Tony's Tokyo Triumph!

tokyo marathon

Yet another major marathon achievement for long-term supporter Tony Collier!

A big well done to Tony Collier of Altrincham-based Milner Boardman for yet another major marathon achievement, this time in Tokyo!

"Since, in October 2011, taking on the challenge of trying to complete all 6 of the World Marathon Majors, to raise money for the Childrens Adventure Farm a charity based near my home in Altrincham, England, I have completed four further marathons including three of the WMM (Chicago, Manchester, Berlin and the ill fated Boston marathon of 2013 which will sadly be remembered for the bombings that killed and maimed many innocent spectators). I have now embarked on completing the remaining 3 WMM, New York (3rd Nov 2013), Tokyo (23rd Feb 2014) and London (13th Apr 2014) and at the same time raise funds for CAFT. This challenge will see me training 6 days a week for 9 months continuously and running a total of 1,600 miles, equivalent of running from Manchester to Athens as the crow flies!"

Tony has just returned from Tokyo and talks about his experience here:

"When I first got the idea to run the World Marathon Majors and raise funds for The Childrens Adventure Farm Trust I didn’t expect that I would have to travel half way around the world to complete one of them but, in November 2012 at the cancelled New York marathon, it was announced that Tokyo would become the 6th and latest WMM. This is a tough race to get a place with over 300,000 applications for the 30,000 ballot slots so that meant biting the bullet and spending a small fortune to buy a place through the UK’s Tokyo Travel Partner.

As we were travelling that far we decided to make a holiday of it with a few extra nights in Tokyo followed by a stopover in Dubai for some winter sunshine. 5 members of Styal Running Club in total decided to run the marathon and we had support from two Partners including my Wife Tracey and Andy’s Partner Liz who would be out on the course cheering us on. We were initially concerned that two massive snow storms each of the previous two weekends, which brought Tokyo to a halt and caused major problems throughout Japan, might threaten the marathon going ahead but thankfully it had largely cleared before we arrived. Tokyo hadn’t had snow for 13 years before these storms! So, 4 of us set off for a journey that, door to door, took 25 hours arriving in Tokyo fairly jaded late on Wednesday before the race on Sunday. A trip to the Japanese Gardens in Shinjuku made us realise how much the snow had devastated the area with massive swathes of trees brought down by the weight of the snow and two thirds of the park being inaccessible. However there were still some stunning views with early cherry blossom.

Thursday saw the other 3 arriving in time to head to the expo and pick up our race numbers. The expo was possibly the most bizarre that we’ve ever been too mainly due to the cultural differences between east and west. The marathon t shirts given to all participants also seemed to be victims of cultural differences given that they were way too small for the western frame! Also a little disappointingly there were no jackets to buy which is also much different to other majors around the world. I still wear my Boston jacket with pride even a year after the race.

Friday was to see us take a guided tour to Mount Fuji and the Hakone Ropeway, something that we had really been looking forward too. Unfortunately, the heavy snow fall meant that it wasn’t possible to access the area so a hastily re-arranged but excellent tour of Yokohama including the amazing Sankeien Gardens. Saturday morning was the International Friendship Run, a gentle 5km jog parading in national costumes/flags etc. We all wore our Union Jacks or George flags and were a real hit with the Asian runners who all wanted photographs taken with us. We felt a bit like film stars for a few minutes.

Sunday and it's race day. Nerves stretched and a mega early start to have breakfast and let our stomachs settle. The start area was very congested with 36,000 runners all trying to drop their bags that would be waiting at the end of the race 26.2 miles away so that we would have warm clothes to change into. We were shepherded into our starting pens (that should have been graded according to ability) before the pens closed at 8.45 for a 9.10 start.

After opening ceremonies it was then time to shed our outer clothing and pass to the army of volunteers who would eventually make sure that the clothes were cleaned and distributed to the poor and homeless. The volunteers were called team smile and it was a very apt name as they were amazingly enthusiastic and smiled the whole day which we discovered was very much a Japanese trait. The course was designed to take in the key sites of Tokyo including the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree and the Asakusa Gate/Temple so there would plenty to see although I actually don’t remember seeing very much of it at all! The conditions were perfect, a cool 8c, overcast and very little wind which would ultimately lead to new course records being set. It was clearly a day for good times to be recorded.

Eventually the start gun sounded and two minutes later I crossed the start line. The first 6 miles were slightly downhill which made for a fast start, not an ideal way to run a marathon but I thought it best to make the most of it whilst I could. The first couple of miles were very frustrating as Japanese Federation Runners were allocated places in the first starting pen irrespective of their ability which caused serious congestion, bottleneck and a lot of weaving to get past slower runners. Again not ideal but eventually it did settle down although you have to ask the question why a runner in the first pen was walking after a mile! The course contained two long out and back sections which meant that, unusually, we would see the leaders a couple of times and those Kenyans and Ethiopians just seem to glide along so gracefully. Tracey and Liz would be at 12km, 18km and 32km before meeting us at the finish and it was really encouraging to see them and get a big lift from their support.

5 weeks prior to the race I had pulled a calf in a half marathon warm up race and only enforced rest and treatment had got me to the start so I was incredibly nervous about whether the injury would hold up. Starting fast probably wasn’t the greatest idea but thankfully the injury held up really well and I hit the half marathon mark in just over 1.40 with very consistent mile and 5km splits. Reaching the 20 mile mark is always a concern for marathon runners with the dreaded wall beckoning but, thankfully, my hydration and nutrition strategy worked well and I passed fairly comfortably through 22 miles. At that point a couple of bridge crossings really sapped the energy and for the final three miles there was a definite slowing of pace. I knew by then though that I was going to finish and that the time would be quite quick but clearly a little short of a personal best. Turning the corner at 42km and seeing the sign that said 195m to go was amazing and I even managed to pick up the pace for a “sprint” finish to cross the line in 3.24.32, my second fastest ever marathon.

Then the amazing Japanese efficiency took over with the best organised finish I have ever experienced. We were crowned with our medals and given a finishers towel to keep us warm and then led into the warm exhibition area to pick up our bags and get changed into warm dry clothes. That wasn’t as easy as I had hoped as it was nearly impossible to bend the legs to get my track suit on but, after some contortions is was achieved. Then it was on to the family reunion area to meet Tracey and Liz and wait for Claire and Andy to finish. Claire got through in 3.43 and Andy, who only had a new hip 13 months earlier, achieved a fantastic time of 4.10 despite also having been injured for a good chunk of the training time. Then it was back to the hotel to shower and wait for Charlie and Paula, who would finish in 5.17, and then celebrate with a vengeance.

For Andy he had once again become a marathon runner who had completed all the World Majors, for Claire this would have been her 5th out of 6 had it not been for hurricane Sandy forcing the postponement of New York 2012. For me it was number 5 down and 1 to go and so, its onwards and upwards and back to training for the London Marathon on 13th April when the set would be complete."