Big Bird in Tokyo

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Below, a Canadian runner shares her story of completing the Tokyo Marathon, the sixth event in the Abbott World Marathon Majors series (the other five are Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York). Now in its 12thyear, the series attracts thousands of runners from 190 countries. Amateurs can vie to complete all the races in the coveted Six Star Finisher program, which was launched in 2014.

by Nelly McEwen, Six Star Finisher

Tokyo is an exotic metropolis. Two buildings on the perimeter of the Shinjuku Central Park provide panoramic views of the city. The vista from the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel was remarkable. I found the Japanese people to be very polite and helpful. Those in the tourist industry speak English, making it easier for foreigners. Using konnichiwa (hello), arigatō (thank you), and sumimasen (excuse me) pleased the Japanese who appreciate visitors’ efforts to speak to them in their own language.

Race day was cold and wet as we entered the starting gate at 8:00 a.m. Security procedures took time as attendants scanned wristbands and searched bags. The race started at 9:10 a.m. but I didn’t pass the start line until 9:30. By then, I was chilled. Most people wore ponchos; mine was bright yellow and reminded me of Big Bird. Amazingly, the inclement weather didn’t deter the spectators who braved the elements to cheer us on, lifting our spirits. Kudos to the 11,000 volunteers who provided services along the route.

The first 5K dropped 40 metres, tempting people to start the race too fast. I ran the whole race wearing my Big Bird poncho. At the 5K water station, I lowered my hood and took off my gloves, but kept my hands tucked inside. My first half was more or less on target, with significant slowing during the second half. I finished in 5:31.25, well below my hoped-for time. The determination to finish and collect my medal spurred me on.

After the race, runners received water, towels, medals, heat sheets and food. Of the 37,569 marathoners who started, 94% finished. Among the 35,440 who finished, 217 were Canadians. I was proud to be one of them.

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