Travelling 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.
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.
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.