My Itabashi City Marathon experience – Tokyo, Japan 

Itabashi Marathon 2016Travelling from the United Kingdom, on 20 March 2016, I ran the Itabashi Marathon in Tokyo, Japan. This year the Itabashi Marathon was four weeks after the Tokyo Marathon and located only 13 kilometres from the centre of the city, offering an alternative to the extremely popular race. Itabashi is a city located in greater Tokyo in the Kanto region.

When the Tokyo Marathon maximum number of entries was exceeded, participants were chosen via a lottery. A total of 308,810 runners applied, giving an over subscription rate of 11.3. There were also a further 3,000 charity positions available. The Itabashi Marathon had 15,000 places which were available on a first-come, first-served basis. I entered the run in November 2015 after finding I had been unsuccessful for the Tokyo Marathon.

Entering the event from the UK and not understanding Japanese wasn’t easy but certainly doable. The official race website and corresponding emails were completely in Japanese so Google Translate was essential. I’d recommend using Chrome as this has it built in. Entrants are required to register and enter via Runnet which again is in Japanese. It requires a Japanese address and phone number so I entered the details of the hotel where I was staying. It also asks for your name in Kanji to successfully register and I easily found a number of websites which translate English into Kanji. The race cost 5,340 yen which is about £34 and around half the price of the Tokyo Marathon. Having entered, I then contacted Runnet to inform them I was an international entrant and may struggle to receive my race number in the post at my hotel, so could I collect it in Japan (numbers were posted a few weeks before the run). They informed me I would be able to collect my race pack, including number and timing chip, at the event on the day.

On the day

When travelling to the race, the nearest train station to the start and finish was Ukima-Funado on the Saikyo Line. From Ueno Station, it took around 30 minutes and included a change at Akabane Station. When arriving ahead of the marathon there were information stands which pointed out the race pack collection point. After providing my name plus confirmation email, my number was found very quickly and surprisingly trouble free. This gave a sense of just how well organised the event was. In the race pack, along with my number and timing chip, was a bum bag/pouch plus marathon programme. The bag drop off area was also very well organised and following the race, runners were directed through the baggage collection which helped speed up the whole process.

Itabishi Marathon race pack.JPG
Itabishi Marathon pouch

The race started at 9am next to a stand of outdoor seating which offered an area for spectators. The route was adjacent to the Arakawa River with countryside plus a number of baseball and football pitches alongside. The course was split into two halves in a there-and-back style, although it did not become too monotonous running the same stretch twice. During the run, I could see the Skytree tower and large city buildings in the distance and had steady support scattered throughout. It was straight and very flat with few inclines. As the path was relatively narrow, the race group remained bunched together until the second half. I would suggest getting as near to the front as possible if you are hoping for a fast time. The water stations were regular as you would expect and cups of water or sports drink were provided. Bananas, chocolate and other snacks were also given out throughout the course.

After the race, I received water and an ice cream with race results posted on the official website. I did not receive a medal or t-shirt which are commonly given out after marathons. I did not see other runners with them either so I presumed they were not given out.

Itabashi Marathon 2016 race
Itabshi Marathon race

I would recommend the Itabshi Marathon to those who fail to get into the Tokyo Marathon or are looking for an alternative to large inner city marathons. It was very well organised and fairly easy to travel to from the centre of Tokyo. Although it took a little longer to enter, I did not experience any problems. The course was not in the heart of a city but it did provide a window into Tokyo’s suburbs. Not receiving a medal or t-shirt was slightly disappointing but factoring in the low cost to enter, it was not a huge problem. The support was good and route very fast for those looking for a personal best but positioning is key on a narrow course.

The official Itabashi City Marathon website can be found here. Previous results can be found here. Runnet website can be found here.

Students shine in official opening weekend of the Olympic Stadium

Olympic stadium during The BUCS Outdoor Championships

Lucky students were given the once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in the first competitive event to be held at the Olympic Stadium in The BUCS Visa Outdoor Athletics Championships.

The event ran from Friday 4th until Monday 7 May with a number of track and field events taking place during the weekend. All events reached capacity with each University allowed to enter one athlete per event and a personal best with a seasons best time were required to be accepted. Over 56,000 tickets were sold across the four days, creating a great atmosphere many students will never forget.

The athletes appeared to strive under the fantastic conditions with a number of BUCS Championship records and personal bests achieved across the weekend. Charlie Purdue, a student at St Mary’s, set a new championship record of 15.15.12 in the 5000 meters. Purdue has already run the ‘B’ standard qualification time in the 10000 meter and is hopeful of making the GB squad in both the long distance events.

Lord Coe speaking outside the Olympic venue
Lord Coe speaks to the media

Lord Coe, speaking outside the stadium on Saturday, talked about the balance between holding test events while also allowing building work to continue.

“The challenge of course for what we’re doing today and this weekend is running test events. We’ve also got 10,000 contractors out there so we can’t just stop work on the park in order to solely focus on test events.”

“In essence what we’re doing if you think about it in simple terms, the next couple of months are about connecting these venues with the world and to you guys. The last bit will be the landscaping and we’ll probably be mowing the lawns right up to the opening ceremony.”

Coe was also pleased the stadium will retain its athletics facilities after the Olympics.

“I committed to keeping a track and field venue there; we’ve now got that commitment. The Olympic park legacy will decide how and where they put other sports in there. But the very fact we have the 2017 World Championships is a fantastic part of that legacy.”

The event was represented well by the North West with Central Lancashire, Chester, Bolton, Keele, Lancaster, Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, Liverpool, Liverpool John Moors, Liverpool Hope, Salford and Staffordshire Universities all fielding teams.

London Prepares series

The University of Central Lancashire’s club chairmen Ben MacFarlane said: “The event was executed well, with a great sense of excitement among the athletes and spectators. You also got a feeling of what’s to come when the Olympics begin later this year.”

Robert Garth, who achieved a PB representing Liverpool Hope University said: “I’ve been looking forward to the event ever since I heard this year’s BUCS Championships were being held at the Olympic Stadium. It was a fantastic experience and something I’ll never forget.”

Manchester University athlete Kerrie Harris, who took part in the 1500m, said: “I was proud to represent my university and race on a track where in a few months time the world’s best athletes will compete.”

Also during the weekend, the stadium was officially opened on Saturday evening with ‘2,012 hours to go’ until the Championships begin. White balloons were released into the air by a randomly selected youngster with the help of Sebastian Coe and Vernon Kay. The event was a great opportunity for the military to test large-scale security equipment ahead of the Games.

Results from the event can be found here

Lord Coe interview audio:

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