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Blog 52-Tokyo Bound- The Tokyo Marathon Race recap! By Craig Appleby.


Blog 52.

Tokyo Bound- entry #10 – Tokyo Marathon- The Race recap.

By Craig Appleby.

Hello and welcome to my recap of the 2019 Tokyo Marathon – the highs, lows, smiles and laughs… “The best cheese tarts in Japan…”

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been too keen to do anything since touching down in Melbourne. Probably a combination of the post marathon blues, falling short of expectations, still sore and niggly, as well as the sleep-deprived end to last week. In saying that though, I feel I’m back on track… hence the blog you’re reading now, haha!

Before unleashing a thesis upon you, I want to express my gratitude for the terrific support, encouragement and many conversations surrounding this ambition of mine – marathon running. Thank you for reading and more specifically, being a part of my Tokyo Marathon journey.

Here goes…

As most of you, who have followed my journey, will know, I was a guest host on the ‘Inside Running’ podcast two weeks ago. On that podcast I covered my weekly recount (the week ending 2 weeks out from race day) in a rather quick manner, forgetting to add many of the incidental happenings of the week. Let’s just say my boys kept me busy behind the microphone… oh boy! With that in mind, I’m keen to briefly share the ‘highlights’ of that week with you before unpacking the race week, the race itself and the days post marathon. Grab a cuppa and get comfy, it may be a long read.

Monday 18th Feb – PM: Easy 15.2km in 69mins @ 4:33’s

Tuesday 19th Feb – AM: Early out for a Mona Fartlek, managed just over 6km in the 20mins, on the Cockatoo grass track. Felt good but not fast, understandable being that early for a faster session. 14km

PM: Easy 7km around Lysty in 35mins. I took Patty on a Kangaroo viewing run, he loved it! I did not enjoy the loose gravel, haha.

Wednesday 20th Feb – AM: Rolled an easy 10km before work in 48mins @ 4:43’s. sluggish on this one…

AM number 2: Easy 8km in 34mins @ 4:12’s. It’s amazing how being awake, having some food and being warmed up makes you feel. Had to get this one in during a break in school as I had the chiro booked for lunchtime. Feeling jammed in my right hip/hip flexor region…

Matthew, from Cardinia Chiropractic Emerald, worked his magic and released a lot of the tension. It seems I get regular hip rotation, more pronounced on the right… I walked out of the session a different man, just what you want.

Thursday 21st Feb – AM: Easy 9.2km in 44mins @ 4:46’s. Struggling to find pace in the mornings this week…

PM: 7.1km in 31mins @ 4:35’s

Friday 22nd Feb – PM: Final session off the build-up. Easy warm up. 6km at 90ish% (3:30’s) into 4km at Mara pace (3:16 – 3:18’s).

Felt pretty good in this one (It’s easy to start to over analyse everything during a taper) and rolled 3:30’s for the 6km feeling great. The 4km pick-up seemed a little harder than I would have thought, however it was on the gravel loops of Birdsland, not the smooth, fast criterium track at Casey Fields. I hit the times and began to feel better during it. My hip was noticeable but not restrictive. 20kms for the session.

After getting home though, I was locked up in my hip and unable to walk freely. Luckily I had another massage session booked for tomorrow (Saturday). In the meantime, I gave it some work and stretching.

Saturday 23rd Feb – AM: Easy 9.1km in 42mins @ 4:36’s. I felt pretty good and relieved that my hip had subsided.

PM: Easy 7km in 32mins @ 4:33’s

Sunday 24th Feb – AM: Last medium long run. It sure did feel good (somewhat weird) to just get out and enjoy a long run… no sessions… and I did just that. I had a great run on my usual 90min loop – to Gembrook and back. 20.1km in 1:28 @ 4:24’s.

Total mileage – 127km. A few scares this week but I’m feeling confident it is all sorted.

…Race Week…

A week of just single runs!

Monday 25th Feb – PM: 12.2km in 52mins @ 4:16’s – feeling pretty fresh today. 20min warm-up into 3km tempo into 20min cool down. Just enough to tick the legs over and feel good. The rest of the day was filled with getting things sorted with school and home life (making sure Bianca had food sorted and a somewhat clean house…), ready to depart.

Tuesday 26th Feb – AM: 10km in 46mins @ 4:36’s nice, easy… tick. Hip is only a slight niggle but easily manageable. Ran around town like a mad-man today. Tying loose ends, getting last minute gear and being lucky enough to guest host the ‘Inside Running’ Podcast. Busy people get things done they say… crazy! Wednesday 27th Feb – AM: 11.2km in 49:46 @ 4:26’s. last run in AUS and felt pretty good. Injected 8 x 35sec efforts with 30 sec jog in the middle of this session. Another tick. Full day at work (a huge smile was when I was farewelled by my grade 3 level, singing “…Ganbatte Appleby Sensei “ {meaning, “do you best Mr Appleby”} and being gifted 3 paper cranes, signed by all the students and staff, thanks Jeff and Cat!!), home to get the boys to bed and then down to Dion’s. I arrived just before 10pm. Flight leaves 9:20am Thursday.

Thursday 28th Feb – PM: 16 years between international drinks!! After an epic day of travel, movie watching, being that weird guy doing weird stretches on the plane, train delays due to deaths on the track and finally getting into our accommodation, we went out for a stroll/tour of the local park – cold, wet (only on the ground) and late. Surprisingly I felt great! A late night with the travel and a time zone change but a day ticked off.

Friday 1st March – AM: Dion and I ran to Yoyogi Park, a beautiful spot to run and cycle only a few km’s from our accommodation. We rolled 8.5km with some run throughs and went food shopping on the way home… we got there, haha! I was a little tight in my hip so I hit the self-treatment pretty hard and it was feeling alright.

We caught up with Dave Riley and Chris O’Neill (Aussie based internationals… now Aussies!) and caught a cab to the Expo. A great sightseeing journey and an epically sized Expo – everything you could want… all in Japanese (obviously)! Picked up some gloves to throw away if needed and as many freebies as possible.

Got back and chilled for the arvo in our quaint apartment. For dinner we headed out to an Italian restaurant in Shinjuku with a lovely group of Midday Milers from Melbourne and Brian Lyons from Tassie – “Morning Brian!”. We ate, drank water, chatted and waited for Dion to get his bowl of pasta… turned out they forgot about him and he waited 80mins for, what looked like a kid’s meal… poor Dion.

Saturday 2nd March – AM: Easy 6.8km down at Yoyogi Park again. Weird running in tights, long sleeve, beanie, gloves and a vest. Another nice run with a few strides and we happened to bump into some Aussie legends (as of last weekend’s performance, even more so!), Julian Spence, Ellie Pashley and Jarrod McMullen rolling around the park too. We chatted and parted ways. How good were they in Japan? – simply amazing!! 3 PB’s – Jarrod – 2:31; Ellie – 2:26:21 (8th all-time Aussie); and Spence – 2:14:42! I’ve got some work to do!

Dion and I spent the, absolutely glorious, day resting up; reading, listening to music and grabbing a snooze (Also being updated about the fires scarily close to home, not being able to do a thing. Luckily all was ok for us). We checked over our entry point for the morning and grabbed lunch. Then back to resting. My hip wasn’t giving me much confidence so Dion (LEGEND!) kindly offered to do some work on it and also helped to tape my hips and hip flexor region up – worked a treat.

Another great meal for dinner (There is no shortage of a great feed in Japan), only 150m from our accommodation. After dinner I bought a beanie to wear in the pre-race area, ready to throw away…

Sunday 3rd March – RACE DAY!!

We woke early after a great sleep, easy when the race start is at 9am, and checked the weather… cold and wet! We went through our routines, got ready and made sure the toilet was thoroughly used – not sure what was going to be available, and free, at the start area. The Joys of race day mornings!

We made our way through the Chaos, checked in (Dion’s wrist ID band didn’t work so he had to run to another gate and get that sorted, I had no idea what was happening) and made our way to baggage drop – a must for this race, being a point to point race. We ran into a few of the Midday Milers before making our way up to the start level. Joined the queue for the toilet… done then it was try to do some warming up along this 50m walkway. I was feeling relatively fresh and somewhat calm, all the while a gentle drizzle fell on us. I was layered up with my race kit, gels and drink bottles stashed in my arm warmers, old clothing ready to throw away and a poncho over the top… crazy! This sure was new to me!

WE entered the corrals at 8:45am and found that we were a long way back from the start. I felt bad pushing through but I’m so glad we did (thanks Dion!!). We luckily caught up with Scott Stacey, Chris Rancie, Dave Hartley and Chris Wade closer to the start line. It was here, 10mins before race start, that I managed to get all of my gear off, (while feeling like you’re in a crammed train leaving Richmond Station after the Grand Final!) and wrapped it tightly and tossed it to the side… along with 38,000 others! Others emptied their bladders just before the mayhem of the final 3mins (9:05 Wheelies started) began. From here it was ‘fend for yourself’ and stay upright as we were getting pushed from everyone behind. INSANE!


Great choir performances lead us into the countdown… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Bang… Here we go! Confetti sprinkling above as we passed the start line, arms out to brace myself and keep my feet.  From here I tried to find some clean air and get into a rhythm… or so I thought. I was alongside Chris Rancie through 1km in 3:35… S*&t! not what I was planning. I had found some clear air and was running well, thinking I was flying along… clearly not. I didn’t panic however and kept passing people and soaking up the enormous atmosphere.

17:04 through 5km… I could work out what was going on, I was already 30 seconds off pace, passing people and feeling good – I just couldn’t get going for some reason. Maybe being too cautious of the weather, distance and my previous two marathon results.

34:01 for 10km… I’m running along strongly, just not quick enough. Joined up with Mo from Jordan (we ran together until 21km) and continued to pass plenty of runners.

I had two 125ml bottles of a Maurten solution. Ideally I’d drink 1 per 6km, not today, I held onto them up to 18km, sipping on them gradually. They worked a treat and were great to have in my hands as they kept them warm and focused.


51:05 through 15km… began to feel better in my body/energy and was able to pick up the pace from here to 20km (16:43/5km)

The cold was present and I was not going to get rid of my beanie – it was a life saver, haha. The rest of my race kit worked a treat and I was feeling ready for the second half.


Passed halfway, and Chris O’Neill, in 71:29 – 2minutes slower than my goal time – bugger!

It was from here that I knew If I kept this pace I would PB but only by a small amount. I was inspired/pumped to hit the second half hard and try for a big negative split…

25km in 1:24:13 (16:25/5km). From here I felt like a man on a mission, I was feeling great, my energy levels balanced out and I was feeling the drive. My body was holding up well. I was tightening up in my left calf but just kept rolling along smoothly.

It was between here and 30km that I caught and passed Dion. At that point he didn’t look himself and I thought he had blown a little… little did I know he had fallen at the 20km turn around! Hats off to you Dion!!

30km in 1:40:31 (90 seconds down on goal pace) and I was still rolling along nicely, driving on passing more people. It was great to have people out there to chase, however, running in a pack would have been so much better. Nothing I could do about that though. We turned for the final 11km stretch – 5.5km out, 5.5km back then into the final 1km of paved road.

I passed 35 km in 1:57:02, still running at on goal pace (16:31/5km), still 90 seconds off goal pace (2:19:40ish), feeling good, although my quads and calf had tightened up somewhat more. Not long after 35km we turned the final U-turn and I was greeted with wind and the mind games, what time do I need for XX result? Will I hold off those behind me? Can I catch the lead Women? From here to the end it was a battle to keep my legs moving fast enough to maintain pace. I felt good mentally, had energy to burn but my legs weren’t playing along. Here we go… Canberra and Melbourne all over! Not to be.


I held ok for the next 5km (17:17) and passed 40km in 2:14:19. It was around here that I heard someone coming from behind… Dion! The whole race I think only one person passed me, up until Dion flew by me, tap on the backside to encourage me to stay with him (haha) and he took off. I tried to pick up the pace, it worked for 20m but I was in struggle town trying to keep my legs moving as fast as they could.

The final few km’s were tough over the cobble like pavement, with little culverts spanning the roadway every few hundred metres or so. I kept pushing, my arms driving hard and, to my amazement, still passing people. I turned to final corner, gave a somewhat sprint passed anther runner and crossed the line – 2:22:07. A new PB, Club Record and a Negative Split (71:29; 70:38). It took 20metres to finally stop running. Not cool, haha. I was met my Dion, which was cool, who finished in 2:21:41 – a massive PB!

From here we were ushered around the Imperial Palace roadways, grabbing our medal, towel, heat blanket thingy, food pack all the while high-fiving every volunteer we could.

We struggled to move in the cold and were able to change into our warm clothes in a tent. We bumped into Dave Ridley, Chris Rancie, Brian Lyons and Chris O’Neill. The scenes were painful – fit runners shivering and struggling to put clothing on and walk their way home.

We grouped together and struggled our way home on the subway, enduring the many staircases we had to descend… except for Dion, he just strolled down them – Smart arse, haha (and happened to film us struggling too).


Finally home around 1:30pm and we showered, grabbed some food and chilled in bed for a while, soaking up what had just happened… later that night we caught up with the Midday Milers, Dave, Brian and Chris and celebrated the night away in fine Tokyo style!! Think beer, Karaoke, plenty of food, great people and endless laughs!! Highlight of the night was when Scott Stacey demonstrated how to eat a delicious, warm cheese tart ending up with half of it on him or the floor. Not impressed with our banter, he went for round two… only this time making things worse – cheese tart all over his sleeve, face, jacket and the floor. Shinjuku station, and the retailers, were in full view of a bunch of Aussies in hysterics, with Dion taking best-on-ground performance with his laughter beyond laughter, deep belly laughter, which just egged everyone else on! Hilarious and memories made with great people.


There you go, my Tokyo Marathon recap. Well done on getting this far!

Lessons learned (even after 20+ years of racing!):

  1. Find a way to sort your warm up out. I wonder if that had anything to do with my lack of pace early on…

  2. Take a moment to focus in on your race plan in the 30mins prior to race start. Something I forgot to do in all the hype and chaos

  3. A goal pace is just that, a goal. Sometimes it doesn’t work out straight away. In a marathon, staying relaxed and in control is more important for overall success. Looking back, I probably was too aggressive after halfway, but I’m content knowing I gave it a red-hot crack to try and close the gap, and I was happy and relaxed the whole way.

  4. I’ll be entering marathons that I can (hopefully) get an elite start in, eliminating the chaos at the start and providing opportunities for drinks and a warm-up.

  5. In all honestly, our race results mean nothing in the grand scheme of life; however, they do provide an endless network of life opportunities, ways to live your life and they instil a mindset that is reflective, patient and resilient. So… maybe our race results (or the art of racing) do matter more than we think J.

This past week has been action packed! Two massive days of walking around soaking up all Shinjuku, Tokyo (area) has to offer (averaging 17km/day), returning home, lack of sleep, trying to get back into home life, struggling to run without pain (left calf and right hip… still at it), soaking up the wonderful support both on Strava, Facebook, Instagram and in person!!

In closing,

So much love and thanks to my wonderful family (Bianca, you made this happen xoxo!), to Dane – legend!, to my Run Culture mates for their support and to Dion for the fantastic trip – you helped in so many ways, the least being my guide for the week, haha!!

Happy running… and walking down stairs comfortably!

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