Fun at the Tokyo Friendship Run

Many of the big international marathons have fun runs the day before the marathon. There was one in Berlin, and Scot and I regretted not running it. When registration for the Tokyo Marathon's Friendship Run opened up, we jumped on that. The Friendship Run took place at the Panasonic Center near Tokyo Big Sight, where the race expo was being held, so we could run the 5K and then pick up our marathon packets all in one trip. 


Scot, Magenta and me before the run

The Friendship Run was geared toward the international runners, though there were also some runners from Japan. The Friendship Run was not restricted to marathoners, so friends and family could participate. Our race bibs listed our country, so it was easy to tell who came from where. Many participants dressed in costumes or gear representing their country. I wore regular running clothes. In our packet there was no t-shirt. Instead, we received a "tenugui", which was a woven cotton cloth that could be folded and tied as a bandana, head wrap, arm band, you name it. I liked this particularly Japanese touch of a race premium. I tied mine around Magenta the Road Trip Flamingo.

It was a cool morning but the sun was out - perfect running conditions for this 5K. Shortly after arriving to the starting area we found some fellow Marathon Maniacs, got a photo with them, and compared notes on races we had run. It was fun walking around and observing the festivities before the start. There were costumed performers and people passing out tea. There was an opening ceremony, much of which I could not understand, but it was entertaining. Then there was a group stretching and warm-up session.

Marathon Maniacs before the start

Anders and Magenta, sporting her tenugui

I saw some Swedish runners and asked if they knew Anders. Indeed, they did. And I found him before the 5K started. Anders was there as a photographer, but not running. He would be running the marathon the next day. Scot and I also made a new friend before the race started. Jennifer was an American living in Japan, and relatively new to distance running. I believe it was her first race event.

Costumed people before the start

The course was a simple out & back, passing some interesting buildings and a ferris wheel. There weren't a lot of spectators, but there was some entertainment and because of the out & back course, the other runners were our spectators. Also, the volunteers were very encouraging and liberal in giving high-fives to runners. It was fun. Scot and I saw some other runners we knew, including Maniac Jennifer (as opposed to our new friend Jennifer). 

Scot pauses for a quick pic on the out & back

The drummers were fun and motivational during the run

The Friendship Run had the same finish line as the marathon, so we got to experience that, and also see the post-race area that was being set up for the following day. The 5K was an untimed fun run, so there was not need to finish fast. We simply had fun and finished with Jennifer. After a few photos we were shuffled inside Tokyo Big Sight to claim our post-race goodie (either a rice paper ball or a water balloon yo-yo. I took the ball and Scot took the yo-yo. We also got a Pocari Sweat, my beloved Japanese energy drink.

Jennifer, me, Scot and Magenta at the finish

You bet I enjoyed my Pocari Sweat

All Friendship Run participants got a meal ticket for a hot breakfast or lunch item from a food court. Most of the food was not vegetarian, but Jennifer guided us to the one thing that we could eat: filled pancakes with either a lemon custard or sweet red bean filling. Our ticket gave us one of each pancake, which was way more than I could eat. They were good, but quite heavy and filling. Jennifer hung out with us while we all ate what we could of the pancakes. Maniac Tomasz joined us as well. When we finished, the little group dispersed and Scot and I headed into the marathon expo.

The filled pancakes were supposed to look like this

They actually looked like this

If you're in Tokyo to run the marathon, you should add the Friendship Run to your itinerary. It was a lot of fun, and a great shake-out run to get you ready for the marathon.

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