Monday, March 01, 2010

Tokyo Marathon 2010

Tokyo marathon really seems to be jinxed as far as the weather is concerned. Out of the four times it has been held, only one, in 2008, was run under good conditions. The first year, 2007, it was wet and cold, and last year was very windy with some rain thrown in for good measure. This year we were all watching the weather forecasts from a week out, and it looked promising as rain was forecast for Saturday but largely clearing by Sunday. As the day drew closer and the forecasts more reliable, the prospect of rain gradually increased. As this link shows, the period between 6 am and noon was in fact the coldest and wettest of the 24-hour period, and the temperature fell from 4.5 °C at the 9:10 am start to 3.1 °C at 11 am. That would explain the big plops of wet, slushy snow that started falling between 25 and 30 km.

So, it was a fun old day of being soaking wet and cold to the core for everybody. I'm sure that contributed to it being my personal worst result (for official races) of 3:13:16, but there were other factors too. My legs did not feel good right from the earliest stages. I probably started too fast for my fitness, being just off 3-hour pace. I knew it was risky, but I wanted to give myself a chance. There are two ways you can miss your target in a marathon: one is to go out too fast and fall into a heap, the other is to go too slow and never be able to make up the lost time. Running at between 4:20 and 4:15/km, I felt, was a reasonable compromise even though I wasn't as confident of my fitness as Ewen was. But by 10 km I knew it wasn't going to happen as feelings of fatigue started creeping through my legs despite sitting on a not-overly-aggressive 4:21/km pace (4:15/km is needed for a 3-hr marathon).

My pace had fallen to 4:31/km by halfway, by which time I knew it was going to be a game of survival. The rain wouldn't stop, I really felt cold and tiring, yet not from a lack of fuel. Ultimately, though, I think the main reason was a lack of fitness due to the inadequate training in February. The wet and cold played a role, but I just wasn't in shape to run that fast. Simple as that.

The crowds were great through the middle of the race from Nihonbashi to Asakusa and back. Saw lots of Nambanners through here and got plenty of "Ganbatte Namban" from strangers reading my singlet. (I was wearing a singlet over a T-shirt). The crowds were understandably much quieter than other years. They too were suffering in the conditions, and I wondered sometimes whether it was worse for them or us.

I had to have a plop-stop at about 33 km and lost about a minute with that. But then I was moving along pretty well. I sped up for a while but then had to settle for a strongish 4:45/km. I was still passing plenty of runners even at that pace and was going along painfully but happily at 38 km, thinking that all I had to do was hold pace to break 3:10. That would have been satisfying, all things considered. Then, right at about 39.8 km, a sharp pain shot through my left hamstring. It was the injury I'd been nursing since the start of February. It had been there in the background through the whole race, but never threatening to worsen or seriously affect my pace. But this brought me to a sudden, limping hobble. I stopped for a little to stretch and try to get it feeling better, and then took off again. I could run, but it seriously shortened my stride and had me just limping along. I had not long before passed and once and for all shaken off a runner from our club who I'd been "dueling" with for a while. But he soon came on by and that was the last I saw of him. Good luck to him. Soon after that I saw Bob cheering at the side of the road. I think he was telling me to hurry up. I yelled back, "MY LEG'S F#%&ED!" Anyway, I was resigned to my fate and realised that as long as I could run, I should do so and finish. I was still moving at an acceptable pace of 5:15 or 5:20/km, or something like that, but 3:10 was definitely shot. The final finishing straight to the goal took longer than any other marathon I've ever run. Jeez, just get here will you. And then, finally, it was over. 3:13:16.

As if to mock us, the weather came out bright and sunny in the afternoon. Still cold, though.

One good decision I'd made before the race was to turn off the auto-lap feature of my Garmin. I took splits manually whenever I noted a km marker. They were consistently long, and the overall length of the race was recorded as over 43 km. Naturally that also meant any pace readings were also over-estimated. People, don't rely on your Garmins too heavily!

Well, this post is quite long enough. I have no idea what I will be doing next, but the first priority is get my leg healthy again, so hard training certainly won't be featuring on this blog again any time soon.


Jon in Tokyo said...

It was a good effort to run so well with an injury and in so terrible weather.
I wonder if Garmin -san is really that far off. Dodging people and running around corners (and maybe puddles) can add to the distance covered. Just a thought.

Robert Song said...

Certainly a tough day at the office and I wouldn't want to run in those conditions.

All the best for the recovery and rehab for that injury.

Ewen said...

I'm terribly disappointed Steve. I'm almost as bad as predicting marathons as you are running them ;) What was I thinking with "3:03:08"?!

Seriously though, good effort considering the crap weather, dodgy training and duct-taped together leg.

It was worth having a crack at getting close to 3 hours. Fitness wise, looks like 4:24s would have delayed the 10k fatigue. Anyway, recover and go again!

Scott Brown said...

Great post Stephen

I ran there in 2007 and swore I would not run there again. It was just horrible weather and I was shaking from the cold 3 hours later.

Weren't they going to move the date?

Taking everything into account you must be pleased that you are still so close to sub 3. Given a good build up, conditions and no injuries you'd be in PB territory.

So just nurse your injuries and plan for a PB marathon before your 50th.

You're just going to have to be more single minded/selfish. Now that's hard to do given all the things going on in your life.

I've lost a bit of focus recently but I'll get back into it as I only really feel normal, thesedays, if I being
single minded and selfish with my running.

StompinRhino said...

Well done Steve!

"There are two ways you can miss your target in a marathon: one is to go out too fast and fall into a heap, the other is to go too slow and never be able to make up the lost time."

- I guess this shows the importance of setting challenging, but realistic targets and sticking to them.

So who was your mystery challenger?

Timothy Reed said...

Found your blog while searching for 2011 course-related stuff, since I'm running the race this year. Guess what: rain again this coming weekend! Looking forward to my trip to Tokyo, even if I have to slog through the race itself. Good luck if you're running it.


StompinRhino said...

Possible, but at this stage just 40% chance of rain. "週後半は雲が広がりやすくなり、日差しがないと寒さが増します。体調管理をシッカリと。" Bit cloudy, min5 max11, and no mention of wind. Shouldn't be too bad if that forecast holds (OK, so it is a big "if" given the historical...)

StompinRhino said...

Timely reminder to switch off the auto-lap feature on the Garmin. Thanks Steve.

Stephen Lacey said...

Tim, thanks for the note. Actually I am sitting out Tokyo this year and trying to prepare for Nagano in April. Right now though, I am in Mumbai for work. I actually marked out the whole course on this map. You can zoom in and take a look. Good luck, especially with the weather!

Thanks for your two bits worth too, Phil!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Great report Steve. I also ran the 2010 Tokyo Marathon but had great memories of it as I PBed by 48 mins for a 3:45. From reading your marathon reports I see I need to set the bar higher in training and in racing.