Tokyo Marathon Race Strategy

With only 6 days before the Tokyo Marathon, I figured it was time to put some thought into my race strategy.  My ‘A’ goal is to run the race in 3:10 or better.  I figured if I do this, I’m almost guaranteed to get in to the 2013 Boston Marathon.  My ‘B’ goal is a sub 3:15, which will be a BQ qualifying time and allow me to register for the Boston Marathon, but there is no guarantee I’ll get in if the field of applicants exceeds the slots available.


I ran the Tokyo Marathon course in 2010, so I’m familiar with it.  It is not overly challenging other than a few moderate height bridges and overpasses toward the end of the course.  The first half of the course is very fast, with the first 4 miles (about 7 kilometers) all downhill.  Then the course is relatively flat until mile 22 (about 36 kilometers), where you’ll encounter your first significant bridge, followed by a couple small bridges, then a final noticeable overpass around mile 25 (about 40 kilometers).  So to do well on this course, you need to try and not get overly ambitious the first half because you’ll need to keep some energy stores in reserve to tackle the final 6 kilometers, which is the most challenging section of the course.  Also, the fan support is awesome until around mile 22, then it thins out until the very end of the race, so if you feed off the crowd, you’ll need to be mentally prepared for the minimal cheering on the most difficult part of the course.

Tokyo Marathon Course


I plan to run this race at an even pace and keep it between 7:15/mile (4:30/kilometer) ~ 7:30/mile (4:40) until mile 22 (35 kilometers).  Around mile 22, I’ll reassess whether or not I can pick up the pace – although, not too much faster until last mile or two.  Regardless, I definitely don’t want to slow down the last few miles at this decision point, because if I do, it is going to be difficult to obtain my goal time.  I feel that the pace I’m planning to run is conservative, so I’m expecting to finish strong.  I say this because I ran a pretty decent (for me anyways) half marathon two weeks ago in 1:25:12.  Taking this time and plugging it into the McMillan Running Calculator, it is equivalent to running a 3 hour marathon – although I think that would be pretty ambitious, but it does provide an indication of where my fitness level may be.

The key will be to avoid getting caught up with the crowd and going out too fast – my big mistake at New York.  In the New York Marathon last November I crossed the halfway point in 1:33:37 (7:09/mile [4:27/km] pace), but finished with an overall time of 3:15:44.  This equated to finishing the second half in 1:42:07 (7:48/mile [4:51/km] pace), almost 9 minutes slower than the first half – indication of very poor pacing.  I knew I was in going to have trouble in New York when I crossed the halfway point so fast.  For Tokyo, I really need to hold back (this has been very challenging for me) the first half and I’m planning to pass the halfway point between 1:35 ~ 1:38.


I plan to start moderately carbo-loading on Wednesday and will consume about 500 extra calories of carbohydrates daily.  So what this means is maybe an extra energy bar and another extra serving of pasta/rice in the evening each day until the evening of the race.  All you need to do is top off your finite energy stores, no more, no less.  Going beyond this will only cause digestive issues and add extra unneeded weight.  Along with the carbo-loading, I’ll ensure I drink enough to keep hydrated, but not overly hydrated where I’m going to the bathroom every 5 minutes.  The simple indication for hydration is to monitor your urine and if it is clear, you are hydrated.

Breakfast for race day will consist of a bowl of Raisin Bran cereal (with soy milk), a waffle or toast, yogurt with honey, and a cup of coffee.  The race starts at 9:10 am, so I’ll probably have breakfast around 5:00 am, which should provide sufficient time for full digestion of the breakfast.

GU Roctane Blueberry Pomegranate (2 x Caffeine)

During the race, I plan to carry 4 gels (GU Roctane Blueberry Pomegranate, 2 x caffeine).  I’ll take the first gel about 20 minutes before the race starts, then will consume the other three every 45 minutes.  This has been my formula for past races that seems to work well for me.  I’ll also alternate sports drink and water between fluid stops and try to take in some fluids at least every mile or two.

Regarding fluid stops, I plan to walk through a few of them.  I find that taking a short walk break and getting the fluids and gels down seems to help refresh the legs and doesn’t really effect your time.

Weather and Gear

Although we are still 6 days out, the weather is forecast to be ideal.  They are projecting mostly cloudy conditions, temperatures in the 40s, with moderate wind of less than 10 mph.  Assuming the weather forecast is correct, I plan to wear a long sleeve Under Armour shirt with a tech short sleeved shirt as a second layer, Under Armour compression shorts with running shorts as a second layer, CEP compression socks, gloves, Garmin 405, and armband to carry my gels and ID.  For shoes, I plan on wearing my Newton Distances.

Other Preparations

Other than that, I plan to get adequate rest and ensure I have everything laid out and ready to go the evening before the marathon.  One thing you don’t want is to be stressing the morning of the marathon, so it is important to take this extra step and ensure you have everything you need Sunday morning and get there a little early.  I’ll be taking the train from Yokohama to Tokyo, so I’ll need to leave my house around 6 am to ensure I get there about 2 hours before the race begins.  This should allow plenty of time to get things checked in, stretch, hit the port-a-potty and relax a bit.

So we’ll see what happens, there are so many variables to the marathon that you have to kind of expect that nothing will go exactly as planned.  Guess you kind of need to think of it as a bit of an art form and not get too scientific about it.  Regardless of the outcome, I’m grateful to be able to participate in such a world class event.  Tokyo puts on a fantastic marathon and the fact that less than 1 in 10 people who apply for the lottery are able to run it, it really is a privilege that I’ll savor with each step.

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One Response to Tokyo Marathon Race Strategy

  1. Pingback: Race Report: Tokyo Marathon | Running Inspired Blog

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