Race Report : Running My First Tokyo Marathon

This is a Guest Blog post from my Friend Khalfan who ran the 2009 Tokyo Marathon. He is a Kenyan teaching in Japan

Tokyo Marathon(My first Marathon)
From Khalfan.


Actually my main sport has been soccer since when I was 6 years old. But in high school I ran a number of short races like 4 x 100m relay, and 200m.
Although I am from Kenya, running is not seen as cool by city youths. Only these days of running boom, people are kind of noticing the power of running. In my case I felt the power of running when I moved to Japan.

How I fell in Love with running

Last July, my student invited me to run in their 5k by 4 Ekiden, and I was the anchor! I was expecting something like 20 minutes, but to my surprise I ran for 17 minutes 30 seconds(Thanks to my soccer sprints!).

After this I felt like challenging half Marathon in November which went well and was tempted to shot at the Tokyo Marathon. Amazingly, a month before November’s half Marathon, I had only two runs. One 6 Kilometre run which I did in my October vacation in Mombasa and a 16 Kilometre run which I did two days from the race. I was quite poorly prepared, but was surprised to finish in 1 hour 31 minutes.

Tokyo Marathon 2009

Starting line:

I didn’t want to go to the Tokyo Marathon start line as poorly prepared as November. So I started training hard and long, only to get injured and stay out of action all of December and January. The injury was so serious that it forced me to go to an orthopedician. In mid Feb I was back on my feet but was scared to do tough training to avoid another injury. So I went to the start line with confidence but poorly prepared again with only one 25 Kilometre run as my longest run.

Register : Get an Entry To Tokyo marathon : Matter of Luck

I think you already know that Japan is a country of runners, I don’t mean record breakers as we know them but I mean people who love running! That means getting a ticket to the Tokyo Marathon, being the biggest running event in Japan is not a joke! The limit was 30,000 Marathon runners and 5,000 10 Km runners, but there were over 260,000 applicants. Lucky me!

On the starting line I met a few good runners I know since my position was good as I used my 5k results. I was dreaming of an ambitious target time of 2:55 to 3:30 and was planning to run 5k 20 to 21 minutes splits. From my half Marathon experience I knew that my pacing is bad, so I decided to follow a guy who can take me at a 4:10 pace.

When the gun went off, we crawled for about one and a half minute before crossing the start line. My leader Mr. Paddy was quite slow at the first split and we crossed 5k point after 23 minutes. Although I trusted him, I still doubted myself if I can hold such a slower pace for long, so I decided to speed up (A rookies mistake which I knew about!). The reason I sped off was the feeling that I better get tired after covering many Kilometres in a short while than getting tired trying to keep a uniform pace.

The second split 5k to 10k I did it in 21 minutes, 10k to 15k at 22minutes, 15k to 20k at 23 minutes. But my trouble started between 20 to 25 mark. My calf muscles started getting tighter as I approached 24k mark. Remember that is around my longest practice run! I hanged in there and crossed the 25k point in 26 minutes.

The Awesome Spectators of Tokyo marathon

The good thing about Tokyo Marathon is that, there are supporters everywhere, it makes it difficult to even think of quitting. And that is why the finishing percentage might be one of the highest in the world at 97%. Although the idea of quitting started filling my head after 25 mark, I knew that I had to reach 28k mark since that is where someone was waiting for me with my Gel. So I pushed on, telling my brain that after taking the gel I can just quit.

I have heard of people eating Bananas, cookies and bread and other stuff as they run, but I always felt this is very silly since serious runners have no such leisures. Also the idea of run-walking was something I never imagined I could keep up with! But as I approach 28K mark I felt all my energy was sapped out! When I saw the Banana supply, I grabbed a handful of Banana pieces that amount to about two bananas. I took the banana hungrily, drunk lots of water and amino drink, enough to get me to the 28 mark.

At 28 mark I got my gel but since I was so hungry I drunk the gel in few seconds, and was supply less. Luckily just around the corner some supporter offered me a bottle of water, and two more supporters gave me gels. Nevertheless at 29 mark I broke my not walking promise and stopped to stretch and walk. In fact at this point I was thinking of quitting but most of the route had railings and supporters never stopped cheering. That made me feel like I was on the stage, and I started enjoying talking with the supporters in between my runs!

The only thing that helped me on top of the food helping was the medical support around! I knew someone had medical supplies, but I forgot what color jacket volunteers had medical supplies. I stopped a number of them asking, until I found out the volunteers in red jackets had spray that could ease my calf muscles. So with few pit stops, I could manage a decent walk run that saw me cross 30k mark after 32 minutes, 35k mark after 31 minutes, and 40k mark after 33, The last 2ks or so I did them in about 12 minutes and managed to cross the finish line far from my target time after 3 hours 46minutes. The rest is history!

The winner of Tokyo Marathon was a fellow Kenyan – Salim Kipsang, I wished I had asked him to carry my chip for me!

Inspiring Story of a 65 year Old Japanese Marathon Runner

Though a Kenyan won, the real record breaker was a 65 years old Japanese with Bushido(Samurai) spirit – Mr. Akinori Kusuda who ran 52 Marathons in 52 days. Tokyo Marathon was his 52nd!

I just ran my first Marathon and I feel like I need two weeks recovery, I wonder what kind of muscles does Mr. Akinori have!

The run was tough, but really memorable and fun! My next plan is to do more long runs of 30 to 35k and do a couple of 10 ks and half Marathons before attempting another Full Marathon!

2 thoughts on “Race Report : Running My First Tokyo Marathon

  1. roadlesswandering

    Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading about your experience. I was one of the observers, but next year I would like to try it. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

  2. Asti

    You have great genes- to run a marathon without training much and a great time! I train a lot and can barely break 5 hrs. LOL. Good luck on your future marathons.


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