 to the end it would still be a strong result for her. The 10k from half to 31k was also fine, but fatigue was obviously setting in and suddently I felt she was struggling to hold pace. Sure enough, the 31-32 split was 4:42, followed by 4:44, 4:52, and 4:54. The next 6 km were very tough going as she had hit the wall and was struggling with the wind, the rain that had started to fall, and those dreaded flyovers. But the supporters were really vocal through this desolute section and she dug deep and did not give in to grind out a new PB of exactly 1 minute, only one of a very small handful to be had by our group under these tough conditions.
(Half - 1:37:29 vs target 1:37:17)
30km 0:22:57 (2:18:15 vs target: 2:17:20)
Finish 0:11:02 (3:18:54)
For me personally, I could have kept going at the target pace, at least for some period longer. And once Satohi conked I was always having to contain my pace, which was a new and slightly strange experience. I was hurting of course, but could have run faster and had to resist the temptation to put in as hard as I could to take the pain to another level over those last few km -- you know, the way the end of a marathon is supposed to feel. As a result it was a relatively relaxed marathon for me and actually I really got to enjoy the atmosphere and crowd like never before. Running over the final 5 km brought back vivid memories of last year when I was hurting but maintaining a good pace over this section, racing the clock to sneak in under 3 hours.
Going into the run I was not sure how I was going to handle the distance given I hadn't done any runs over 25 km until February 8. I was even a bit worried that if Satohi went really well that she would have to leave me behind in the final 10 km. But I handled it well and I think if anything it has re-kindled my desire to keep up the training and build strength and endurance through he summer for maybe another crack at sub-three in November.