My Tokyo experience was in some ways a dream and in others an unending nightmare.
Packed pickup and the expo were relatively painless - anyone without Japanese language experience should have no qualms about this portion of the experience.
We stayed very close to the start (just west of Shinjuku Station) which worked out very nicely as we could run directly south to Yoyogi Park for our shakeout runs and could walk to the start area. One aspect I didn't quite understand was the flow from entering the secured start area to the start line itself. Even through I was staying on the west side of the start, I actually had to enter from a specific gate on the east side, walk to gear check on the south end of the secure area, then make my way to the corral on the north end. Ultimately, this process was relatively painless, but could probably be laid out differently.
The weather was near perfect with temps in the mid-40s, overcast skies, and just a touch of wind. In my 14 marathons, I can only think of two other times I've raced in such ideal conditions.
I made the mistake of not pushing closer to the start line in the corral, an error that as you'll see soon I'd regret. As the race started, there was a lot of pushing and shoving as I believe there a lot of very competitive (fast) runners in the second corral. While the contact only lasted a short bit, the course was quite crowded for the first 5k. My friend Andrew and I ran the first 10k together and we were passing people pretty much from the start line.
By 10k the crowds had thinned out and I was able to get into a nice rhythm. I found it helpful to have the race broken into kilometers - a fast pace was more digestible in smaller bites. Interestingly enough, I continued to pass athletes throughout the entire race, I'd pull up to a group, hoping they'd be running my pace, but would have to continue forging on ahead by myself.
As the pain set in, I found inspiration in the seeing the athletes ahead of me on the out and back portions (there are three). My friend Javi mentioned the cobblestones in the final kilometer which was a good call out. With 5k to go, I knew I'd be very close to my goal of a sub-2:30 PR. I continued to break down the race by kilometer. Entering the last kilometer, it was nice to not be surprised by the wobbly footing on the cobbles. As I finished, I saw the clock had ticked just past 2:30, but I was pretty confident that my chip (net) time would be below 2:30.
Fast forward to our post-race celebrations, hours after the race, I still only had a gross/gun time of 2:30:09 and no chip time. In our group of eight marathoners, three of us were missing net times, specifically because of failure to capture start time. I sort of knew that I had broken 2:30, but didn't feel confident about claiming it because the results didn't reflect it.
Fast forward to several weeks later, the race posted official results (mine listed identical gross and net times) and finally provided their plan for resolving the missing start times: they would allow athletes to report when they believe they started providing the option of sharing another athlete's bib number as a reference point. Upon investigation, I realized that I started between my friends Andrew and Javi. Both of them had start times so I could deduce my start time within three seconds. There had been at least an 18 second delta between the official gun start time and when Andrew and I crossed the start line. This 18 second delta gave me my sub-2:30 (2:29:51), but I still had to wait for official confirmation to feel confident in claiming the time.
Fast forward yet again to April 6th (the 2018 race was February 25th), and I received an email in Japanese with a link to an updated finisher's certificate with my adjusted net time (see photo). Unfortunately at the time of this writing (April 13th, 2018), online results don't reflect this update.
I'm not sure if this was a preventable error or not and I wouldn't ever tell someone not to run this race, but I certainly haven't come away with the best experience because of the timing issue that tarnishes my best ever run over the marathon distance.