Arrival into Japan for the first time can seem a bit daunting but it this apprehension soon dispersed for our Sports Tours International Runners as they were met at Nirita airport by our running guides Ed and Peter, two of our most experienced running reps. Shortly after landing our two coaches, that were there and waiting, we’re on the way to the Koto area of Tokyo and the Marathon Expo. The journey take’s approximately one hour from the airport and is on route to our hotel, The Keio Plaza.
The Expo venue for the Tokyo Marathon is usually at a venue called ‘Big Sight’ but for this year it had to be moved due to building works ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics next year. It is clear that 2020 is going to be a very special year for Tokyo and I am already predicting the 2020 Marathon will be quite special as a result. The Big Sight was replaced this year with an Impressive Marquee Village which had everything you come to expect and more from World Marathon Major Expos; by more I mean in my travels I have never ever been welcomed to any other Expo by a 30ft moving Transformer…..
With Bibs, new trainers, t shirts and other Tokyo merchandise in hand it was then back onto the bus for a short transfer to Keio Plaza. Many of our runners took the opportunity to have an afternoon nap before heading out for dinner and into the bright lights of Shinjuku. The Keio Plaza is a beautiful 4 star hotel that come marathon day finds itself in the heart of the marathon village. The Keio Plaza also serves as the official Marathon Hotel so it was quickly deemed that if the hotel Keio Plaza was good enough for the pro Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes who were often seen walking the lobby then it would be in turn suitable for our Sports Tours International Elite Athletes. For us all our runners are Elites!!
Shinjuku by night is a hive of activity and the bright lights soon draw you in. There are numerous restaurants to choose from to suit all different tastes. As well as the authentic Japanese cuisine you can also find a mix of more western meals if you would prefer.
Breakfast is included as part of your stay at the Keio and all the restaurants are located on the ground floor. The one thing that’s clear is that you will never go hungry in this city which bodes well for Marathon morning. For the Sports Tours International support team each morning the day starts with an hour on the welcome desk in the Hotel Lobby between 9:00hr to 10:00hr. This is always a nice opportunity to meet all our runner and answer any questions that you may have about the upcoming week. The main question however for those who arrived early was “how do you get to the expo?” There is only one simple answer to this – We will take you later!
The route from The Keio Plaza to Expo is best accessed via the extensive Tokyo Rail network but this means negotiating the (in)famous Shinjuko train station. In 2007 it was estimated that the 36 platforms and 200 entrances to this station saw approx. 3.64 million people use this station each day making it the busiest transport hub in the world! This is were we like to think our experience of taking runners around the world makes a difference. 40mins after leaving our hotel, purchasing tickets and hopping a direct train to Tokyo Teleport the complex Shinjuko Station is tamed!
As the sun came up over Tokyo, Saturday marked the start of Marathon Weekend with the 11:00 starting gun of the 5km Friendship run. To make your experience as enjoyable as possible our reps again guided our runners via Shinjuko Station out to the start of the friendship run. Emerging from Tokyo Teleport station it was clear that this 5km was going to be fun as running kit had been put to one side in preparation for tomorrow with some impressive fancy dress preferred! Under a warm Tokyo sun this was a morning not to forget.
The Beauty of the Keio Plaza is that overnight the hotel finds itself in the heart of the Start Village. Our running guides did run shuttles with runners to the various gates via the back entrance of the hotel, which means it’s less than a 3 Minute walk. For spectators there were a number of options. A short walk away at our other hotel, the Hyatt spectators were able to witness the start from their raised entrance less than 200 metres from the start line with the runners proceeding past us after the gun. Alternatively a number of our clients found us later in the day to say just how impressive the start looked from there lofty hotel room overlooking the start with a cup of tea in hand.
Although the conditions were not kind on this year’s edition of the Tokyo Marathon it was clear runners spirits had far from washed away. The spectators in turn also played there part with the streets lined with cheering spectator who also refused to allow the conditions to ruin the opportunity to showcase their City.
New for this year was a spectators coach which left the Keio at 09:45 that went to the 20km mark and then onto the finish line. This was an excellent addition to the marathon programme and it was great to escort a number of spectators to these viewing places. With tracking apps in hand we were fortunate enough to see a number of our Sports Tours runners flow pass us with smiles still firmly visible. After an hour at the 20km mark, it was then onto the finish line at the Imperial Palace. With what seemed like a renewed energy the pace of runners over this last kilometre was great to see.
Setting ourselves up near an exit with coffee in hand we waited and one after another we saw our runners walk past cold, tired but elated. For some this was their first step into the world or marathon running, for others it was another step on their journey and for a small number of our clients another bigger medal emerged from beneath their foil blanket; the coveted Abbots Six Star Marathon Majors Medal. From the finish line it was a short walk back to all the awaiting bags and then onto a number of Marathon buses that take runners directly back to the Keio Plaza.
For some the evening was about refuelling and rest, for others a trip to the official Marathon Party was planned and for others an escorted trip to the Dubliner’s Irish bar was in order. Either way spirits were high and within hours talk was turning to what’s next?
Hi Luke, it was amazing. I got my place through @sportstoursint who were excellent – my advice, get in there early as it’s always over-subscribed
— Ian Poland (@impoltel) March 5, 2019
Just sat at Kings X reflecting on a great weekend in Tokyo. Thanks to @sportstoursint for their fantastic organisation and particularly their reps, Si, Ed, Pete and Joe for entertaining us and making sure we were where we were meant to be. Great team #tokyomarathon #ukrunchat pic.twitter.com/i7HvnX3E5h
— James Osborne (@JOsborneNeuroPT) March 4, 2019
We’re on our way home – enjoyed our stay and David was pleased with his good-for-age time. Sports Tours reps helpful and supportive as usual! – ELAINE – MARCH 4, 2019
I just wanted to thank Sports Tours International for a fantastic trip to the Tokyo Marathon I had a really good trip. – Low 2019
It's official! @albertocontador will be riding @QHyTR quebrantahuesos.com/noticias/… we can't wait! You can join El Pistolero on the start line by clicking here ow.ly/Cahf50nJwkt Guarantee your entry to Spain's most popular sportive now! #QH2019 #Cycling pic.twitter.com/zx5mFQcGfB
We are an Official Tour Operator for @lavuelta! Our tours and our VIP and Hospitality experiences will place you right in the heart of the action! This year it has 8 mountain finishes 5 of which are new to the race! We can't wait! You can join us bit.ly/2Tl77mq #LaVuelta pic.twitter.com/FxDsPKEtGS
We're giving back! @TheRunningBee is our brand new foundation, set up to make a difference in our local communities. The first grant was for @tasfund a brilliant charity that supports those with mental health issues. Read our latest blog to find out more bit.ly/2Thelrn pic.twitter.com/IzPKlQUyZh