The day we unite

My Journey to Tokyo began in September 2015 when I missed out on the ballot entry. The day started with my husband being hospitalised and me being advised that I could not run Sydney marathon on the upcoming weekend. Somewhere in amongst this “nightmare” I had an email saying my entry had been received and declined. I thought nothing more of it and concentrated on running Melbourne in October. I was surprised to find out a couple of weeks later that my ever supportive husband had arranged for an entry via Travelling Fit for his deflated marathon obsessed wife and was thrilled that I would be getting the opportunity to run a major international marathon and take our children on an amazing adventure. Training began right away (not that it had ever really ended from GCAM 2015).

Landing in Japan on Thursday we were hit with a blast of cold air, ridiculously different from excruciatingly hot Brisbane. The flight from Brisbane was full of runners and the atmosphere was starting to build (not to mention I was emotional and felt more determined to prove what women were made of after watching Suffragettes on the plane).

Friday was our Tokyo Tour with Travelling Fit with the tour culminating at the race expo. The race expo itself was worth the trip. It was ridiculously well organised (a sign of things to come in the marathon itself), with levels and levels of running paraphernalia. Unfortunately by the time we got there after the Tokyo Sky Tree and Sensoji Temple my kids were losing it so I couldn’t go wild with the credit card. We quickly backed up from Friday with a trip to Tokyo Disney on Saturday, yes probably not the wisest move the day before a major marathon but I am a Mum and we are on a family holiday- it’s not all about me running THAT marathon as my children have kept reminding me.

Finally the day arrived. I woke up and followed my usual routine; music pumping, bath, body glide, black coffee, winners bar. The kids eagerly watched out the window as the police presence began to increase, runners appeared from every building and helicopters buzzed overhead. In true Japanese style there was nothing left to chance and the day was executed with absolute precision. I kissed my family goodbye and wished my husband the very best of luck at Legoland- he needed it much more than me! I rushed down to the lobby for my Travelling Fit group photo and walked into an international mixing pot of runners. There were war cries, flags, painted faces and photos this was truly an international major and I was part of it.

I made my way to my gate and stood in the freezing cold in my garbage bag and several layers of disposable clothing and beanies. It was a sight to see; running minions, running princesses, running star wars characters- every second person was in elaborate costume and no one seemed to bat an eyelid. Here I thought I was going all-out with a temporary tattoo of the Australian flag on my face! Whilst standing and freezing in my garbage bag (remember I’m a Brisbane girl), I was excited and bewildered and horrified to realise a TV crew were making a bee line for me. “Do you mind if we interview you for our national TV?” “Really? I’m wearing a garbage bag…” I happily obliged despite my horror. I still have no idea what channel or news item it was but hopefully they will be in touch so my kids can have a laugh.

Before I knew it the gun was going off, I was stripping off and confetti was flying. The atmosphere was amazing with people lining the streets and calling out “Go Aussie girl”. With no pacer in my pace range I spent the first 10km holding myself back “you control the race, don’t let the race control you”. People were going out very fast and it’s so easy to forget how far a marathon is and not to get swept up in the emotion. I know the race starts at 30km and I needed to be very much in control until that point. So I watched and listened and smelt and tasted everything that was the Tokyo marathon. I high fived and sang and danced my way through YMCA blaring out of speakers. I spoke to runners from all over the world and most of all I smiled and laughed.

The dreaded wall eventually came and I remembered just how hard those last 10km can be. It becomes a matter for the mind with games of “2km until the turnaround, 1.5 parkruns to go, 1 foot in front of the other”. By this stage with no pacer and my watch so far out, I was running painfully and blind. Swept up in the atmosphere I eventually reached the longed for finish line with a wave of applause.

My time was not what I had hoped and by my watch I ran much further than I should have- 43.51k (a common problem for most of the runners at this year’s marathon I later learned) but a marathon is a marathon and this was a major so I refuse to be disappointed. I’ve gained experience and I’ll take those lessons with me into GCAM and Sydney this year. I read a quote this week and I think with marathon running it’s quite apt “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary”. I will come home from this experience with a new medal to add to the collection and a desire to work harder in training and treat the finish line of a marathon with the respect it deserves. I will continue to face my races with love and laughter and be grateful for everything that running brings to my life.