One of our aims is to run all 6 of the Abbott World Marathon Majors. That’s the London, New York, Tokyo, Boston, Berlin and Chicago marathons. We have both run London individually and we did Chicago together in October 2016. We both entered the ballot for Tokyo but unfortunately only I got a space (Helen). With tour company spaces being like gold dust this left me without Jenni for this race.
After Chicago in October it seemed simple, keep the training up through the winter, run Tokyo in February… life however is not so simple and with my ankle injury getting worse and causing other injuries in my leg keeping up the training has been difficult to say the least…
So with very little distance training done (1 x 15mile run and a few 10mile runs) I headed to Tokyo pretty certain that running was a bad idea but I was so lucky to have got a ballot space and my boyfriend and mum were coming for a holiday so I really wanted to try!
We flew out on Wednesday so I would have a few days to aclimatise before the race on Sunday.
After arriving in Tokyo and checking into the hotel we headed to the Expo so I could register and pick up my number. The Expo was amazing, the halls were brightly decorated with the colours and logos of the marathon, all the runners names were written on a wall (yes I searched until I found mine)
The route was on a few of the walls, brightly in 3D highlighting the districts that the run would be taking you through and the atmosphere was fantastic! I also headed over to the Abbott stand and had my photo taken in front of the Tokyo section!
After all the official sections the Expo then had a number of merchandise stalls etc to browse around, I was good and only bought a pair of compression sleeves (which I genuinely needed). But I did have some pictures with characters that were roaming the Expo!
Saturday night I got all my kit ready, taped my legs and started hoping for the best… My ankle is incredibly weak due to the severe tear in my tendon and this has caused me to injure my shins quite dramatically, so currently walking is a bit hit or miss depending on the day, running… Ummm, yeah, that… It doesn’t happen, the pain is incredible and I’m super unstable…
Sunday morning was race day, I got up early and we had breakfast in the hotel, well I tried to have breakfast, I hate eating early in the morning!!! Then off to the start, it was really well sign posted walking through Shinjuku towards the start line and easy to find the baggage drops and start pens! I lined up in my pen and genuinely felt quite nervous! Normally when I line up I’m sure I can finish an event or I wouldn’t be there… this one was different!
After a nervous selfie and a lot of time trying to work out what the Japanese announcements meant I looked round and spotted a familiar face – Michael – he had been in Chicago with the same tour company and whilst we hadn’t really spoken in Chicago a familiar face was a welcome sight so I edged my way through the crowd and went to say hi! We made or way to the start together and figured out our initial pace was likely to be quite similar as I would be limping and he has some knee problems so would be starting slow to warm up!
To the start line we headed and soon we were jogging (hobbling in my case) onto the route and off into Tokyo! I knew I would find the first few miles tough whilst I tested out how bad my leg felt and how best to run through the pain (I do not recommend people do this – rest and recovery are very important), but what I hadn’t realised was there wasn’t going to be an easy way to do this, often after a few miles it gets easier… this didn’t and after 10km I was almost certain it wasn’t going to… I told Michael he may want to head on without me as I was pretty sure I was done, this wasn’t going well for me.
Michael said he didn’t need to head off any faster and was happy to run with me until I was completely done, so on we plodded with Michael talking to me and trying to take my mind off my issues. After just over 2 painful hours we reached the half way point, then I started to think maybe I could do it… Don’t get me wrong there was still an awfully long way to go but I had already managed half of it…
A quick stop for the loo, some painkillers and water, 2nd half of Tokyo marathon was underway!!! I was barely running, using a strange shuffly technique to keep my stride small and minimise impact on my leg, but this was working… I was still moving in the right direction!!! Michael was an amazing encouragement and hearing stories about his life to date and his achievements was truly motivational! He is also aiming for all 6 majors, he started last year with London and he only has Boston left to complete in April – I’m in awe!!!
We carried on, past the cheerleaders, dance performances and incredible volunteers who lined the course, we started counting down the distance and at 30km I started to believe that maybe it would be possible to finish this race! Something that I would never have thought at the start or at 10km!!
Another quick loo stop and some more painkillers, just an hour or so to go and we would make it… I started to feel more cheerful, getting to the end was now feeling a bit more achievable, I could hardly believe it!
As we headed towards the finish at about 41km we managed to spot my mum and Adam in the crowd!!! It was so nice to see them smiling and waving and we were so nearly finished!!
We ran (I hobbled) down the final street with big smiles on our faces and finished side by side! I absolutely can not thank Michael enough for sticking with me at my steady plod, encouraging me, believing in me and helping me to reach the finish. It’s easy for someone to think that I knew I could do it but for me this race was different. It’s hard to gauge how much is mind over matter and when you should genuinely call it quits and admit defeat, I’m sure that will happen one day, but on this occasion that was not the case! In Chicago I saw a lot of signs that said ‘go random stranger we believe in you’ and I often find sport encourages this mentality which is amazing! Micheal well and truly embodied this spirit for which I will be forever grateful!
Now it’s time to take my injury seriously, I have my operation on my ankle booked for when I get back to London so will soon be taking time to rest and recover properly.
But for now I’m super excited to have survived and am enjoying my holiday in Japan!!