Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tokyo Marathon 2011

Last year Hong Kong and Tokyo marathon falls on the same day 28 Feb 2010. I chose Hong Kong. This year HK was on 20 Feb 2011 and Tokyo on 27 Feb 2011. So I take it as a sign from above that I should do both.

I balloted last year and was confident enough to purchase my air tickets even before the resuts were out.

24 February 2011 , Thursday
I flew in a most happening flight with Kak J, Alexis, Lee Lee and Francis on board. We touched down almost 1030pm. I had a booking with Toyoko Inn Haneda. I am a fan of Toyoko Inn , having stayed there from Tokyo to Hakodate to Sapporo.

I looked for the Toyoko shutte bus and due to some miscommunication, I was shown to the domestic terminal. I hopped on the complimentary transfer bus and found the Toyoko shuttle waiting there. Then, the Toyoko Inn shuttle went back to pick up passengers in the international terminal..Haha.. Anyway , I was already in my room by 1145pm and got my shower and a few sushi from Lawson ( a Japanese 24 convenience store )

25 February 2011, Friday

I got up and had a nice breakfast in the hotel and took the Keihin Keikyu line to Suidobashi where I will staying for the next 3 nights. I couldn't understand the annoucement and didnt get off the train at Kawasaki Station and realised that the train was heading to Yokohama. Luckily, I got up at the 1st stop and managed to take the right train to Shingawa. From Shingawa, I took a train to Kanda to get to the Chuo Line . Then took the wrong train because it is a rapid train and doesn't stop at Suidobashi. I ended up in Yotsuya. I made this mistake 3 more times during the trip.

Met my long lost friend who works at the Hotel Niwa and we left our bags there. We hurried to meet Lee Lee at Shimbashi station as we are already late. Kak J arrived shortly and all of us hopped on the Yukarimome monorail line to go Tokyo Bay. It's my 1st time to Tokyo Bay as the monorail was temporary closed during my last trip.

The Tokyo Big sight is a big convention center and you can recognise it by the Big Saw gigantic sculpture planted in the ground and the inverted pyramid structure. We spent at least 4 hours there. This is the biggest run expo I have ever been to. There are numerous acts playing at the atrium and fashion shows by Asics. Many places to take photographs and many giveaways too.

From there, we took the Rinkai line to Shinkiba before we change to the JR line to Maihama. Yes, we went Tokyo Disney with Kak J, Lee Lee and Alexis. Had a quick burger dinner before we enter at 6pm for the twiight package. We just wanted to watch some shows starting with Minnie oh Minnie and follow by the Electric Parade. As it was a Friday evening, the queues were quite long, so we skipped some rides and went shopping instead. I had a memorable electric car ride with Kak J though. I was knocking the car to the sides mostly and frightening her.

I left the girls at Akihabara Station on the Yamanote line and heading to my nice room that my friend upgraded me to.

26 February 2011, Saturday

I skipped Tsukiji market and had a late morning. I only meet Lee Lee and Lee Fueng in Ueno Station after 11am. They are promoting the latest Shinkasen (bullet train) there to Tohoku (north Honshu). The most northern terminal used to be Hachinohe but now they have extended the line to Aomori and built a station called Shin Aomori. From we can change regular train and go Hokkaido.

This trip is mainly dedicated to Hachiko the dog. So we got to the National Museum of Science in Ueno Park to see Hachiko. It's a big museum with a new wing and it's like a London Natural Museum and Singapore Science Centre all rolled into one.

After that, we hopped over to Ginza. Had our first meal in the soba shop for this trip. Lee Lee truly enjoyed it that we kept going on Monday and Tuesday.

They closed main road in Ginza on Saturday afternoon and we went into Abercombie and Fitch and it is decorated like a club. There were bouncers in front of the small entrance and they were throbbing music inside..all the 11 levels. We even took a photo with a model inside and a polaroid was given to the 3 of us..

I found some great bargains at H&M and UniQlo. Got my compression underwears. Then we quickly took the Marounichi subway line to Shinjuku. We found Star hotel and Kak J was already there. She told me a Malay boy was stalking her and it turned to be Azam.

Later the whole gang came, I met Takeshi..Lee Lee's friend from UPM. Karen's hubby and her Japanese landlady, Alexis and the rest. We had a most happening meal in aover heated restaurant called Pronto. It all Italian food but we had to eat with chopsticks.

After the meal, we followed Kak J to a medicine shop to buy our Japanese power gel and she also kind enough to show me the walking route to the starting line of the Tokyo Marathon.

27 February 2011, Sunday

I woke up at 520am, even though I asked for a 6am morning call. I made my coffee and had my buns and even updated my facebook.

I left my hotel slightly before 7 am and arrive at Shinjuku before 730am. Lee Lee and Lee Fueng was already at the meeting place. Lee Lee had to look for a toilet due to the Japanese power gel. Alexis texted me and said she already went in with Yee Choi. Later , we said bye bye to Lee Fueng and the 2 of us followed the big crowd. They were placards everywhere at Shinjuku and everybody is waiting for somebody.

Imagine 35000 people gathering at one place plus their families too and this is not even a open area or a stadium. We found this gaijin (white guy) who will be running with 4 I-phones and one I-Pad.I accompanied Lee Lee to her deposit truck no 51 and the poor girl forgot to take her poncho. I offered my space blanket  but she declined. Then we went to my truck no 39. The queues to the portable toilets were so long so I had to climb onto the roadside and did it in the bushes with the guys.

Lee Lee queued and I lost her. It almost 830 and I went to into my Corral J. I stood somewhere near the BMW building and couldn't find Karen or Alexis who is in the same corral as I. There were also 2 helicopters hovering above us. At 910am sharp, we heard the explosion at the starting gantry and everyone around me clapped. We started slowly and the first building I saw is the Washington Hotel where Kak J and Francis stayed.

There 2 grandstands at the starting and it took me about 10 minutes to cross the starting. I saw the Hilton and even pass the Pronto at Star Hotel. I even saw Kabukicho in Shinjuku. Then after 2 km, i desicarded my poncho and saw the Military Band playing at about the same time. There were people left and right of the streets. I saw a pair of Mario Brothers running , people carrying Snoopy , brides, hula girls. minnie mouses etc etc

I passed the 5km mark at 33 minutes 59 sec. It's a comfortable pace. After that, we made a right turn into the Idabashi station and right under the Chuo line. I saw one guy running with the new Tokyo Tower model on his head.  Then I saw someone brought 2 huge speakers and played the song YMCA...All of us just spontaneously did the YMCA. It was so much fun.

Then I passed the Imperial Palace and the Hibiya park. That is also the ending of the 10km race. I passed the 10km mark at 1:07. A little faster than my Hong Kong , perhaps I was too excited... I even saw Jesus Christ running with the bib tagged onto a big cross.He must take the prize for the best costume. Then I saw all the fast runners already U turned and coming back from Shingawa. I tried to look for familiar faces coming back but couldn't see anyone. Some fellow maniacs yelled at me..Hey Maniac that's the advantage of wearing MM least fellow MM will say hi to you.

After my U turn at Shingawa, I saw a familiar running vest Mizuno Wave Run 2010. It was Alexis, I paced and chatted with her almost 7km . We took photos of each other and even helped ourselves to the food provided. We took bananas, raisin, chocolate buns and even sour plums. I never had sour plum during a race before and I certainly needed the salt.

We were already at Ginza. I was busy snapping photos of my favourite boutiques, department store and even my favourite book store ie Maruzen.

I lost Alexis before the 25km mark because I ran my fastest 5km split between 20-25km and went straight into the Asakusa U turn. There were a Geisha group playing traditional musical instruments and a host of characters greeting us in front of the Sensoji temple. This is the first tourist place I been to in Japan. That's 5 years ago.

As I was heading back to Ginza, I heard a familiar voice from the opposite side. It was Kak J. I turned back and we took our famous hugging photo in the shade. We had a similar one in HK. Mission accomplished.

The journey of out Ginza took forever..well 33 minutes actually and the sun is already up. It's actually 1230pm . I missed the Kabukiza theatre near Tsukiji.. After 35km at 110pm, it was my slowest 5km. I took 34 minutes. There was a climb through the bridge back into Tokyo Bay. I saw a felllow American NYC girl at km 40 and she struggled. I encouraged her and even took a photo with her. She was ahead of me all

I too struggled under the Ariake station. The Big Sight finishing was getting nearer . I finally crossed the finishing with much fanfare. There were long queue to get our food, returning of chips ( a young Japanese volunteer boy untied and retied my shoe laces as I didn't used the cable tied supplied) I collected my hard earned medal and finishing towel although it was so I didnt need it.

I met Lee Lee waiting there inside and she looked pale. She finsihed at 4:23. I changed and asked her to go out as my friends are all waiting there. It was a long walk from East Hall to Main Hall. up and down the escalator and finally going down to the main atrium again.

I told Lee Lee that the place is like an airport. For every runner, there are 3 family members waiting there.
We met up for a meal at Cafe Restaurant till 5pm and Alexis had to go off earlier as she was leaving that night.

All the train stations has long queues but luckily we walked to Ariake Station ( one station before Big Sight). so we had seats all the way to Shim bashi)

It was the biggest race of my life so far. All throughout the 42km, there were people cheering offering food and even tissue paper. The biggest parade of costumes I ever seen. I had a hard time looking for Kak J because so many people wearing wigs. But I will always the little voices yelling out Gambatte. It still rings in my mind.

Here are my split times