Tokyo Marathon Race Recap (with Photos)

In this post I share my notes and reflections used in our podcast recap. If you want to study up on the Tokyo Marathon you’ve come to the right place!

Tokyo Marathon Race Recap (with Photos)

History of the Tokyo Marathon

The 17th edition of the Tokyo Marathon was held on Sunday, March 3, 2024. There were 38,000 runners registered for the 2024 event.

The marathon officially began back in 2007, combining the previously held Tokyo International Marathon and the Tokyo-New York Friendship Marathon. The new edition ran continuously until 2020 when there was a modified elites-only event due to the pandemic. After a break in 2021 the marathon was back for Japanese residents only in 2022 and international runners were allowed back for the 2023 event.

The Race Expo

The race offered packet pick up at the Tokyo Big Sight South Exhibition Halls on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Race participants entered through a separate entrance from other people going to the expo. This was the longest wait to get a bib that I’ve ever experienced (easily 30 minutes) but the volunteers were very helpful and friendly.

  • They gave us a wristband to wear through race morning along with a bib with timing chip (this bib was large and heavy and the chip had to be returned after the race).
  • The bib colors were different for depending on your race category (for example, charity runners were pink).
  • Charity runners got a charity shirt and the official race shirt was an extra optional expense.
  • We were also given a public transportation card good for 24 hours to facilitate getting around on race day.

After getting the bib and race bag and getting our chips verified it was on to the expo which had a large number of booths. The marathon has a robust sustainability program including using recycled fibers, water recirculating hand washing stations, using electric vehicles along the course, recycling discarded clothing and water station paper cups, and reusing course tape and marathon flags.

We were running for Room to Read Japan and visited their charity booth. There were 39 charities involved with the marathon and they raised over 868,455,051 yen (nearly 6 million USD).

About Room to Read
Room to Read has benefited more than 39 million children and has worked in 23 countries and in more than 49,000 communities, providing additional support through remote solutions that facilitate learning beyond the classroom. Room to Read aims to benefit 40 million children by 2025.

Educate a child in an underprivileged country for 1 year for only $50.

The MTA Meet Up

We had the MTA meet up near the Imperial Palace Grounds and although the day was cold and windy we had a great turn out. It was fun to meet listeners from Japan, Hong Kong, the UK, and the US. You can hear soundbites with these wonderful people on episode 441 of the podcast.

MTA meet-up near Tokyo Palace


Congrats to you both. It was an absolute pleasure meeting you both in Japan. Running the Tokyo Marathon was epic and I got my 4th star there. I love Japan and hope to return with my best friend when she gets selected to run it. I cannot wait to listen to the race recap podcast. -Sandrine

Meeting you both really was such a highlight for me as I have followed you both for such a long time and have such respect for what you both do for the running community. I absolutely loved the Tokyo marathon. Your podcasts helped with my best training cycle yet and a totally unexpected PB of 11 minutes (3:32:16 at age 54 with a hip replacement, yay!!). I’m so pleased to be a lifetime member of MTA. It’s a membership worth its weight in gold!!! -Janie

Race Day

The starting area was enormous but well marked and manned by helpful volunteers.

The first step was to pass through a security check point where they checked any bags and made sure you were still wearing the wristband given at the expo. There was a strict list of items that were prohibited past security as well as limitations to what you wore on race day (be sure to read the runners packet thoroughly in advance).

The gear check trucks were next and they corresponded to the designation on the race bib. Finally there were a good number of the cleanest port-a-pots that I’ve ever encountered during a race. In fact, there were volunteers organizing the bathroom lines to make sure they ran efficiently.

Starting Corrals

Then it was an additional walk to get to the correct block/corral. The corrals were designated from A to M (I was in G and Trevor in H). The starting corrals were crowded and had the usual energy of excitement and nerves.

The wheelchair race started at 9:05 am and the race started at 9:10 am (for the 10.7km distance and the marathon). Runners had to be at least 19 years of age for the marathon and be capable of completing the race within 6 hours, 30 minutes.

The Course

Over 10,000 volunteers were involved in making the marathon smooth and successful with 5,000 of these volunteers out along the course. This course had very thorough markings with distance markers every 1 km as well as every mile.

  • It is nearly flat and has the potential for being fast (I say potential because it’s a crowded course which means you have to run strategically if you want to PR).
  • The course is point to point, starting in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
  • Well known areas include Shinjuku, the Tokyo Dome, Tokyo Dome City, Kanda, Nihombashi, Asakusa location of the famous Senso-ji Temple (which dates back to AD 628), Ginza, and Hibiya Park.
  • There were spectators all along the route, including large numbers in certain areas and people were smiling and encouraging.
  • The final section of the race is along a cobblestone street which definitely took some concentration to navigate.

Course Cutoffs

If you only remember one thing from this recap remember that the cut off times are very strict, with 8 cut off locations besides the finish line. The first cut off was at 4.9 km and the last was at 37.8.

On one out and back section I saw the cut off being set up just before the half marathon point and they were stretching a rope across the road (and buses were descending on the location to pick up eliminated runners).

Remember, the cutoff may be seven hours but that’s gun time not chip time. If you’re in the back corals it will take you 20-30 minutes to cross the starting line. So realistically you only have 6.5 hours.

Aid Stations and Toilet Stops

There were 15 aid stations with the first one at 5km. All aid stations had water, half had sports drink (Pocari Sweat), and there were various food options including bananas, pickled plum, chocolate, sweet jellied adzuki bean paste, cream filled rolls, calorie mate jelly, glucose, salty hard candy, and doll shaped pancakes.

I brought my trusty UCAN Edge Gels which I take to every race.

There were multiple toilet locations along the course which are well marked. But many of the locations were public toilets which could be several meters off course. There are strict prohibitions to public urination so it’s important to use the designed bathrooms.

There were volunteers pointing the way to the toilets and even facilitating the lines (which could be long at times). The advice we got was to not use the toilets until after the 2nd cut off to reduce the risk of getting pulled from the course, especially if you’re put in a later block or corral. I had a quick stop around mile 10 and thankfully the line was short but lost at least 5 minutes in a line around mile 20. Trevor stopped as well and lost 7 minutes.

The Finish Line Area

The finish area is near the Imperial Palace and in the vicinity of Tokyo Station. I found it to be a bit labyrinthine and you had to walk a good ways past the finish line before getting the race medal.

Then they gave out a bag, water, sports drink, and a calorie replacement paste (which was a poor substitute for post-race food in my opinion).

They also had heat sheets available and a special Terry cloth hooded finishers cape. It took me a while to get back to Tokyo Station because of road closures.

The Tokyo Marathon is one of the six Abbot World Marathon Majors and many runners were eligible for their 6th star (and a very special medal) at the end of the race. As of early this year there have been nearly 13,000 six star finishers.

After the Marathon

After the marathon Trevor headed out to a brewery for a post-race hangout with long-time listeners and Tokyo transplants Roger Berman, Glen Rubin, Leslie Rogers and new friends Hideo, Junko, and Yoji.

The next day we took a bullet train to Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto. Our oldest son, Riley, travelled with us to Japan.

Samurai Experience in Kyoto

One Response to Tokyo Marathon Race Recap (with Photos)

  1. Clem May 7, 2024 at 8:28 am #

    Really nice ! Congrats !

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