If I only could use one word to describe the feeling of my DNF at the recent Tokyo Marathon 2015, it would be “Painful”. The mind is an amazing organ. It blocks out & blanks out painful and bad memories, only leaving good ones in the mind. If there isn’t an conscientious effort made to remember, very soon it just vanishes into the deep subconscious part of our mind, as if it never happened before. Before that happens, whilst the memory is still fresh slit open from the wound, I would like to pen it down so I will never forget.
Leading up to this race, I did an amazing PB of 8mins in my half-marathon effort in SCHKM15.I was primed for a good time in Tokyo Marathon ’15, or so I thought.
Boy, was I so wrong. Due to my trip to Hong Kong and Tokyo, my work schedule had to be arranged in such a way to accommodate the trip, causing me to have a situation where I had to do an entire week of shift work back-to-back transiting from Jan to early Feb. This was when I first got ill. I still can pinpoint it down to a cold morning training session at NTU after a shower, the wind blew and little did I know that that moment would be the start of a slippery slope. I felt my body having an all too familiar feeling of aches creeping up, and I knew something was wrong. I had a fever that same day & it dragged on and off over a period of four to five days.
Subsequently, as I was concurrently planning an important event at work, I had to co-ordinate many different elements of the event, & my attention-to-detail would be my downfall, as I sacrificed rest time to ensuring that no stone was left unturned. The immense self-induced stress/pressure to deliver coupled with one meal where I missed, caused my tummy to churn, toss & turn like a washing machine. It hurt real bad, as my fever became a stomach flu. This virus caused me to miss a good two weeks of training. I had stopped running totally to give my body a rest.
After SCHKM15, there wasn’t really much time till Tokyo Marathon ’15. Whatever time was left was considered as the taper phase, where the volume had to be reduced, but intensity had to be kept high. As I though my illness was coming to an end, I started to cough. This was a blow to whatever remaining key workouts I had planned. A YASSO800, a 25km run was all that remained between me & Tokyo. It was not meant to be as the virus go the better of me. The event I had planned was a resounding success. It was a simple event, but executed down to the tee; but at what cost?
In the week leading up to the marathon, my mild occasional cough had developed into a full blown cough with disgusting green thick phlegm. This post was done retrospectively, hence, I discovered from my GP that the doctor I went to see for meds, prescribed me a expectorant, which made my cough even worse as it caused it to be more productive! After a few days of western & TCM meds, nothing helped, but I decided to take the trip down to Tokyo anyways since everything was already booked.
Planning. (Skip this section if you don’t want any info on trip logistics)
Flight Tickets: Two-way, return, Vietnam Airlines Economy tickets – S$681.86 (S$652.39 + $29.47 Two x Pho and 1 x Hot Vietnamese Drip Coffee in transit)
Flights were booked after a couple of days of scanning through prices. A one-stop Vietnam Airlines flight stopping in Ho Chinh Min, Vietnam, was required. That was the best-value flight I could find within that week or so that fit the bill. A night flight that arrives in Tokyo in the morning, just in time for the Race Pack Collection on Saturday Morning, perfect. If anything I learnt from economics, is not to ask anyone else on the flight how much their ticket was, and not to look at ticket prices again after purchase, if not it would lead to post-purchase cognitive dissonance. Also do factor in any amounts of money you’ve spent in transit as it should be factored into when planning your next flight.
Accommodation: 1 night, Shinjuku New City Hotel – $204.44 ($154.65 + $49.79 3pm Late Check-out)
Flights & Accommodation was booked through Zuji.com. Painless process in locating the nearest hotel to the startline. Upon arrival, I negotiated at the counter to allow me to check out at 3pm for a small fee after finding out that the marathon only starts at 9am. On the morning of the marathon, I could even see the baggage checking gates from my hotel room! That was how close I was to the marathon, which made it very convenient. After Bridge to Brisbane, where the shuttle bus that brought me from the city to the race START was terribly late, I became convinced that the only way to go is to stay near the START line to avoid too much logistical pain, just lace up & rock up. It was going to be a short trip. 1 night hotel on Saturday, followed by 1 night at the airport on Sunday before a morning flight out of Tokyo on Monday.
Tips for Sleeping at the Airport: Vietnam Airlines departs from Narita Airport Terminal 1, which closes at night. Not to worry, there are 2 options:
1. Go to Narita Airport Terminal 2, which is still opened at Night, but you have to do so before the last train, if not you’d have to walk 20mins on foot.
2. A arrival section of Narita Airport Terminal 1 is still opened for those who do not want to brave the cold, just look for a friendly Airport Policeman, they can be of great help. Lawson’s Convenience store located on level 5 is also opened 24hours just in case you’d need to purchase any late night snacks.
A rough guide to Tokyo just for eating & transportation could cost you S$1000/week. As I was going for 2 days, I decided to change approximately $300 or 26,000 Yen to last me the trip. Any big ticket items would be charged to the MasterCard.
Here are some big ticket items I bought – $685.50
Race Pack Collection / Expo:
Official Marathon Souvenirs – $111.41
Asics Tee Shirt – $38.31
Mt Fuji Buff + Asics Orange Arms Sleeves – $57.44
Orange Sports Shades – $47.28
2 x Books from Kinokuniya – $28.50
Carboloading Dinner at Samurai Restaurant for 3 – $121.85
Asics Harajuku – Skysensor Glide Wide + Extra laces – $159.75
Nike Zoom Speed Rival + Nike Compression Socks – $120.96
Total Accounting Cost of Marathon (in SGD)
Registration – $145.51 (12,800Yen)
Flight – $681.86
Accommodation – $204.44
Cash – $302.60
Big Ticket Items – $685.50
Total – $2019.91
Well obviously I could have done it for less, but I thought the stuff that I got were all value-for-money, at least it was to me.
So I arrive at Tokyo approximately 0730h. Immigration was a breeze, just had to fill in two forms, a arrival card & a declaration card & you would clear customs quickly. You can request for the cards on the plane, otherwise you would have to stand by the counters upon arrival to get it done.
After the immigration counter, I didn’t have to wait for luggage as I didn’t have any checked-in! So I head straight for the Airport Limousine Bus counter to get a 0845h ticket (2,800Yen) to Tokyo Washington Hotel Ariake, which is the nearest stop to the race expo at Tokyo Big Sight. After researching the day before, I found out that this is the option with the least logistical execution, & it was all that much more expensive. Tickets bought, I had about an hour to kill, so I walked the counters to look for Wi-Fi dongles. The best deal I found was a 1000 yen/day with 7GB data. But then I thought about it, and I didn’t really need it since I was on holiday & I should just disconnect to connect with the present moment. & I was proven right as so many places that I’ve been to, I was able to get Wi-Fi easily. Even at subway stations!
I arrive early at 0845h at Tokyo Washington Hotel Ariake. Before I alighted, I could see many official marathon marshals and runners decked out in the vicinity. Yes, the International Friendship Run was going down that morning. I should have done it as it seemed like alot of fun! I head straight for Tokyo Big Sight for the collection.
It was around 0900h and the Q for the collection was already snaking! Overseas and interstate runners were all collecting their race packs & it promised to be an exciting affair.
By 1000h all the volunteers were already in position ready to go, at 1030h, the organisers opened the counters with much fanfare! All the volunteers were very enthusiastic in their welcome!
Collected my race pack hassle free from the Overseas counter within 2mins of opening! But the real fun comes in the Race Expo itself. So much to see & do, it might as well be a half a day affair!
They even have awesome photo booths for a little bit of fun!
I had some time to kill after race-pack collection and checking-in to the hotel, so we headed to the arcade to occupy our time.
I met my uni mate, Mina, for dinner at a Samurai-themed restaurant. Which I thought was a tad too late starting at 8.30pm. But then again the marathon start was a 0900h, so I guess it might be okay.
After dinner, I headed back to the hotel where I started to arrange my race stuff & did some final homework on the race proper.
After a shower, I head to bed for a 0600h morning call.
I had a breakfast of muffins & a coffee cake, together with a bottle of pocari sweat to wash it down, after gearing up & vaseline-ing up, I went down to the check-in area. With Tokyo Marathon, you have many entry gates, however, It will all lead to the same common areas, so not to worry.
It was drizzling and cold that morning, a huge contrast to the clear blue skies and cloudless weather the day before! I tried to warm-up before the run, but it was pointless as the START blocks open an hour before and you would have runners just waiting there for a good hour before the START. My only goal was to keep warm.
03:03, that was the goal. I knew based on the last two years of Boston qualifying times, 03:03 was fast enough to do so.
0905h the wheelchair category was flagged off, and 0910h the gun goes off for the 9th Tokyo Marathon 2015.
When the gun went off, all I had in my mind was looking for the nearest portaloo, which I had a big relief when I found it within the first 5km. After getting it out of the way, my race begins. I knew my GPS watch was screwed up when I saw that the watch did not tally with the distance markers on the street. It was really based on feeling, and I felt I was not running at my optimum form. My quad sleeves were somehow hindering my strides as I took much more to lift my legs, causing me to be less efficient and had to alter my gait to extend my stride too much. I also had the damn cough that plagued me throughout, I had so much phelgm I had to cough it out, in what I seemed like every other step of the way.
I got sucked into the early pace and did a fast 5km, when I decided to slow down for the next 5km, coming into my 10km in approx 42mins.
The race was amazing, crowd support was immense as Japanese citizens lined up the entire race course from START to FINISH, cheering enthusiastically “GAMBATTE!” offering self-brought food, drinks, etc. If only I was well, I could really run well in this atmosphere.
Did I mentioned, that the route was very scenic as it passed by some famous landmarks like the Tokyo Tower, etc.
After the first 10km, I slowed down tremendously as I was bugged with a muscle issue in my left leg. I had to stop to stretch a couple of times.
This really hindered the pace that I wanted to go at, the further I ran, the more the pain got unbearable, I could bend my knees less and less, causing them to stiffen up.
By the 15-16km mark, I was already feeling the pain & frustration building up. My mind wanted to run, but the body wasn’t willing.
By the time I passed the 20km mark, I was totally off the pace. I was doing 1:33 for 21.1km in training, and now I was only doing 20km in 1:33:56. Things was definitely not looking good at this point of time.
From 20-27km, I was reduced to a walk-run as I kept stopping to walk. As I walked the cold wind blew and made my cough even worse.
At that point of time, I was debating in my head if I should continue under these conditions, but after much thought, I decided to DNF as the weather became unbearable in my thin singlet and shorts. By the time I went to the medical aid tent, my teeth were clamoring terribly from the cold and unable to pronounce the words that I wanted to say. I was coughing non-stop and it was all too painful. The tent, the blankets, the warming hoods, the mini-bus, the coach, the 3hour wait to be brought to the FINISH line, I will never forget every single detail of it.
Yes, I DNF-ed. It was painful. The lessons I learnt today will be kept to myself internally and I will use it as fuel for my next marathon. Someday, I will be back in Tokyo to give it a go again. Rest assured, I have a plan & will comeback stronger than ever.