This morning I ran the Minazuki Tokyo Kita (Half) Marathon (第48回 六無月東京喜多(北)マラソン). There was also a full marathon and 10K going on at the same time, but sure am glad I didn’t sign up for the full marathon, those runners were looking pretty miserable due to the warm and humid weather. As I mentioned in my half marathon race strategy, I was anticipating a warm and humid race today, which is exactly what we got – high-70s and humidity over 70%. However, there was a mild breeze and cloud cover, which made the race a bit more bearable. Knowing that it was going to be warm, I adjusted my goal to around 1 hour and 30 minutes. If conditions were ideal (i.e., temperatures below 60 degrees and dry), I believe with my current condition, I could run around a 1:26.
I achieved my goal by running a 1:29:46, which I’m satisfied with. More surprising, I finished 22nd overall out of approximately 2,500 runners. Normally, with a 1:29 you wouldn’t finish so high, but I guess the weather conditions impacted everyone’s time. This was probably one of the smartest races I’ve ran and I pretty much followed my strategy exactly as planned. In recent races I have been starting out too quickly and my performance would suffer in the second half. This race, however, I was patient and went out at a moderate pace and got stronger as the race progressed. In fact I did a 1 minute negative split, running the first half in 45:24 and the second half in 44:22 – pretty much what every runner wants to do. The best part was that I didn’t really feel I had to push myself to maintain pace, I got into a rhythm and other than adjusting a bit here and there, my pacing was steady. It felt almost too easy until around mile 11, then it took some concentration and willpower to push the final miles. I finished the last quarter mile strong, passing a couple runners. So even though this wasn’t a PR for me, it is probably one of the most satisfying races because everything went according to plan.
The race started around 9:45 am, so I woke up around 5:15 am to eat breakfast, shower, and take a 76 minute train ride from Yokohama to Tokyo (Adachi Odai Station) to get to the start. From Adachi Odai Station, it is about a 1 mile walk to the starting area. They have a tent assigned where you can place your bags, but I was a little worried with the security of the bags – but everything was fine, nobody seemed to mess your stuff. I got a good 7 and a half hours of sleep the night before, so I was pretty rested. I also ensured I was fueled and well hydrated heading into the race. So even before the race started I felt relaxed and rested, which is always a good sign. The course is a out and back run along the Arakawa River. The half marathoners do it once, whereas, the full marathoners do it twice. As far as scenery, it is not a bad course and it is pretty flat – other than one steep hill they make you climb to get to the top of the levee. The course is a park setting with a river on one side of you. Lots of people use the park areas for baseball, bicycling, soccer and picnics. Also, you can see Tokyo Sky Tree at a distance along portions of the course.
There is no crowd support whatsoever, so it is relatively quiet race (sometimes not a bad thing), other than hearing heavy breathing and footsteps around you. This marathon is also a low budget production. When you check-in they give you a small towel and some type of bag – both I could do without. The race bib was pretty large and made of a plastic material, which I didn’t care for since it was so warm and seemed to retain heat to the body – but I’m glad you only had to wear one bib, many of Japanese races require you to wear two on the front and back of your shirt. During the race itself, all they had was a handful of water tables that are insufficiently manned and too crowded – I ended up skipping a couple because of the congestion around the tables. There were no sports drinks given out during the run – although they do give you a can of Pocari Sweat (along with a banana and apple) at the end. To me, not having sufficient hydration stations is pretty inexcusable, especially when you are hosting a full marathon in warm and humid conditions. Granted the entry fee was only $50 or $60, but come on, you can’t find sponsors or even raise the fee a little to have adequate water and sport drink stations. Luckily, I only ran the half marathon so I’m use to not drinking much for this distance, but for the full marathoners, it must must have been a nightmare – and many of them looked terrible, most likely due to dehydration.
The course was also way too congested for the number of runners. There was a single road with thousands of runners along both sides going in opposite directions. I was dodging and weaving runners almost the entire course because you have marathoners, half marathoners and 10K runners all sharing the same one lane road. I’m not sure if this is a money making event, but squeezing so many runners into such a narrow course really diminishes the quality of the event and as a result, I will not run this race in the future. I usually don’t like to complain about the race organizers because I know many are volunteers and putting on events like this is a lot of hard work, but compared to other races I’ve run, this was noticeably below average. If I were to give them a grade, it would be a D.
There was one positive I’d like to point out and that was the ability to get your results immediately after you finished. Right after crossing the finish line, you go to a tent and they print out a certificate on the spot with your clock time, net time, and overall place. I saw this done once before at the Lake Kawaguchi Marathon a couple years ago – wish all races had a similar system.
So overall, I was happy with my performance, but a little disappointed in the organization of the race itself. I believe this was the 48th time they’ve held the event, which further puzzles me as to why it wasn’t better organized having so many years of experience. But it is what it is, so be it – just don’t expect me to return. Below is a link to my GPS time splits.