I earned my 6 star medal at the Tokyo Marathon in 2018. As with my experience with all the other World Major Marathons, I came out of this race looking forward to finding a way back to it again in the future. I was excited to experience a race in a new country where running is so highly regarded. Entry into this race is not an easy task for runners from the US. I was able to get in their Run as One program that sets aside 300 entries for the fastest, non professional men and woman international runners. I felt really fortunate because the entry for this race was half the price as some of the majors in the states opposed to the cost that come with a tour program. One thing to note if looking to get an entry through Run as One is that there is a limited number of races that count for the entry. Most major city marathon are included but smaller races, even if fully verified may not count.
The expo overall was a nice experience. It is in a massive building tucked away from some of the busier parts of the city. Getting your bib was slightly confusing as there multiple international groups pick up locations however there were many english speaking volunteers that make this maneuverable. The t-shirt provided had a nice design and there were plenty of options for additional swag to buy. I feel like I ended up with one of everything...
The start of the race was pretty well marked out. I entered the "runner only" area a little more than an hour before the start and had plenty of time to drop off my bag and get to the corral. Corrals are kept separated until right before the race begins, there was space to sit or stretch out within your corral while you waited opposed to needing to stand in a crowded group for uncomfortably long.
Overall the course is awesome for racing and chasing a PR. The course is flat with some very minor rollers throughout which I think helped keep my legs rolling. There are 3 180 turns along the course which sounds less than ideal but were not as bad as expected. If anything I really enjoyed turning 180 and looking for friends or zoning out staring at the people running the opposite direction. Anything lost in taking those turns was easily outweighed by the mental boost received from looking for friends and at other runners once you make the turn. For as beautiful as Tokyo is, you do not see a lot of it close up during the race. However, what it lacks in visually interesting sites along the course it makes up for it in how well the race is managed and the great opportunity there is to having a fast race.
I cannot speak highly enough about the volunteers at the race. The volunteers did a fantastic job of having food and drink available along the course at the different aid stations and I was amazed at how efficient they were at clearing the streets of garbage and debris. I wouldn't be surprised if you ran the course an hour after the last runner finished that you wouldn't be able to tell a marathon just had been run.
The finish takes you through what felt like a more narrow street relative to what you had been running where the crowds grow louder before one final 90 degree turn before a last 200m sprint to the finish line. After finishing, you're taken through the typical maze of food, drink, medal and gear bag pretty quickly. One thing I was not expecting was that you are not allowed to change your clothes along the streets. It is pretty strictly enforced that you proceed to a changing room, ours was on the 4th floor of a building a few blocks away before being able to put on a different shirt or pants.
The medal for this race is AWESOME! Easily my favorite of any of the majors. Very olympicesque.
This was such an incredible race and so well organized. I cannot recommend this race enough. As unique as this race is and Tokyo is as a city, I am really happy this was the race and the experience I had as I became a Six Star Finisher.