Monday, February 23, 2015

Tokyo Marathon 2015: Expectations and Reality

So, I finished the Tokyo Marathon... and am now dealing with the disappointment that came with it.

I started off really well. It felt like flying, going at a good pace with steady breath, steady heart rate and powerful legs... except for a twinge in the left knee.

Right after saying hello to my wonderful friends who came to cheer, I started feeling real pain. I tried different ways to stretch it out, and kept on going until the 23km mark, where suddenly my knee locked and I couldn't bend or land on it. I burst into tears of sheer sadness and disappointment. Had the knee not given out, I am pretty sure this would have been my fastest race yet. I had trained very hard, gone to the sports therapist to get my muscles and tendons properly stretched... all for nothing.

I hobbled over to the AED tent, and the kind volunteers stretched me out and taped up my knee. Hoping for the best I started running again. For about 5 steps. Nope. This was not happening. No can do. More tears and general despair.

And this is the interesting part. Until not too long ago I would have given up, since I obviously couldn't reach the 'perfect run' image jealously guarded in my mind. But instead I took a few breaths and re-framed the whole situation.
Okay, so a sub-5 hour marathon is out of the question. What CAN I do?

Oddly enough, walking wasn't all that painful, as long as I kept my knee from bending. Good. So the new goal is to finish the darn race and not get swept  (loaded into a bus that takes you to the end point because you are too slow to finish in the set time). I picked myself up and power-hobbled my way to the end, trying not to be too sad or jealous when my friends passed me (since its not their fault, for crying out loud). I ended up finishing in just under 6 hours, which is not bad for a hobble pace.

While I am proud of myself for finishing and not giving up when my 'ideal' was stripped away, some ambivalence remains. There is medal on my bedside table, and I am not sure I deserved it. I can't help but think 'what if the day had been warmer' (as the doctor said the long wait in the cold might have precipitated it) or 'maybe if I had just stretched it out a bit more'... ugh, annoying.


  1. Hi,
    Congratulation for finishing the Tokyo Marathon.
    You finished it less than 6 hours even though you had to stop at the AED tent for stretching and taping your knee after 23 km I think you must lost lot of minutes. If you didn't have such knee problem, you would finish around 4 hours. You must be a very good marathon runner. I am a sub-5 hours runner too. I am coming to Japan to run Sakura Michi Nature Run from Nagoya to Kanazawa Kenrokuen in next April. I really hope I can finish it, but it will be very unrealistic.
    I hope that next time you may run marathon without any problems and enjoy running.
    Greeting from Finland

    1. Hi Juki, thank you that is very sweet of you to say!
      I hope you do well in the Sakura Michi... how incredible that you can do ultras! I am sure that you can do it, best of luck!

  2. I have to say i'm in awe of your attitude! I know if that was me, I would have sulked, given up, and said next year.

    You should appreciate the metal for an entirely different reason. Its not for just for completing the race (which you did awesomely well) but for the perspective and personal growth it takes to adapt when reality messes with your expectations and perfection. I strive to be where you are mentally!

    1. And being proud with mix of ambivalence and "what ifs" is okay too! We're all just human!

    2. Hiya LLL, thank you so much for the kind words :) While I am ambivalent, this is sooo much better than a few years ago, where I would have lost sleep over it.

  3. I think you did a great job -- you continued, even though you were hurt. I'm looking forward to your post about it next year. :)

    1. Cheers Sonna, I appreciate it! I probably won't be lucky enough to get a spot next year as well (TM runners are selected using a lottery system), but I will aim to do another one... most likely in a warmer month! ;p