So you got into Tokyo (Tokyo Marathon, that is) and you are debating whether you should go or not.
I went through this same dilemma last year, I knew I had to do it, because Tokyo was part of my running goals, but I was scared. “How much will all this cost? That flight is kinda long, how will I get around or speak the language, I feel lost already.”
I stopped thinking and started doing.
First I made sure I paid for the race. Then, I started to look for flight and hotel packages in Tokyo. While looking for flight and hotel packages, I studied the Tokyo Metro System and the Tokyo Marathon race course and figured out a hotel that wasn’t too far from either the start or finish line. I ended up finding a hotel in Shinagawa, Shinagawa Seaside to be exact. My hotel was right outside the train station and it was the perfect location for me to get around to different places.
I personally like to do my tours before the race. Keeps my mind busy and not so nervous, also I don’t know how I’ll feel after the race so I rather get the tours out the way. I booked most of my tours before arriving in Tokyo, that way I didn’t have to worry about looking for tours while out there, especially with the language barrier and all, it would be too much trying to ask for tour information when I could just do it from home, from my computer, etc… One tour company that I recommend is JTB Sunrise Tours, I did two, one day trip tours with them outside of Tokyo. They speak English and are very knowledgeable. Highly recommend it.
Jet lag is a b$*€# so get some sleep, you’ll need it. The first day you will be awake but on zombie mode. Your body feels like it’s asleep and you are sleepwalking. GET SLEEP. The first two days you will wake up at weird times because your body is trying to adjust. I suggest you arrive at least a week before your race. Especially if you’re doing tours and stuff.
Other Quick Tips:
– Like stated before, get a hotel somewhere in the middle. The race start and finish are in two different extremes. I found it easy to get to the start line from Shinagawa-Seaside and fairly easy to get back to the hotel room after the race. Not too much traveling, your legs will thank you. Also the hotel rooms in Shinagawa weren’t as expensive as Shibuya or Shinjuku were the start line is.
– Study the Tokyo Metro map. Me and that map became best friends during training. I was learning the names of the stations, figuring out ways around town and from the airport. I did some serious research. It isn’t hard, not too complicated once you’re there. Just pay attention and know where you are going.
– Flying through Narita Airport might be less expensive. On the map it seems a bit out of the way from Tokyo, but there’s an awesome train that takes you right into Tokyo; the Narita Express. Makes about 3 or 4 stops to Tokyo. It’s amazing.
These Two Phone Apps Might Come In Handy:
- JapanTransit ($2.99) – it’s like a NextStop (if you live in NYC), or a Google Maps app. But I find it much simpler to use while out in Japan. It’ll help make the metro a lot less complicated. You’ll know where to get on and off, how many stops, what time the train is coming. It’s pretty useful and simple.
- WordLens (FREE) – I didn’t have this app while out there, I wish I had. There were a lot of Japanese signs I wished I knew what they said. Especially at restaurants. Lol. Maybe it’ll come helpful.
Learn a few phrases and words in Japanese, download a learn Japanese podcast and learn a few words. At least so you can understand and perhaps reply.
- Ganbatte – do your best/good luck
- Arigatou Gozaimasu – Thank You
- Konnichiwa – Hello
- Ohayou Gozaimasu – good morning
- Sayonara – goodbye
– Meet up with these guys, I didn’t get to run with them because I got sick, but we kept in touch throughout the whole time I was there and still after. @AFE_Tokyo (Athletics Far East). #BridgeTheGap
– One thing I wish I knew was that they “time you” by gun-time not chip-time. So once your corral gun goes off, make your way to the start line quickly if you’re not close to the front already. I was a bit in the back so it took a bit to get to the start, maybe 20 mins. I should’ve rushed.
– They also have race officials checking for your bib at all times. Especially at the start, so if your bib is covered they will stop you and ask you to show your bib. Keep that in mind when you see someone coming towards you trying to stop you. It happened to me. I was cold. Had my jacket zipped up, bib underneath.
– There’s a somewhat small annoying incline around mile 24 or so. I saw a few people trip and some fell hard. This incline will catch you by surprise. At mile 24, my legs felt like lead and I could barely lift them, that’s why a lot of runners tripped. Just take it easy, the end is near.
– Speaking of the end, like any other marathon the end feel like it’ll never come. With this one, there’s about 6 turns from miles 25-26, so you don’t quite see the finish line until you make the last turn. Be patient.
– The crowd is pretty motivating, the entertainment was awesome. It makes you want to stop and enjoy. Especially when running past a few landmarks.
– Did I mention that the weather is unpredictable. Wear layers, but don’t get carried away. If you come from a place that’s cold like NYC, you will probably train in much colder conditions in NYC than what you’ll experience in Tokyo. You’ll be fine.
I think I’ll stop here..I can sit here and write a whole lot of things about Tokyo and my experience but what fun would that be. You have to experience the fun yourself. I think the fun part was doing the research and feeling pretty confident of your research, especially their train system. Don’t be afraid, just pay attention and know where you’re going so you don’t end up in the wrong place. Feel the fear and do it anyway.