Part 5: Tokyo Marathon – Pros & Cons and Travel Tips

Tuesday, 11 March 2014  |  Race Reports

Are you thinking of running Tokyo Marathon?  

Here are my thoughts on the race (it’s pros and cons) as well as some tips on travel:


  • Fast course.  Tokyo is a fast and relatively flat course.  The downhill in the first 10k of the course is a fantastic warm up.  There are short climbs in the end, but these aren’t too steep.  When it comes to the World Marathon Majors, I found that Berlin and London Marathon are faster courses than Tokyo (considering the course and the congestion), but Tokyo is definitely faster than New York.
  • Great cool weather.   Temperature during race start was around 5 to 7 degrees.  A bit too cold for those who live in tropical countries like us, but with the appropriate clothing it makes for faster running.  Just bring throwaway clothes (old jogging pants and sweater) or a couple of trash bags to keep you warm while waiting for race start.
  • Lots of runners in fun, colourful costumes
  • A lot of spectators generously handing out chocolates, fruits, candies, and drinks.  There was not much screaming or yelling as Japanese are quite polite and shy, but one still could feel the crowd support.
  • Clean race and city.  There were trash bins everywhere.  The Japanese love cleanliness and there were bins for cups and marshals holding out garbage bags from start to finish.
  • Friendly and courteous staff and organizers.  The marshals went out of their way to help runners.
  • Cool finishers’ towel and goodies such as food, fruits, and drinks handed out at the finish line.
  • Efficient baggage claim system.  Hardly any waiting time to deposit and claim your baggage.
  • Great time.  Most marathons abroad are scheduled for the latter part of the year.  Tokyo being in February is a great time for Filipinos because we don’t have to do our long runs in summer!
  • For us Filipinos, this is a great opportunity to run a World Marathon Major so close to home and in a beautiful city.  It’s also the most affordable World Marathon Major for us.


  • Extremely long lines at the portalets before and during the race.  Expect to lose 5 to 15 minutes just standing in line.  They’re pretty strict about peeing in other areas too so don’t think you can get away with it.
  • High congestion in some areas.  The first 10km was pretty crowded for me.  It may have been due to our missed wave which had us start the race at the back of the pack though.
  • Local sports drink was “Amino Value.”  Ingredients include amino acids but no electrolytes like Gatorade.  Be ready to carry your own sports drink if water isn’t enough hydration for you.
  • Uneventful start.  Due to the wave start, runners are split into various groups according to their waves.  There is no special start per wave like what is normally done in New York or London, there was one gun start for the first wave and the rest of the later waves do not experience this.  There was a Japanese choir singing upon passing the starting line.
  • Anti climactic end at Tokyo Big Sight.  Once you cross the finish line, there’s not much fan fare.  You receive your medal, giveaways, then you claim your baggage in a warehouse, enter another warehouse as the dressing room, and exit the area passing the family meet & greet area.  There’s a Tokyo Marathon Festa with food trucks and music, but it was small and wasn’t well attended.
  • Medal is small and typical. Our local medals are actually a lot more impressive.


I’m sharing some of our travel details for those who plan on signing up for Tokyo Marathon in the future.

HOTEL: Keio Plaza Hotel.  Hotel is located across Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building where the race starts.  Do not book at the finish line because this is in the outskirts of the city.  We were quite happy with our rooms, service, location of the hotel (5 minute walk to Shinjuku station), and price.

– Keio Plaza hotel had a Tokyo Marathon booth at the lobby –

AIRLINE: ANA.  We booked ANA because at the time of booking, PAL did not have available afternoon flights.  But, other friends were able to book PAL later on.

FOOD: Great food almost everywhere in Japan.  You’ll find the best restaurants just by seeing the lines outside.  Make sure to have sushi at Tsukiji market.  Drool drool.

– Gabby, Mench, Ton, Angel and I fell in line for sushi at Tsukiji Market. It was so worth the wait! –

SHOPPING: Shop at Ginza (the biggest Uniqlo in the world is there!) and Ometesando for upscale shopping and Takeshita and Harajuku for trendy stuff.

– Shopping at Ometesando –

– Hidden Cat Street by Ometesando –

– Takeshita Street is a small street full of character and trendy items –

– Right by the entrance of Takeshita street are the best tasting Takoyaki balls I’ve ever had. Yummy! –

CITY:  Tokyo was a fantastic city!  To be honest with you, it’s what made the marathon a great one! There’s so many little pockets in the city to visit and so many things to do.  Japanese are generally quiet and keep to themselves, but they are kind and friendly should you need help or engage in small chitchat.  I love it so much that we’re currently planning a trip there with the family this summer.