Tokyo Marathon – A real struggle, but the Six Star Finisher medal is in the bag

OK, first a spoler alert; I MADE IT!!

After a terrible night with hardly any sleep, I woke up at race day at 5 AM, not exactly in top shape for 42.2 km. One look at the rain ouside, and I was tempted to crawl back into bed and forget about the whole thing. But, we are after all doing this volunteerly, we have worked for it for several years an we have actually paid a small fortune to come here, so I managed to give myself a kick in the rear and get ready for breakfast.

When it came to transportation to the starting area, it was already timed perfectly by our group’s Tokyo-Transportation-system-whisperer, so we others really only had to meet up in the hotel lobby, walk to the next building (Tokyo Station), walk for a few more minutes without concerning ourselves with which direction to take and volià, there was our train and after a 15 min train ride we reached our destination.

Yhe bib-number control and baggage checked were done real quickly (have I mentioned how efficient the Japanese are?), so we had over an hour to kill before the run started. I choose to spend that time in a stair case, after a trip to one of the many outdoor toilets, which was quite an experience indeed. The most organized line ever, with a guy standing in the end of the line holding a sign saying the line starts here. There were also multiple persons actually telling which toilet to go to when it was our turn. Perfect system and no cutting in line..

Check out the line in the background.

Even if the lines seemed endless, I didn’t have to wait too long before it was my turn. On drawbavk, however, was the fact that these were squatting toilets and small, which made this. 1.78m, 40+ year old with bad knees struggle so much that I almost fell over at one point. I did make it though, but a repeat visit was out of the question, so I made myself hold it in until the race was over and more comfortable facilities could be located.

One our before my starting tine, I went to my starting block to get in an as good as possible position. Tokyo Marathon practices gun-shot timing when i comes to cutoff times, and they are strict on enforcing those times. My starting block not crossing the starting line before 30 minutes after the gun-shot, made it a real threat that I might struggle with some of the earliest cutoff times, which I incidentely also ended up doing. It did not help either that I wad, due to the heavy rain, both cold and soaking wet, so it wasn’t the most amusing hours of my life that marathon.

I must admit that the race itself was a struggle from Start to Finish and I wad really hurting from all the longruns I never took prior to it. But, I did manage to crawl over the finishing line in the end and was handed both the regular Tokyo Marathon medal and the big Six Star Finisher’s medal, the proof that I have made it through all the major marathons in the world (Boston, Berlin, Chicago, London, New York and Tokyo), something approx. 4000 have done before us, but only 36 Norwegians.

Something very uplifting during the race and which really made my day, was of course our anazing cheerleader, running through town to cheer for us at three different locations. ❤️

So to sum up: rain and windy, soaking wet, painful race, but two more medals in the bag. Now it’s time for celebrations.

The gang (but missing our cheerleaders).

Tokyo Marathon – Bib number and final preparations

We arrived Tokyo a rainy and windy Thursday afternoon, dead beat after only a couple of hours sleep on the plane. Since we expected to slide into a coma the minute we reached our hotel room, we decided to go directly to the expo to pick up our bib number.

The expo was about a 30 minutes drive away, so we had the reseption call us two taxies. Neither of the drivers knew any English but we thought we were safe since we had written down both the address and the name of the place. Turned out we were not. The taxis took us to two different places and fir our part we had to search for the place for a while before we found it, and on the way we even fell into a history garage, with a display of vintage cars.

When we finally reached the expo, we managed to meet up with the rest of the group, who had to climb a hedge to get there.

When it comes to the expo… On the positive side, going there the first day was a strike of luck, since there were hardly anyone there and collecting the bib number and free T-shirts did not take any time at all. The volunteers were also so enthusiastic, friendly and helpful through the whole process.

So to the sub-par parts, where the poor weather must take its fair share of the blame. The expo consisted of multiple tents about 20 meter apart and it wasn’t that much fun running back and forth between them. In addition there were deep puddles of water on the ground inside the tents due to the heavy rain, so we where soaking wet by the time we reached the exit. It wasn’ exactly tempting to shop anything in these conditions, but luckily the main shopping stand was both dry and warm, so I was able to purchase a couple of running T-shirts (in size XL I might add, due to the bloody small Japanese sizes).

Since all four runners in our group are also eligable for the big, fat Six Star Finisher medal we had hoped to buy som Abbott merch on the expo (they had a huge stand in Chicago), but bo such luck. We’ll have to wait until the online store opens. But, it was great to see the Wall of Fame with the name of all about 4000 before us who have achieved this goal (running marathons in Berlin, Boston, New York, Chicago, London and Tokyo that is..), where only 36 are from Norway and only 14 are women (hey, when you suck too much to compete on time, you’ll have to find something else to compete in….)

It was so relieving being done with the bib collecting and on our way back to the hotel we got a crash course in the metro system of Tokyo. I wouldn’t say we nailed it, but at least we got home without too much hassle.

Fast forward to Saturday and the day before the race. No turning back now, so I am aiming for a good nights sleep and hope for the best tomorrow.

Wish me luck 🙂

From Dubai to Tokyo in 3 days

Well, my Japanese is quite rusty (or, full disclosure, non-existent), so I have no idea what the above means, but I do know that we are closing in on Tokyo Marathon race day. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is less than one week to the Tokyo Marathon, and how have I spent the final week of preparations? Poolside in Dubai (OK, I have managed to include 3 short running sessions between my tanning and bathing, but that is all). Maybe not the perfect physical preparation, but I must say it was all worth it in mental wellness.

I have just about broken loose from the not so comfy seat at the Norwegian flight from Dubai, have emptied my suitcase of all beach related items and am now packing my marathon gear. The weather forecast doesn’t exactly look promising, with rain on race day, but that can change (hopefully), so I am packing for all eventualities.

Update: I have received translation of the above text from a reader (thank you so much) and the text means:

Well, no…the Japanese says:
“Tokyo Marathon 2019
Press Conference
(Wheelchair athletes interview)”

Tokyo Marathon – Less than 1 month to go (#SoNotReady)

Sometimes life throw you a curve ball that takes you totally by surprise and forces you to re-evaluate all plans…. 1 week ago, with only 1 month to go before Tokyo Marathon, my biggest concern was whether I will be able to complete at all and get my big, fat six-star-finisher medal. Then my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly Tokyo seemed inconsequential. After 10 days back and forth to the hospital for MRI, CT, colonoscopy and you name it, we finally got the good news yesterday that the tumor seems operable and that the cancer seems not to have spread to any other organs. Safe to say we cried of relief of that message.

So, given the good news, my trip to Tokyo is back on. But, of course, having used all my energy on worrying, my immune system was quite beat, so no I am out cold with fever, sore throat and an aching body… In other words, I think it will take a few more days before I am wearing my jogging shoes again.

Even being quite unprepared (but then again, what else is new?), I am starting to look forward to my trip to Tokyo. My knowledge of the city is quite below par, and what springs first to mind is sumo wrestling, sake, supporters who actually pick up their own litter after world cup football games (even when loosing big), and of course the a bit too close proximity to a sometimes trigger-happy Kim Jong Un. After reading “The Runner Handbook” that arrived last week, I must also found some of the warnings to be quite interesting and new: First was a list of what was prohibited to bring to the starting area. I mean bottles and cans, unless for commercial unopened container for less than 500ml are prohibited. A bit strange, but OK. Then to the a bit more bizarre: it is not allowed to bring advertising, boom boxes, animals (!) and plants…. But, what really got me freaked was the necessity of actually having to specify the prohibition of bringing pepper spray, knives, poison, fire works and explosives!

A couple of other warnings in the handbook are also new to me in marathon settings.

» If the Japanese Government’s nationwide warning system J-Alert sends an alarm related to ballistic missile launches, follow the instructions.»

and

»If an upper 5 or greater earthquake strikes Tokyo, the race will be discontinued immediately»

Not very comforting, I must admit, but hopefully it will be OK. At least I feel my lack of preparation is not my biggest concern at the moment…

Amsterdam Marathon 2011 – Cheese, sausages and a toilet in the middle of the room

The Amsterdam Marathon was the first marathon with my then pretty new boyfriend of 3-4 months. To put it like this, we were still in the starting phase of a relationship where you would like to present yourself in the best light possible. My best light is definitely not being on the toilet, so I did not exactly cheer with excitement when we walked into our tiny room at CitizenM Hotel in Amsterdam and noticed that the toilet (and the shower) were placed in the middle of the room with only transparent glass walls. To be honest, we did not feel we knew each other well enough to use the toilet in front of each other (for that matter, we still don’t 8 years later…). We made it work, though… My boyfriend took one for the team and used the toilet down in the reception area and when he went there, I used the one in the room in private. I must admit that even when being alone in the room I felt like a dufus.

Not much privacy in this room

Then to the marathon… Amsterdam Marathon has a flat course with start and finish at the same place (Olympic Stadum). Parts of the course followed the olympic route along the river Amstel and along the course we passed both fashionable villas and wind mills. We also ran through Amsterdam city center, passed by the Rijksmuseum and crossed the Vondelpark. Along the course the spectators were amazing and a lot of them brought us treats like small cheese and sausage bites, chocolate and candy along the way. To put it like this, you are not exactly picky about what you grab of eatable items after 30 km.

This was my third marathon and still the one where I did my personal best (which is so slow it is not worth mentioning..)

Chicago Marathon – Blood blisters, sweat and lots of tears, but…..totally worth it!

A bit late, being my 12th Marathon and all, but last summer I decided that before Chicago Marathon in 2018 I was going to try out something new; actually exercising before the race. And for about 2 months, that plan worked fine and I was starting to dream of a decent time (or at least beat the ones on crutches this time..). Then in November, just I was completing a fairly good 10K, my good old vertigo (caused by Meniere’s disease, but which had been more or less dormant for a year) and I just fell over and never really got on my feet before July this year. With up to 10 vertigo attacks per week, I had more than enough with trying to function at work, and just the thought of Chicago made me ill. I had more or less given up on the Whole thing when I, in July, the attacks stopped and suddenly I was able to step on the treadmill again for other than a slow walk. Then, with just a couple of months to prepare + the fact that I suck as a runner from before, my new goal was just to complete within the time limit, so that I could collect the big, fat Abbott Six Star Finisher’s medal in Tokyo in March. 

With no really long runs in the bag, I went over the Atlantic Ocean with a hope of my usual strategy would work yet again (namely yelling at my feet to keep them moving…). In the days before the race, the weather forecast showed everything from 5 degrees (C) and heavy rain to 28 degrees (C) and sun. We ended up with light rain in the beginning, lots of rain in the middle and cloudy and windy in the end (and there we might have the reason for the friction burns all over my body). Even if you don’t have any other goal than completing, you still get this excited feeling at the starting line, waiting a long with 40.000 others; from record holders like Mo Farah to crappy woggers like myself.. The moment was a bit ruined, though, by the runner next to me blowing lots of sigarette smoke my way. 

With a GPS all crazy due to the sky-scrapers I had to keep track of time every 5 km, since I am not that fluent in units of measure other than meters. I passed 21,1 km according to plan, but soon after my whole body started to shut down, limb by limb. Soon I had the posture and walk of a zombie (from the golden oldies that is, not like one of the really fast ones from movies like World War Z). My whole body was aching and I was starting to loose sensation in my feet, so in a desperate attempt of keeping my brain from ordering my body to call it a day and crawl to the nearest taxi, I started to take pictures, look at the scenery and even chat with some anti-Trump protesters with signs along the route. When I was starting to close in on the finishing line, runners en masse were lying around in the street or on gurneys surrounded by medical personnel. A bit demotivating of course, but at least it was not me. I had to stretch every 500m for a while, but at least I was still able to keep moving, although in the pase of a slug. 2 km from the finishing line, I suddently got a second win (I always get very motivated at the end) and managed to jog the rest of the way. 

In the beginning of the race there were all sorts of religious signs (like VERY religious) I have never seen in any other country before. Too bad I could not found some at the end of the race, when I was taking pictures. I did, however, notice a billboard of a bonafide ambulance Chaser (NB! never trust a guy with playmo hair and a slick smile).

Finally I reach the finishing line, and soon after I got tears in my eyes. Not because of the medal (though it certainly deserved some tears), but due to the fact I had to walk all the way back to the hotel and I didn’t quite know how to do that… Well, I made it back and went for a hot shower. NOT a delightful experience… Did I mentioned that I had gotten some friction burns?

After the painful shower, I got 15 minutes of rest before me and the rest of the gang were meeting up at a bar for celebration. Great evening, but as always, it ended early…

Summa sumarum: mission accomplished, Boston, Chicago, New York, London and Berlin in the bag and only Tokyo to go 🙂

Nordmarka Forest Marathon – My first marathon (#stupidfool)

Give me any kind of ball and I can play a decent match in just a few sessions (handball, football, basket, table tennis, squash, golf, volleyball, etc.. ) Ballgames have always come easy to me. The same can be said about swimming. I did competitive swimming 2 years when I was like 14-15 years old, but I have only been swimming on holidays since. I found out, however, when going to the municipality pool a few months ago, that I still was a fairly good swimmer, and I also got a lot better after just a month of training.

Now, this is not meant to be a blog about bragging… It is just to set the scene for the disappointment I felt when I started up with running. Since athletics have always come easy to me, I kind of had the same expectation when it came to running. No such luck… A mental trainer I once had a meeting with, told me that we are never to tell our self that we suck at something. We are just to say that we can get a bit better at something. Well, I can be a lot better at running. That is even true 8 years after my first marathon.

I was fast approaching my mid-thirties and had a one year old at home and a husband working afternoons and nights at the local hospital. I wanted to pick up volleyball again (I played 2 years in the premier league in Norway), but since my little bundle of joy could not be by himself, I had to settle for my life-long hated sport… namely running. I have always considered running, unless it was in chase of a ball of some kind, as a waste of time. Now I did it as a mere necessity to try get rid of some of the baby weight and to keep myself sane after early mornings for a couple of years (we are talking around 04:00 AM here..).

Like I said, running did not come easy to me and after a couple of months of effort, I still couldn’t run for 2 km without breaking for a walk and my motivation was approaching rock bottom. Then I decided, just for the hell of it, to sign myself up for a half marathon, so that I had something to look forward to (I have always had a soft spot for medals..). So, 1 month later I ran 21.1 km in Oslo and at a terrible pace of course (sorry;the pace could have been better). I then promised myself to never run again and to throw away my running shoes. So, I went home and 1 day later I had signed up for a full marathon at Nordmarka Skogsmarathon a few months later (my selective memory sometimes plays tricks on me).

Sooo, the marathon day arrived with 4 degrees Celsius and rain, and part of the trail was in something best describedas a swamp. After 1 km, I was soaking wet and freezing. I looked at my watchand remember myself thinking “OK, only 41,2 km left..).

What I lack in talent or fitness, I take up in stamina. I was not about to quit, so I alternated between walking and jogging, walking and jogging, walking, walking, walking and then a bit jogging right before the finishing line. Along the way, I started to talk tomyself, watched with interest the small frogs that kept jumping around my feet and trying my best to ignore the many ambulances that drove past me (apparently a few persons had fallen ill during the race).

I more or less crawled across the finishing line and barely had time to recognize the feeling of disappointment over that they instead of a finisher medal had a finisher…cup (what the f***???).Well, I grabbed the damn cup and had to throw myself in my car and drive for 2 hoursto get home in time for a shower before a birthday party 45 minutes later.