More than just a race on the marathon calendar, the Tokyo Marathon turns the simple activity of running into an unforgettable experience.
The 13th edition of the Tokyo Marathon took place on 3rd March 2019. This year, the city welcomed 38,000 runners from all over the world, increasing the participation rate by 2,000 runners from the year before. The event is also one of the prestigious World Marathon Majors, having joined the list in 2012.
Runners that complete marathons in all six World Marathon Majors are considered six star finishers, and since 2016, have been awarded a Six Star Finisher medal. With the other five races being held in Boston, New York, Chicago, Berlin, and London, Tokyo is the sole Asian representative, and on the account of the awesome Japanese hospitality and efficiency, there is really no better place to get your first start than in Tokyo!
Oversubscribed by close to 10 times annually, runners are chosen by an electronic ballot. Anyone that receives their acceptance to run in Tokyo is already a winner by most accounts!
Runners start at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, with a route that takes them past famous districts such as Nihonbashi and Hibiya, and iconic landmarks such as the Asakusa gates and temple, Tokyo Tower and the Imperial Palace. The route also brings runners through the main shopping district of Ginza for a truly unique experience before ending at Tokyo Station, effectively the center of city. While many may have been to Tokyo before, seeing these areas from the sidewalks is a whole different experience compared to running through them on the streets!
This year’s race saw runners line up in cold 5.7˚C weather, with a light rain that persisted through most of the race. However, there was nothing gloomy about the marathon with massive amounts of support for the runners along the route provided by thousands of volunteers. Apart from stations providing water and sports drinks, bananas and other snacks to keep runners going, stations at 27km and 38km were also giving out Umeboshi (pickled plum), as they say, only in Japan!
Ben Koh from Singapore tell us, “Right after flag-off, you begin to understand why this is probably the best marathon in the world. You never fail to feel like a superstar right from the start, with the continuous line of spectators cheering you on from the sidelines. I’ve never felt so hyped up running in a race!”
Participating too, were hundreds of runners that took their love of cosplay to the marathon, running as a samurai, anime princesses, and even a gothic Mickey and Minnie Mouse pair. All in good fun, till you realise that although they were dressed in costumes, many are serious runners and were putting up solid timings.
The race title this year was taken by 24-year-old Birhanu Legese of Ethiopia with a time of 2:04:48 in the Men’s category, while Ruti Aga, 25, also from Ethiopia raced away with the Women’s title with a time at 2:20:40.
More than just a single race, there were also two fun runs the day before. A Tokyo Marathon Family Run especially for elementary school children and their parents, and the Tokyo Marathon Friendship Run, a 3.5km route designed for runners from abroad to experience Japanese hospitality. Both are great ways to get more people excited and involved in running.
On top of that, the Tokyo Marathon Expo 2019, the largest running trade show in Japan, ran throughout the weekend. On show were the biggest brands in running equipment and technology with all their latest products on display. The attention this year was on ASICS as they showcased the new METARIDE™ running shoe.
Developed over two years by a team of scientists and designers at the ASICS Institute of Sport Science in Kobe, Japan, the shoe makes running long distances easier by reducing energy loss at the ankle joint.
With the Olympics rolling into Tokyo in 2020, next year’s Tokyo Marathon looks to be an event not to be missed as well!
Look out for the full story on Tokyo in the June issue of RUN Singapore.