Chip Time: 3:08:15 (7:11 min/mile).
I’ve slightly updated this from my original post right after the race, for clarity and a correction (Sadly, I did not, in fact, negative split.)
The firsts (expo version):
* First multi-floor expo.
* First separate foreigner / domestic check-in.
* First passport check at a marathon expo.
* Most material in a check-in bag, without a race shirt.
* First race that’s given me a buff!
* First food court in an expo. There were minimal sports drink/food samples, but lots of photo opportunities with corporate sponsors and food stalls to buy foods from udon and soba to green tea ice cream and squid.
* First bib attached to both front (timing chip attached) and back.
The firsts (race version):
* First marathon in Asia, in Japan, in Kyoto.
* First marathon in 2018!
* First marathon starting inside a sports stadium.
* First marathon starting on a track.
* First race with no porta-potties at the starting area. Instead they opened all stadium restrooms, which handled the capacity exceedingly well.
* First race with at least one volunteer within 100 meters at all times, throughout the entire 42.195 km course. And this is a conservative estimate — there were at least a couple thousand volunteers, with almost all armed with trash bags.
* This was the cleanest road race I’ve ever run. Everyone diligently threw their trash into trash bags or handed them to volunteers. I didn’t see a single gel packet discarded on the ground.
* First race with so many aid stations and porta-potties along the course. At the stations, they labeled each table with icons for sports drink, water, bread, strawberries, oranges, etc. with number labels, e.g. 1/5 through 5/5 (with 5/5 being the last in a line of aid station tables).
* First negative split in a marathon!!! Didn’t really start bonking until the last 5K. — Correction: I thought I had negative split based on my gun time at the midpoint. That said, I had a much better experience in the last 10km than my 5 previous marathons.
* First race with a bloody bib. I only realized after gear check that my nipples had chafed badly. And I had poured water on my head throughout the race. The water caused the bloody chafes to soak through my shirt. Gross.
* First race where I got a towel for finishing! Now I have a Kyoto Marathon 2018 Finisher’s Towel!
* First race where I returned the timing chip. I was supposed to return the chip at Vienna. But here a volunteer removed the chip for you before you could leave the immediate area after the finish line. (There was also a fine if you didn’t return the chip.)
* First marathon in 3:08:15! A 3:49 improvement from December.
Other observations & impressions:
* Sponsorship of this race (and all other Japanese races that I looked into) was quite diverse. In the US, sponsors tend to be sports- or food-related. Here, there were sponsors ranging from media companies to car companies.
* I thought the crowd support in Vienna last year was impressive. The support today in Kyoto surpassed it. On a scale of 1-10, Kyoto today was a 10 (with Vienna close at 9, all my marathons thus far in the US between 2-4, and US half-marathons between 3-5). The only time along the entire course when there _wasn’t_ someone yelling “GAMBETE!” or “FIGHTING!” was on bridges where only runners were allowed (and even then there might be cheering spectators on balconies). Every school we passed showcased their cheerleaders (and there were many). Taiko drums played every 8km or so. Marching bands were in force. There was the most cheering children along the course than I’ve seen at any race before. And during the river-side segment of the race, there were literally people tailgating and picnicking along the bank, to cheer and watch.
* Along the lines of crowd support, I think my high-five count was around 12 or so, a personal record. (For about half of the race, I ran next to a man wearing a Pikachu suit and hat. He was very popular. Children and old people liked him a lot. He got lots of high-fives.)
* I was surprised to hear my name so often: there’s no “v” in standard Japanese phonetics. When I registered for this race, there was a small note that race organizers might transcribe foreign words to katakana. So I expected to see ビクタ (“bikuta”) on my bib. But, despite actually having “Victor” on a bib, I got quite a few “GAMBETE VICTOR! FIGHTINGGG!!!!”, especially near the end when the crowd started thinning out. There was a group of high school girls (in uniform despite it being Sunday) who giggled when one of them called out my name, and I turned around to look. 😛
* I was first one to come back to Van #10 to pick up my gear. Van #10 was among some 7 vans around the back of the exhibition hall near the finish. When I turned the corner, one of the volunteers announced that “a finisher is here!!!” And the 40-50 volunteers manning the vans burst into applause. (They did this for every single finisher).
* There was no finshers’ food to speak of after the race. They handed out bottles of Amino Water (which I like a lot), Calorie Mate blocks, and a small bowl of miso soup and tofu. But that was it.
* I forgot to wear my racing shoes. I realized my mistake after I had already gotten to the bus stop, but it was too late to go back to change my shoes.
* I didn’t realize how hilly this road race was going to be. The thing is, the inclines and declines were relatively gentle. But they added up.
* My main goal today was actually not a time per se. Rather, I wanted to negative split, something I’ve not been able to do before. So while I thought I was going a little too fast at certain points in the beginning, I was actually relieved to see that my times at 5K, 10K, 20K, and half (1:34-ish) was definitely at a negative-splittable pace. In fact, after I hit the midpoint, I speeding up, thinking that I might try hitting a 3 hour marathon if I could run the second half in 1:25, my recent half-marathon time (which failed after a couple miles).. In the end, I missed negative splitting by about a minute. I guess I might keep that goal for Kagoshima in two weeks… 🙂