It is 4am in the morning and with only 4 hours of sleep before the big race I cannot seem to overcome my endless excitement. So instead of trying to sleep for another 2 hours I slowly start getting ready for my run…Besides the physical training it also takes a lot of mental practice for being able to run a full marathon. I myself felt more than ready for this challenge and so I jumped out of bed to kick start the day.
Believe me when I say that I had a lot of people trying to help me with their expertise pre-running advises…It went from controlling my pace (what pace haha?!) to adapting a high carb nutrition (nobody wants that!) and skipping any pre-workouts as it might harm my endurance on the given day (you obviously don’t know me)…none of them actually seemed to work for me-except that one great tip from a friend of mine who shortly before the race simply advised me to just relax and try to enjoy the day as much as possible 🙂
Amen-after all those educational lectures there was finally that one vital tip that I really needed! In the end of the day everybody has to find their very own method in order to prepare for such a big race…I myself decided to go to Disneyland the day before haha! No joke. The place where every little girls dreams are made of became my personal ‘charging station’. Only here I could find peace and forget about stressing over useless things. I had a really great time with my friend by just doing what kids do best: having fun 🙂 and I believe that’s what life is really about…not taking everything so seriously and just having a good time by simply enjoying what you are doing…right now.
So the moment arrived of finally lining up with all the other 36,000 athletes and passionate runners at the starting line. Never will I forget the first few thrilling minutes after the starting gunfire and getting goosebumps to the beautiful sound of the classic Japanese music orchestra playing for us. It was so overwhelming passing by the waving geisha at the start that I might have shed a few tears…Surrounded by a swarm of helicopters and an army of security guards on our sides we safely passed the Government Building to enter the race. It was really breathtaking and I can definitely say that the marathon slogan was truly fulfilled in that moment: The day we Unite. For the first time since my arrival I felt like truly being united with this foreign culture and in a strange way we all together became part of something really amazing: one of the elite marathon races in the world starring some of the most amazing runners and top athletes. I felt truly blessed and humbled at the same time.
The first 10km were honestly speaking a piece of cake as it is part of my daily running routine. The only thing I was struggling with in the beginning were my shoe laces which kept coming loose. Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to stop at the beginning of a marathon to bend down and tie your shoe laces as other runners will just run over you -> note to self at this point: always double tie your shoes laces before running a marathon! The upcoming kilometers were very scenic as we were passing by some very impressive monuments like the Imperial Palace. To me as for so many other foreign runners it was probably more of a sightseeing tour at this stage. The following part was a bit demotivating to be honest as all the top athletes who were starting in the front rows already completed the upcoming loop and were now cheerfully passing by us. Nevertheless I kept looking forward and braced myself to continue the very long and what felt like an almost everlasting track to reach the halfway point.
When we finally reached the middle of the track I kept wondering for the first time if they will provide us with any food at some point. Despite all the liquid intake during my run the toilet was not an option for me as I did not want to stop myself. A quick glimpse at the numerous queues in front of the bathroom signs scared me enough. After 25 km I finally got my answer when I saw all the tables with generously displayed food items on offer. One can not explain my happiness about the simple sight of food at this stage 🙂 I quickly grabbed a banana and some cake in order to get some fuel into my body to keep going. The next few miles were simply amazing and I don’t think any other marathon in the world can resemble with this phenomenon. The crowds on the side of the streets were massive the whole way through the race but there was one particular point were families were lining up offering various specialities they brought from their homes in order to feed us and help us gain back our power. I was truly amazed by this and yet again learned another thing about the impressive Japanese curtesy. I tried so many different things along the way that I can say it was more of a food marathon 😉 People were very generous and the spirit was so motivating that it was very easy to keep pushing through the entire marathon. There were little kids cheering and stretching out their tiny hands in order to reach the hand of a runner and People were clapping and performing arts and dances all the way. I remember this one sign that occurred a couple of times and really helped me going. It just said ‘keep fighting’-a very simple statement but to me it means a lot as it is applicable to almost every obstacle in life.
Another very entertaining fact were the crazy costumes of some of the runners. I saw the most creative and sometimes also a bit shocking outfits – I mean how can someone run in a panda costume? There were grooms&brides, Supermario&Luigi, dancing Michael Jackson, a few of the Disney characters and also some really exotic creations like a soft drink vending machine and also a Starbucks cup (!). Speaking of coffee, believe it or not- but at 30km my intense appetite for caffeine kicked in. I was shocked myself as it is very weird during a run when you have to stay hydrated at all times to feel the urge for something like coffee. But I guess that’s just me 🙂 Luckily I quickly overcame my craving and kept refocusing on my run…
Everyone was warning me about the ’30km obstacle’ as it seems to be the hardest part of the entire marathon, but to me the struggle really began when I reached the 35km mark. All of a sudden I could feel strong aches in my lower legs and knees. A pain that I hadn’t experienced before, but luckily I was prepared and would not let it stop me from running. I quickly stopped to get covered with some pain relieving spray from one of the many helping hands on the side of the course. Bless all those great people-it really worked! And off I went for the next few kilometers…I was especially amazed when we entered a district called Ginza where I was happily distracted by all the high fashion designer boutiques we were passing-yes I am still a woman so don’t judge me for that!
The last 5km were the hardest of the entire race. Instead of running I suddenly found myself dragging my tired legs over the pavement. The course started getting hilly due to the crossing of a few bridges. You might think it was hard getting up the hill-well try going down afterwards. It was such intense pain that I seriously considered starting to walk for a few moments. My strong mindset and focus on the goal kept me from doing so and I continued running without thinking too much about the pain. Instead I concentrated on other things to distract myself…I never tried competing with other runners though. I think one of the most important things is to find your very own pace and try to stick with that. Be honest to yourself and don’t try to be an overachiever by starting off like a maniac…you will lose in the end.
Never will I forget the last kilometer of the marathon as it marked a true turning point. After all the struggle I actually thought I was completely drained and out of any power. I honestly thought my legs could not carry me anymore. What happened next is a true miracle to me and looking back at the agony I was in I really cannot explain how this happened. All I remember is that the finish line slowly made its appearance in the far end. Without thinking I put on my favorite song and just closed my eyes to push through. All of a sudden I could feel my legs regaining new strength and I started running as fast as I can. I felt myself running like I had never run before in my life and on my way to the end I saw all those people disappearing next to me. With my speed I must have overtaken 20 runners at least before finally reaching the finishing line…It was almost like I was flying!
That is one of the great things about running: similar than in life you go through different phases and it can be like a real learning process. I for instance get my greatest ideas during a run. There is so many things that get released together with all those endorphins. For once you are completely on your own with all your thoughts and have the ability to ‘vent off’ through exercise. That is why to me as for so many other runners it is so much more than just a sport. I learned so much about myself through running and the fact that I was able to be part of such a great experience opened my eyes completely and made me realize what is really important in life. It is about having a goal in mind and never giving up on your dreams. That is my message and one of the main reasons I wanted to share all this with you. I like to inspire people to do the same in order to achieve great things. I strongly believe that everyone has the ability to do whatever they want in life-you must only have faith in yourself and never give up! Trust me-everything is possible.
The craziest thing about the entire experience is my quick and easy recovery. Only two days later and I am already back to my daily gym workout without any problems. Again there is so many warnings about things you should not do after a big run, but as usual I kind of followed my own routine…So it happened that after a relaxing massage, a big and very healthy Japanese dinner and one good nights sleep only I was my old self again. Actually that is not completely true as something definitely had changed. I cannot exactly describe what it is but all I know is that this marathon experience has done something very special to me. There are so many things that I learned about myself and so many things that seemed important to me were suddenly completely out of sight because I realized focusing on the real things. I started feeling an immense sense of pride and accomplishment that made me lose so many insecurities and will make me push even harder to achieve my goals in my future life.
All in all I can say it was a life changing experience and I am truly blessed that I had the chance to be part of such a great and memorable event. So if you ever have the chance to experience something so great like this don’t let doubt ruin your dreams, just believe in your own abilities and go for it!