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 🙂

Tokyo – Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is the Times Square of Tokyo with its huge billboards and neon ligh. In is also one of the most buzziest intersections in the world with people crossing in all directions at once.

Check out this video to get the feeling of participating in the chaos of crossing the intersection.

We managed to spend a couple of hours just crossing the street from all angles and by just looking at the crowd. The Starbucks nearby turned out to be the perfect hangout for the spotting activities.

This intersection has also appeared in movies/TV shows such as Lost in Translation, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fuller House and is definetely worth a visit.

..and si is the neighbouring area…

Tokyo – Love at first sight

After travelling for 24 hours from Norway, we have finally reached the capital of Japan, Tokyo. With its roughly 13 million people it’s the biggest city in Japan and hence it is buzzling with life. Or so we thought… We were a bit surprised not to be seeing more people when we arrived and it was not before we were entering the metro system we got the authentic feeling of it being really crowded.

From the minute I sat my first bloated foot (the last leg was for 11 hours, need I say more?) on Japanes soil, I was in love. Everyone were so friendly and helpful, and even though very few speaks English, the airport staff were really good at visual communication and got us through immigration and customs in record speed. Outside the terminal, the transportation options were really professionally lined up. Our express bus had a departure time at 11:40 and guess what, it left at precisely 11:40:00, a punctuality which is no more than an utopia back in Norway.

Being the world record holder in punctionality is one of the major reasons for my instant infatuation with Japan. In 2017 it was considered a scandal when a train departured 20 seconds too early, and even though no customers complained, the management of the rail company had to issue an official statement apologizing for the incident. Somehow I don’t see this ever happening in Norway where a train (long distance) is considered on time if it arrives its final destination within 5 min, 59 secs of its scheduled arrival time and where bus-for-train has become a common phrase in our everyday life.

When we arrived in downtown Tokyo, the weather was cold and rainy, so we hurried directly to our hotel. Or, at least we tried to… The many tall buildings both impaired visual orientation as well as confused the GPS giving us a bit of a struggle finding the correct way. But, with a little help from some very friendly Japanese, who gesticulated the direction the best they could, we were able to find out hotel. Our final good samaritan did not even leave our side until we were safely inside the hotel building. Amazing! In other words, a wonderful start on our stay in Tokyo:)

Dubai – dune bashing and belly dancing

On our second day in Dubai last week, it was both cloudy and windy, so we decided that it was a perfect day for a desert safari. The trip itself was easily booked through the hotel’s travel desk and that is also where we were picked up by our driver.

Before jumping into the desert, we had a pitstop where we could look at falcons or drive quad bikes, but we settled with just a simple bathroom break and a motion sickness tablet.

Then we were off for some nerve-racking stunts in the desert. Super exiting and fun, but we were quite happy with our decision to take a motion sickness pill before we started. We were like 20 cars in a group and the car in front of us actually almost fell over and had to abort.

After about 40 minutes we stopped, cracked loose from the car and had about 20 minutes to play in the sand and take sand-selfies before we continued to camp.

Our next stop was a bedouine inspired camp where we could ride camels (which we skipped), try sand boarding (which was fun) and buy drinks/corn cob before the food was served.

We paid a bit extra to be seated at regular tables and get the food served, instead of sitting on a pillow on the ground and stand in line for food. Well worth it for my cranky old body. Along with dinner, consisting of arabian BBQ dishes, were various shows; a dancer, a flame swallower and a belly dancer. Very entertaining indeed.


To sum up, I really recommend a desert safari when in Dubai, while of course totally commercial and not very authentic, it is a fun activity for the whole family.

Norway – Spectacular Besseggen

Besseggen is a famous mountain ridge between the lakes Gjende and Bessvatnetin Jotunheimen Norway. Being from Norway myself, I must admit that I am shameful it took me this long to take the popular trail from Memurubu, over the edge and down to Gjendesheim. According to Wikipedia it takes 5-7 hours without rest stops, and we proudly completed in about 5, including a couple of stops.

We started off in beautiful sunshine, but when we reached the edge, it started to get foggy. We did, however, get to see the magnificent view from the top before the fog got to us, with the green colored Gjende lake (the color is due to glacier runoff containing clay) on one side and Bessvanetin on the other. 

On our way down, it we could hardly see a meter in front of us, but luckily the trail was well marked, so we did not got lost. Then it started to rain, then to hail and finally it started to snow, so you can safely say we got to experience all four seasons at once. 

An amazing trail I recommend to everyone and I am certainly doing it again someday (preferably in more favorable weather).



Dubai – Madinat Jumeirah in July

Madinat Jumeirah is a luxurious resort located at the beach with the iconic Bur Al Arab as its nearest neighbor and consists of 3 hotels (Al Qasr, Mina A’Salam og Jumeirah Al Naseem) and several holiday villas og flere (Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf).

The place is inspired by «1001 nights» with its arabic-style buildings and at the same time you’ll get a Venice vibe from the canal meandering through the resort. As mentioned in an earlier post, Al Qasr is also the venue for our all time favourite Friday brunch in Dubai and after repeat visits we promised ourselves that we definetely should stay at the resort.

With an average room rate of minimum USD 650 per night it looked like it would take a while for our dreams to come true, but then we found a loophole…

In Dubai during summer, all expats and a lot of the residents flee the country due to the heat, which can reach temperatures in the high 40s C. Most hotel therefore lower their rates during summer and last July we were able to get a room for about USD 180 per night, which is more within our comfort zone (however close to the limit).m

So, what to do at a luxury resort in 40 degrees C. Well, we actually didn’t leave the resort until our final day. There are plenty of exiting indoor activities in Dubai during the hot summer months. But since we had been there several times before, we didn’t stress to get out. Instead we chose just to ‘lax in the luxurious environment.

The Beach

The beach at Madinat Jumeirah consists of fine-grained sand and shallow water and we spent our first day mostly lying oon comfy sun beds, under an umbrella with fantastic service provided by the hotel staff who brought us buckets of ice and cold drinks to prevent us from getting a heat stroke.

At one poit we figured we should go for a swim in the inviting water, and that was quite a surreal experience. It was like jumping into a gigantic hot tub the size of, well… an ocean. With other words, not very refreshing. But, no need for worrying, since all the pools were nice and cool.

Pools

Both Al Qasr and Mina A’Salam have their own, big, cool pools right in front of them. Jumeirah Al Naseem Has three, wereas one is an adults-only pool, which made it our favourite since we in fact were travelling without children. Guests at all the hotels are free to use all the pools in the resort. Mostly our days were spent (after my morning training session) unde an umbrella with a book and lots of pepsi max, although sometimes replaces by a frozen strawberry daiquery, or in the pool.

Must admit that the sanitary facilities by the pools were top notch.

Restaurants

One thing that is a bit of a bummer when visiting Dubai in the summer (=major low season) is that (beach restaurants excluded) all the restaurants are only servicing indoors due to the heat. We usually went for an outdoor lunch at one af the beach restaurants and did our best to work through the list of resort restaurants (50 and counting) for dinner. We were bot able to resist the Friday Brunch at Al Qasr either, which was spectacular, even if the whole arrangement took place indoors.

If you are looking for a romantic venue, look no further. Pierchic is the place. Pierchic restaurant (seafood) is located in the end of a pier out in the ocean with a fantastic view of both a spectacular sunset as well as of Burj Al Arab.

Training facilities

If you would like to keep the extra holiday weight in check there are plenty of training options to assist you. At Mina A’Salam you will find a well equipped training studio with lots of treadmills, stationary bikes and free weights. The center also offers lots of group sessions and even a climbibg wall.

The area also include an additional 4 km track for running, which I tested a couple of mornings.

Souk

Madinat Jumeirah also has its very own souk with a lot of small shops and restaurants and luckily (at least for me) a small kiosk selling diet pepsis to an affordable price.

The room

Since we had no intentions of spending any time in the room than for sleeping, we went for the cheapest one. Still, we got a great room (about 40 m2) with a large bathroom with both a tub and a shower. I was also very impressed by the minibar glass assortment…

Summary

If you suck at handling heated temperatures, maybe Dubai is not the perfect summer destinatij dor yoy. If you without problems are able to tackle a heaty Dubai in July, then you will be just fine. I for one, cannot wait to get back to Al Qasr and Dubai.