Who chases the geishas, what taste the poison have, how the Japaneses influences on the temperature of the air and how looks like the most confused subway in the world?
You really have to put some effort to get to the marathon in Tokyo: the chances are one to ten. And every year the competition increases. This year, the marathon was run by 37 thousand people (while as there were 300 thousand people wishing to run it!)
In 2015, I won the lottery, but I could not go, because I was ‘killed’ at the New York marathon. Then I put my own record, having surpassed 94% of the runners. I then ran to the limit, average heart rate at about 170, it was windy and cold, but I decided to show the best time at all costs.
The price of this personal record was terrible – I was crippled not only physically (a bump got out on the shinbone, which was permanently hurting me), but also psychologically – I could not make myself to run more than six months. Association with pain and suffering entrenched in me so hard that I started to think about ending my sports career. Do not do stupid things – do not run a marathon at 100%. But time heals all, and now a year later, I am again in the saddle, and fit.
You can get to the marathon either through a lottery, or after making a donation. This time I decided to make a donation to the fund Solaputi Kid ‘s Camp.
They help children, suffering from various serious diseases. At least some benefit for Japanese from our visit :)
And by coincidence, the Tokyo Marathon was the 10th in my sporting career :) Jubilee. The Japanese seem to know about it, so, they also held their marathon for the 10th time.
A bit about the city.
I did not like Tokyo. Gray city, gray buildings. And the endless crowds of people in gray suits and masks on their faces.
But this was the first impression, and not entirely true, because Tokyo is not just the buildings and the crowds…
The Greater Tokyo (the capital with the surrounding towns) is home to about 35 million people. It’s like 10 Moldovas. In one and the same city.
Just imagine – this gray spot on the half of Japan territory is the asphalt. Incidentally, because of the high population density in Tokyo, the average air temperature is usually by 10 degrees higher than throughout the country.
And indeed, in Japan (especially in Tokyo) it is quite noticeable, how the Japanese have learned to use a limited territory and resources for the benefit. Infrastructure in Tokyo is mega thought over. They have a lot of mega thought over things, which stands them out compared to other cities.
Firstly, Tokyo is one of the safest cities in the world. Here, the police is everywhere. They appear out of nowhere, solve the problem and disappear. Due to this order, six years old children may safely move around the city.
Secondly, urban transport is sooo popular in Tokyo. So popular that sometimes the subway trains deny passengers due to overcrowding. Tokyo Metro has 232 stations and 13 lines. Seats in the cars are heated, clean, comfortable. And safe. You can not fall on the track, because the Japanese have made special barriers. Cool, it’s so simple. And it is very difficult – I have not seen a more intricate subway anywhere else:
In fact, Tokyo has two Metros, one of which is private. Capitalism in its purest form. Well done.
Third, they have no traffic jams! The availability of public transport, four-level road junctions allow car owners to safely move around the city. But “free” is for the locals. Tokyo has some completely incomprehensible to me or my friends address system. They do not have street names, as we are used to. Only area-unit-subunit-micro-block. Taxi drivers probably go crazy. But the weird Japanese manage to understand all that pretty well. And even without GPS.
The fourth Japanese oddity: 20% of the population is allergic to cedar and cypress, so they wear masks. Well, also because they are afraid of epidemics. We have also tried them, but we didn’t feel comfortable with them on.
Fifth, for obvious reasons the Japanese have very tight housing accommodation. Even here, they have learned to save space.
As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by journalists. I gave a short interview, I hope they understood me.
And, of course, we got lost at the airport. 98% of Japan’s population is ethnic Japanese, who surprisingly are not always expressing well in English. The Japanese themselves are very polite, always smiling and bowing, even if you step on their foot. Very meticulous and tidy, even makes a bit irritated. But at the same time – closed and, as it turned out, do not tolerate familiarity.
The room, in which we were settled, was small. We have accommodated quite with difficulties. But well, it was ok, even cozy. Maybe, by the standards of the Japanese, this place is a real mansion. They themselves live very compactly.
We stepped our feet towards the Shibuya district. It seems that this name was given by the Japanese, who could not say exactly where they are, “Where are you?!” “Shibuya..!”. We took a look at a famous intersection.
About 2 million people go through it every day. Clap! Green light gies on for all pedestrians. And the Japanese begin to move from the four sides. In one dense crowd. We also walked back and forth, and went on.
Here, the monument to Hachiko is located. This is a very sad story about a dog, which had been waiting for his master for so long that it has turned to stone.
Of course, we could not pass by the famous fish-market Tsikudzi. Here you can see and buy, probably, any marine stuff. Here, in addition to 400 different kinds of seafood, you can find marbled beef, 300-pound tuna (which are sold in a special “tuna” auction) and fugue by weight.
There are a lot of microscopic cafes around, which provide 10-12 seats, and offer the freshest sushi with fish, which swam in the ocean just a couple of hours ago and had no idea that it will be eaten by a Moldovan runner. Well, these were the most delicious sushi I have ever eaten. Cheap and very cheerful!
Then we went to look at all sorts of Japanese temples, and dropped into the palace of Emperor Meiji (Emperor was not at home) along the way, admired the blooming plums (they begin to bloom in late February). Impressive, of course, but a little boring. In earlier times, by the way, Tokyo was a simple fishing village, which was called Edo. And then the emperor decided to move the capital here, and they did not bother and simply called it “Eastern Capital” – Tokyo.
After we met with the emperor, we went to Ginza. The famous street, where many shops sell the most feature-rich electronics. While wandering around the capital, we noticed that the Japanese love playing slot machines in the evenings after work. And it is certainly not the casino, but some children’s games. Huge rooms, where rows of people sit in their suits and play. There’s so much smock from smocking that you can hang an axe in the air. Games are not clear, but it is clearly noticeable that the Japanese are simply crazy about them.
We also went to the most famous in Japan robotics museum, but did not get into it. We turned to the children’s museum (just on our level). Huge, lots of electronic stuff. Robots for robots, everything can be switched, turned on, twisted. You know what their nanotechnologies are? Not nano at all!
We also saw a huge variety of large installations. Here are the ones that the Chisinau City Hall should be learning from!
Maybe, our mayor will finally allow Chisinau Is Me to put a memorial to a coin.
We have had a horrible time-switching adaptation. The difference between Chisinau and Tokyo is 7 hours. And at night we, trying to sleep, were drinking Coke, eating all sorts of Japanese delicacies, smoked, studied the Japanese language, which became the best sleeping means.
But I did not come here to stare at the city. I came to run the marathon. So I’d better start telling about it.
At the expo, I ate some tomatoes. By the way, to our Chisinau marathon organization to remember – it is convenient to eat them on the run.
Wandered among the robots, bought shoes, sat in a racing wheelchair for disabled people.
Marathon Official Store
I am dreaming at the stand with majors medals…
And here are three Moldovan Samurai, packed and ready to race:
Rice and sushi. A lot of these. Lots of sushi, rice and fish. Good in general. By the way, we had a most unusual pasta party in Japan… No pasta and no party, just sushi and rice.
Today, three Moldovans are running the marathon (I, Igor Tikhonov, and Yuri Timofti), and three others are trying to take them on video. Three sandwiches with jam, tea, loperamide, clothing, and away we go.
We went a couple of kilometers by feet to the Tokyo City Hall, and then began wandering around neighborhoods. Tokyo Marathon, except for being one of the largest (major), it is also Japanese, with all its consequences.
Pedantry of the Japanese is not an innate trait, but an acquired necessary. Ignorant sportsman will just fail to find the start or the finish (and at the Tokyo marathon these are different points). I have not seen such a huge amount of staff at any other marathons. It feels like the rate is one runner to several volunteers, a couple of policemen and one ambulance.
Moreover, everyone is polite, smiling, but persistent and correct – you can’t just stand wherever you want. Therefore, until we found our starting wave, we had to wander a bit.
We were lucky with the weather – it is already +8, and continues to warm up, the wind is 20km per hour, and we may call it a light breeze. The presenter is talking in Japanese, which is not surprising – there are 80-90 percent of Japanese. The number of Europeans is small, while as I have seen no African Americans at all.
And here – bang! traditional cannon shot and millions of sakura petals fell on the starting wave.
Everyone is screaming, catching the petals, a forest of hands, and the adrenaline rages out of the scale!
Me and Igoryok also started, we are running.
And while we’re running, I’ll tell you my plan for the race:
At the end of May 2016 I have the main running race of the year – the legendary ultra-marathon Comrades in South Africa – 90 km through the hills, and you should also fit in 9 hours. I am being prepared for this race by the multiple winner of this race – Leonid Shvetsov.
So I’m running a lot now, 250 to 300 km per month, and the long Sunday trainings reach 30 km. Until the end of May, I have planned a couple of training – passing marathons, which should pick up my endurance. The only condition is that I should not run them quickly; otherwise the recovery period will be delayed for a month. And here is something hard for me – how can I run a marathon with half power? Marathon in Tokyo is the first in the spring series, and I must show that I can not only run fast, but also, when necessary, – slow.
So I decided to run on the pulse of 155, on average – which is my training heart rate in the developing area. So, we run, pulse is 130, I am not rushing. Watch is getting crazy – showing 6:30 per kilometer, then 3:40… Being taught by the marathons in metropolitan areas, I understand that today I should not rely on GPS because of the skyscrapers. Well, it is good that I have thought over it, and have a table with time in each 5th kilometer on my hand.
We will be counting the pace in the mind, focusing on the timer and mileage.
We run easily, a little wind in the chest is very refreshing. Pulse is 150. Great, I am keeping to it for now.
When at the tenth kilometer I get a stray thought to accelerate, I remember New York and refuse. Here I will run quietly, no matter what happens.
20 km – I am not thirsty (the weather is just right), not hungry, as well, pulse is 155. I decide – If I am not running fast, I will not drink or eat anything until the finish. At least some challenge :) Igorek is a little behind – he caught a cold a few days ago and has not yet recovered, so he is slowing down the pace. It is really wise.
While as the marathon is booming – music, drummers, a lot of people along the route, cheerful! However, I want to note that New York and Paris are still cooler – more costumed runners, more raging fans and support groups. The Japanese are more reserved, more inside themselves; the invasion of personal space is a taboo for them. Well, their Marathon is quite appropriate. But, despite this, there are lots of costumes: everyone dresses as his imagination allows. We have the geishas, and samurai, Darth Vader, SpongeBob.
But the number of feeding stations and toilets along the track is huge. Every 2-3 km we have water, isotonics, bananas, tomatoes, and some other food. And the toilets stand at almost each one kilometer. And with all that, Tokyo Marathon is the cleanest of all, I was running. This is for sure. I noticed that the Japanese do not throw empty glasses anywhere – it doesn’t bother them to run up and throw it in the trash. I have not seen a banana peel or crushed tomatoes on the pavement. The road looks as if was just washed. It’s amazing.
While running, I saw a couple of policemen, who, together with the participants were running the marathon with miniature cameras on their heads. Maybe, in the event of any emergency. It would be cool to dress ours like that…
I notice that the support along the road is getting crazy – it shouts, whistles, horns in all sorts of horns. Posters with supporting characters. It is not understandable, but it feels nice.
In the meantime, I run 30 km. I look at the time – I am keeping a steady pace, around 4:55, the feet do not hurt, I am not hungry, though I could use the toilet, but I think I will already hold till the end. And if not, then I’ll remember how it was in the Ironman…
After the 35th km, I see a lot of people on the margins – mainly with cramps. All this is due to bridges – slides + hard concrete. I started feeling heaviness in the legs, heart rate increased to 160. The distance at the watch is 45 km , and the average rate is 4:20. Oh, when will this rate be real?
And here comes the long-awaited finish, guys give me the flag, I straighten it over my head and jauntily finish.
For the first time after the finish of the marathon, my feet are not shaking, and I do not have the desire to fall on the hot asphalt. So, where are the volunteers? Aha, there they are, far, about 50 meters away.
I am going through the rows of volunteers – they give me an isotonic, water, banana, muscle spray and cover my shoulders with the towel having the Marathon logo on it and, of course, a medal. The Medal is cool – Japanese minimalism on a bright ribbon.
Here again, the Japanese correctitude got me a bit nervous. In order to meet with my fellows, I had to walk a couple of kilometers through all the sheds, fences, galleries and fenced areas.
In the huge hangar, I got my things and met with the guys, made a couple of shots, waited for Igor and Yura, and went to rest. We, as the organizers of Chisinau marathon, should learn how to organize such masses of people. By the way, I spied their fencing and marking.
The thing that most of us remember from Tokyo is the bathhouse. It is worthy flying there just for the sake of it. :) It is an amazing place. Such a Japanese village in the center of the city. Japanese come with families to the bathhouse for the entire day. Just like in our Mall. The Japanese bathhouse also has cafes, shops, massage, and entertainment.
They even have the steaming bath – the sauna, a hot thermal pool in the street (the temperature is about + 40-45 degrees), icy inside (+18 degrees), and even some others that we didn’t have the forces to go to.
We tried the Japanese massage, which for some reason is made through a towel, we drank Japanese beer, ate noodles with fish, smoked the deserved cigar and went looking for fugue.
Fugue, if someone does not know, is the fish, which contains so much venom that it can kill 40 people, without even winking its fisheye. What can I say – a normal taste of poison, slightly resembling plaice or herring. Nothing special. We have not tried Tetradoksine, so the chef escaped harakiri.
Or was it the sake that has saved our marathoners lives, who knows?
Thanks to this weird city for the warm reception, courtesy and attention, for the organization and cleanliness. Thanks to the filming crew for having agreed to this adventure, coming with me and going through it all! Thank you, Tokyo, for fugu and sake, for baths and temples, for the ideas and impressions, for organizational chips, for the challenge and for the million petals of cherry blossoms at the start…