“Why on earth  did we sign up for this?” The start of the conversation we were having on the train platform at Harajaku Station less than 24 hours prior to the start of the marathon…For our small group of four (Rob, Lou, Jules and Anna), the Tokyo Marathon campaign officially began in August and included the usual hours spent running around Melbourne and sweating it out at ProSport HQ. Given the timing, it included many long runs during the gruelling Australian Summer (longer for some than those gallivanting around Canada for a month) and perhaps the biggest obstacle continually facing us was trying to balance the hard work with all the festive celebrations that come during this time - that was no mean feat!

Looking back, it is hard to recall a session when we actually ran as a group. Regardless, the daily banter on Whatsapp and our two coaches Tim H and Tim S ensured we remained connected and focussed on the job at hand.

We all arrived in Tokyo a few days prior to the run. We are not the type of group who spend the days leading up thinking of clouds and maintaining inner stillness in order to gather ourselves for the event. But rather, we used a bit of retail therapy to distract our minds, dined at Michelin starred restaurants and placed bets on who could consume the most number of dumplings (all in the name of carb loading of course).

On race day, we woke to a perfectly still morning with a blue sky and a temperature of 8 degrees, the perfect running conditions. We all had the benefit of having done a marathon before but we each came into this one with our own setbacks - different fitness levels, injuries and emotional states. Lucky we never had an aim to win the thing, we were here to enjoy the sights of Tokyo and say “we did it”!

The marathon itself can only be described as a military-like operation from dropping off your bags to getting on the buses to going back to your hotel at the end. There is a countless number of marshals, signs and endless queues. The route is designed so that you loop back on yourself a few times, which meant we had the opportunity to throw out a few high fives and “you got this” to familiar faces. Whilst it is not recommended to eat new foods pre or during the run, the temptations have always been too great for Rob who tried everything from tomatoes to custard jelly. The crowd, as usual, makes you feel like a star, the Village People’s YMCA can be heard over the loud speakers and there is no shortage of superheroes, cartoon characters, nudes and a Starbucks cup also taking part.

We did however note some differences:

-       There is no public urination

-       Tomatoes are considered a good form of fuel

-       Menthol ice spray can be applied by random women during the run

-       Water cups, gel packets and clothes are not thrown anywhere but placed neatly in the designated bins 

-       The praise from the local volunteers at the end is probably the most humbling you’ll ever experience.   

For all four of us, this run ticked off another Major and also resulted in 2 personal bests.. Hats off to Jules who crossed the finish line with a stress fracture and all!

Upon returning to our hotel, after a very expensive trip to Macca’s, we had a quick shower and then were off to the Park Hyatt for some well-deserved martinis at the New York Bar followed by froffies in Golden Gai and a big bowl of ramen.

As always the highlight of our trip was the Monday night, which started with the sensory overloaded Robot Show, the best $80 ever spent. We then continued the Japanese theme and went to the Ninja restaurant for a delicious 6 course dinner. And then a few night caps…

Although we all thought / said this would be the last one, London 2018 is already locked in – who else is in?