Running in Tokyo/Japan - Marathon/Clubs/Track Races


50K in Hino City on May 10th, 2009

Short summary : it was too hot to really run. I made it to the finish within the cutoff time of 8:00.

The 50K was well organized, very low key, 120 participants, more organizers, very very hot day along the Tama river.

The loop has three out-and-back "spurs". The upper stream spur is between the 1st K and 9K with a turn at 5K, then we had the horse spur, from 16K to 22K with a turn at 19K at the pony farm, and then the "rice curry" spur, from 22K to 44K with a turn at 33K.

With a width of 5 to 10 feet, the trail offers excellent footing, no single-track, and no creek crossings. Many bridges have been built in upper Tama area :-). The surface of the course is primarily asphalt with some possibility to run on grass on the side. The course is using bike/running lanes along the Tama river and its affluent.

The start is located in Hino city, on a small stadium, where we used the locker room and showers (the latter, after the race, not before). I couldn't use the lockers at first as I tried them with my 100 yen lucky coin. I was baffled. I finally realized that they required the less expensive 10 yen lucky coin that I quickly purchased from a vending machine: put 150, get 3 x 10 yen lucky coins and a bottle of (place your favorite cheap non alcoholic beverage here).

There were several manned aid stations: 5K, 10K, 15K, 19K, 24K, 29K, 33K, 37K, 41K, 46K and 49K. The aid stations contain just about everything under the sun - hard candy, bananas, crackers, water (and ice water at 19K), Pocari Sweat, Mitsuya Cider (三ツ矢サイダー ,Mitsuya saida, 500 kcal per small bottle), coffee, teas and salt by the ounce. We got soup and rice curry, sausages and candies at 33K's aid station and ice cream upon arrival.

The official ceremony started at 8:30 sharp. We had 6 official representatives of various official bodies plus the organization staff: while waiting under the morning sun, I understood that the day would be hot and rushed back to the locker room to cover my legs, arms and head with more sun lotion. I missed two centimeters above my socks, 1 centimeter around my watch and a part of my forehead around my glasses. Painful errors.

Start at 9:00, about 100 runners. I was the only foreigner. I quickly let everybody pass me to take solidly the back of the pack. I've never been last, though and I built a good 5 kilometers buffer with the last runner.

It was hot at 9:00, under a strong sun, and it got hotter all day long. I tried to maintain a slow rhythm for of about 7 minutes per kilometer but I had to give up quickly. We had some air, some wind along the river but the sun was brutal. About 28 to 33 Celsius degrees. Not enough shade for the day.

The run became a walk/run then the official Tama long walk for the last 25K.

The splits:
5K : 37'25"
10K: 36'10"
15K: 41'27"
20K: 42'47"
25K: 42'22"
30K: 48'08" <-- start walking
35K: 54'07" <-- the rice curry
40K: 51'37"
45K: 50'06"
50K: 50'09"

On a sunny Sunday, the Tama river is extremely popular with cyclists that go at speed of 25 or 30K/hour on the walking/cycling path, so you better watch your way to avoid incoming missiles.

Overall time 7:34'21". A long day out there. Quite sunny. But a great day.

Lessons learned:

- Salt: I looked for proper salt replacement pills on internet, but couldn't arrange anything in time. However, each aid station had kitchen salt available and I happily drop some salt in my Mitsuya Cider
- Energy drink: I also had concerns about proper energy drinks: that Mitsuya Cider is great. It's like sugar with some water. Full of energy.
- Sun screen needs to be applied before putting on the flashy sports watch or sunglasses and down into the socks: the socks will go down 5 to 10 millimeters and it will kill you. Sun burns hurt.
- Dress appropriately: long sleeves, long pants, gloves and fully coverage hat are mandatory under the sun or when running on the sun. I have three weeks before my next race, the Yamanakako half marathon near Fuji san, to find out a proper and light hat.
- Vaseline works. Just apply in high quantity then add more.
- Adjust speed to heat: I couldn't run so I walked. So be it. I'll have other opportunities to run the distance.
- 50K is a good distance. I enjoyed every moment of it. A tad short?
- Training 50~60K per week is not enough. I need to pump up the volume. Pump it up!

I completed my first ULTRA. Yeah ! I'll be back...

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Comment by Daniel on May 18, 2009 at 8:18pm
Thanks guys. It was not the ideal weather. So far, in May we had two hot days, if I include today :-).
Comment by Jon Holmes on May 18, 2009 at 4:59pm
Well done. Great effort. Interesting report.
Comment by juergen wittstock on May 16, 2009 at 7:58pm
Amazing...congrats, Daniel!

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