Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tokyo Marathon 2013: Race Review

Cut to the chase: 4:13:01

If you have the time ... read below ..

I dont think i have ever started any of the 7 marathons i have run with even the slightest clue as to how the race would progress for me. Doubts about my readiness, about my training or lack  thereof, about the ability to cross the next 42kms on foot are always my irrepressible friends, but each of these friends, come with their own allies, namely excitement and anticipation ... and this dichotomy of thoughts and feelings is precisely why i line up with thousands others every once in a while to experience some human propulsion (and no, farting isnt a sport ... yet). This feeling is just impossible to reproduce except for those few hours when you are actually in a "Race".

My ideal time target would have been something like 3:50, if only to show an improvement from last year. However, i have learnt now, that to go for a goal time is approaching the race from the wrong end first (atleast a goal time without any basis, but if you are a seasoned runner and know your own capabilities well, then a goal time is a good way to base your training on).

As much as January was a great month in training , February was quite the opposite and the fact that i had run only 80kms in Feb until race day, coupled with the incessant travel since the first week of Feb meant that on race day, i was left questioning myself as to how best run the race and what should i adopt as a pacing strategy.

Come race-day and i arrived at the start area about 80 minutes from the start time. It was brutally cold unsurprisingly, with weather forecast at 2deg and windy so the wind chill dropped the temps even further. I was adequately dressed in the sense that i was not shivering like a tuning fork but even then, it was difficult to maintain any warm-up effects so i decided to just use the first few kms as warm-up before settling down.

The race got underway, and i started out to find the answer to the question "How would i fare today?". The first few kms are with a very gentle net declination so i started out cautiously but given that it was colder than last year, it took longer to get into a rhythm .. the first 5 kms whizzed by and i was enjoying myself enough to just take in the surroundings, not switching on the mp3 player and also trying to spot all the cosplay runners. Around the 6th km or so, i found myself moving quite smoothly and looked down at my Garmin to see i was running a tad faster than i should be. Willfully slowing down was obviously out of the question as it would have been a sensible thing to do and i am not known for my sensibilities in running. So since i felt good, i just held the pace and kept it steady. At around the 10km turn, i saw the elites go through in the opposite direction but didnt manage to spot any of the wild animals that must have been chasing them, for how anybody could run that fast unless their lives were at stake is beyond me. Gel strategy was different from last time - so first one was at 15, 2nd one at 23, 3rd one at 30, 4th one - i am not sure when. I went through half in 1:57ish or so and held sub-4 pace until 36kms. After that, one quad started protesting a bit. The other quad decided to join in on the fun. Seeing the obvious din that was going on, one antisocial hamstring decided to become extra uptight and just shut shop. This posed a peculiar problem. One of speed. Of Hobbling. I was going to become a Hobblit from the Shire. So there I was ... dragging one feet behind the other .. looking for some external source of inspiration that was trying to avoid me as best as it could. So with sub-4 out of the window, and with sub-5 comfortably in the bag (qualifying time for Comrades), i considered doing the Zombie walk for fun, aimlessly moving forward with glazed eyes, and raised arms, staggering sideways and all that but since i wanted to return to Tokyo again some other time in the future, abstained from doing so. Crossed the finish line finally in 4:13 and then stretched a bit before doing all the usual stuff, collect medal, water, isotonic, towel etc etc ..
One good thing about my stay this time was that i was only 2 minutes walk from the finish point and that was a huge advantage for someone who has just finished a marathon. I went over, had a quick shower, and then went to an italian restaurant nearby where i waited for another 30 minutes before getting a table and gorging on some creamy food.

So now, i have to set my sights on doing a decent job of training for Comrades.

Edited to add: I started to write this race review with the intent to add a lot more specifics on how each stage of the race progressed but as always, i got bored midway and just ended the piece quickly enough. If i get the urge,  I will try and add some more spice later ... 

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