Tokyo Marathon 2013: From the Sidelines

IMG_7664The most remarkable aspect of the 2013 Tokyo Marathon was, of course, the costumes. But a close second was the attitude of people on the sidelines.

Simply put, the people on the sidelines were surprisingly awesome. Of course, there were the typical hand-painted signs, shouting of “がんばれ” in encouragement, and the smacking of objects together (or other annoying noise-makers). However, the most interesting aspect of Tokyo Marathon 2013 was the people on the sidelines giving away food and medical help.

The five types of people waiting on the sidelines of Tokyo Marathon 2013:

1. Most common: The silent watchers. This was me for the first hour. I was fine just watching, I really didn’t want to get up in the action.

I also didn’t feel comfortable shouting encouragements. I just wanted to take my pictures of funny costumes in peace – with little commitment.

Later, when I went to the 2013 Tokyo St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Harajuku (which was supposed to be the first and one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations in Asia), I just silently watched and took my pictures. I really don’t like engaging the people in costume. I don’t know why.

I think they’re just too cool for me.

2. Second most common: the people who were waiting for friends/family.

You could tell who they were, because there was a lot of screaming involved. Like, a lot. This woman’s husband showed up about halfway through the race.

There was, of course, a commemorative photo taken.


Other ways to identify these people came from their hand-painted signs or their video cameras. Earlier on in the race, when I first got to Tsukiji, the older lady next to me called her daughter (who was running in the marathon) with her cell phone, trying to pinpoint her location.

3. Third most common: the people shouting encouragements. I didn’t become one of “them” until the end. I always feel awkward shouting in public settings (especially when it’s in a group). I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s because the runners couldn’t necessarily see me, so I felt like I was yelling at a television in public.

4. Fourth most common: There were the people trying to hi-five all the runners.

After I got kicked off from the fence I was standing on by a less-than-happy volunteer, I ended up getting a spot right on the sidelines.

I had been taking pictures of the guy to the lower right of me hi-fiving runners. It looked fun. I wanted to try.


I just made sure to stand behind someone else who was also hi-fiving the Tokyo Marathon 2013 runners, because I hate being left hanging. General rule of thumb, if the runner just hi-fived the guy in front of me, he would still have his arm up to hi-five me.

Towards the end, one of the guys I hi-fived told me (in all seriousness) “I’m going to finish (win) this race for you!” and rushed off, which made me giggle a bit.

Despite the fact they had just run 35 km, the runners were all still very energetic and full of smiles (once again, completely unlike me when I run long-distance).

The runners actually made running look fun.

5. Somewhat rare: the people giving out food. I liked these people the most. And no, it’s not because they gave me food. I didn’t even ask. In my mind, the runners earned that food.


These people giving out food in the 2013 Tokyo Marathon were unique because they weren’t giving away cheap food. They were giving away cherry tomatoes, prepared strawberries, peeled orange slices on a stick, small pieces of grapefruit, dark chocolate, bananas, and candy (listed in order of expensive to cheap). Fancy fruit like cherry tomatoes and strawberries are expensive. The woman next to me went through three containers of cherry tomatoes in the forty-five minutes I was watching.


Later, walking around Shinjuku, I saw those same containers of cherry tomatoes, for 750 yen a piece (almost ten dollars).

But these wonderful folks just stood by the side of the road, offering (somewhat expensive) treats to runners. That was heartwarming.

5. Very rare: the people giving out that ice-spray muscle soothing spray. I don’t know what it’s called. It just smells like icy-hot, that cold burning smell.


I found this incredibly thoughtful. The smell was a bit annoying, to be honest, but the runners were both surprised and grateful for the spray. That section of the sidelines was full of a bunch of “ありがとうございます”’s.

They would be running along.


See the sign.

De-costume – like removing wigs, or even hand the people on the sidelines their iPhones, music players, cameras, ect.

Roll up their clothes to spray the cloth underneath pretty heavily.


Put their costume back on, grab their stuff, and resume running.


At any point in time, there was usually at least one to three people using the spray; it was a whole line of people on the sidelines just holding out cans for runners to use.

I was touched by how much of a “group effort” the Tokyo Marathon 2013 ended up becoming.


And, of course, I was impressed by the fact that people were able to keep their composure while running. Seriously. I don’t know how they did it. How is it possible to look this composed after running 35 km in a gigantic costume?

People in Japan never cease to amaze me. I was exhausted just from standing on the sidelines for two hours.

If you want information on How to Register for the 2014 Tokyo Marathon or 2015 Tokyo Marathon, click here.

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele


7 responses to “Tokyo Marathon 2013: From the Sidelines

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