Race Report: Tokyo Marathon 2024 by Vijay

Race report by Vijay on his 5th World Marathon Major, and his 4th Sub-3 hour WMM
Race Report: Tokyo Marathon 2024 by Vijay
Date: 5 March 2024
Start time: 9:10 AM
Start point: Tokyo, Japan
Race Distance: 42.2km
  • Goal: 2:50-2:55 (h:mm)
  • Achieved : 2h:51m:46s (4.04 min/km)

Tokyo 2024 is my 5th World Major Marathon. I was originally slated to run the 2023, which had to be deferred, due to an injury sustained during the second half of 2022. Post two not-so-successful outings in New York (2019 and 2022), the Tokyo marathon was a year in the making.


  • Nov’22 – Feb’23 : Rest and Rehab
  • Mar’23 – Sept’23 : Slow Build
  • Oct’23 – Dec’23 : Racing fitness & Ramp Up
  • Jan’24 – Mar’ 24: Tokyo Marathon Specific Build

A few things have changed since the end of 2022! While I was a bit lucky to have come unscathed doing three sub-3-hour World Majors till 2018 (Berlin, Boston, and Chicago), it was getting tougher. Some tweaks were called for. The Kenya visit in March’23 changed a bit of the perspective on what running is about. The process was far more important than the result itself, or to refine further, the results will show up if the journey is enjoyable. The 4 big areas of change were as follows –

  1. New Coach and Philosophy
  2. Strong reliance on strength and conditioning, made more mandatory coming out of the injury.
  3. Higher mileage: around 5 weeks of 100 km plus mileage per week in the marathon block. (This is against the sub 3-hour marathons I have done till 2019, based on 60 km weekly mileage!)
  4. The mantra of great recovery leads to more effective training

It did take time for the results to show up. Endurance training requires patience, and it was not until the October’23 to December’23 period when the fitness started showing up. Unfortunately, I could not race at the Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon, which I was eagerly looking forward to test my capabilities. The Tata Steel Kolkata 25K in December 2023, showed glimpses of what I am capable of with a fine effort.

January and February were strong months. Being a 3.30-hour pacer at the Tata Mumbai Marathon instilled a lot of confidence as well. A couple of strong weekend 35 km efforts, which included blocks at marathon pace, set things up for an interesting race ahead! As I left the build-up and entered the taper, there was a lot of confidence in having done some very good training. The paces and fitness indicated a 2:50 to 2:55 race day, but this was uncharted territory for me.


My normal race travel plan for races outside is to leave good room for acclimatization. This served two purposes 1. Time difference 2. Weather. Me and my wife reached Tokyo on Tuesday evening. (February 27th). We had selected an Airbnb around 15 mins jogging distance to the start, on the suggestions of a runner friend.

The expo for the event was from Thursday to Saturday. I went on Thursday morning and found our queues to be long and slow. This was the only flip side of an otherwise nice expo. I was told that the crowd was almost non-existent on Thursday and Friday afternoons!

The most important things for the race one gets at the expo are these

  1. The Bib
  2. The wristband. (one needs to make sure the band stays on your wrist till the race is over!)
  3. The baggage bag in case one has paid for the baggage drop off.

Race Day - Start

The race start was at 9:10 am. I planned to reach the gate at around 7:45 am, which gave enough time to use the urinal, check in the bag, and also find a decent place to occupy in my corral. I was assigned Corral C, which technically had runners who would be finishing between 3 hours to 3 hours and 25 minutes. Given the wide range, I wanted to be not too far away from the B corral, as well as have a place to sit and wait for around an hour!

The start was cold at around 5 degrees, and hence most of the runners, including myself, had throwaway gear. The sun came out around 8:30 am, giving some perceived warmth to the runners. Unlike other races, between 7:45 am to the next water point, most of us did not have access to liquid or electrolytes. We weren’t allowed to bring liquids inside, and none of the stations inside the corral were easily accessible.

During the Race

I was quite excited about the race day, having waited for the race for over a year! Having trained well, I was quite confident of a good race. I reached the corral by around 7:50 am and met a few Indian friends there as well as on the way. For the next hour, after a bit of warm-up, it was all about patiently waiting for the race to begin. I sat on the divider. My friend from Bangalore, Vikram BJ, himself a very good runner, decided to run alongside me. This was a blessing since it is always good to run alongside someone you know. As the gun went off and the run started, it was time for action! The first few kilometers were a bit unsteady trying to whirl around people making way. The result was that the pace was off the planned 4.05 min per km as was the idea. However, it was not too much of a concern, since we were gaining momentum as the kilometers progressed.

In terms of hydration and fueling, it was pretty straightforward! Use the water and Procari Sweat stations as much as I can and carry on. The general idea around gels was to have one every 20~25 minutes. It was pretty much smooth sailing and relatively relaxed as we hit the halfway stage in around 1:26:51. Most of my good runs have had half times around this, and a quick calculation doubling this gave me a sub-2:54 timing, which was good by my standards. I was still feeling pretty nice as we moved on closer to the 30 km mark. Between the 25 to 30 km mark, something unusual happened. I was just not able to open the zipper at the back to take the further stock of gels I had. I did try 2-3 times in the course of the next 3 km or so, but did not succeed. Trying to get my hands to the back while on the run could also lead to unwanted muscle spasm. Given this, I decided to plan the remaining part of the run, around 16 km or so, on more electrolytes and water.

The last 12 odd kilometers, which normally are the bane for any marathoner, went pretty smoothly and, in fact, fast for me. It was a new experience running this phase faster than ever before! A negative splits marathon and a PR were in the waiting.

Post Race

As I neared the finish line, I knew this was a performance of a lifetime. Achieving a time of 2:51:46 was possible but not planned when I emerged from the injury a year ago. The idea was to be the best I had ever been and, in that sense, be content with breaking my PR of 2:54. In the last few kilometers of the race, I knew I had to make this count given everything in my favor. Unlike other majors, the finish line itself was a bit underwhelming, but it was compensated in quality and quantity through Japanese hospitality and precision. The Tokyo medal will probably remain the sweetest ever for some time to come. My entry through the charity of my choice and conviction – the Kamonohashi Project, the luck of deferring the entry, training under my coach, full support of my wife and kids; and the final result, was more than what I could have bargained for!

Key Stats

  • Overall Pace: 4.04 mins/km
  • Overall Rank: 1024
  • Age Category Rank: 124 of 5890 (45-49)
  • Gender Rank: 996 of 26682
  • Shoe: Adidas Adios Pro 3

Strava Link

Official Race Result - search for bib 74152

What’s Next?

The Tokyo result was a classic case of training well, good execution, and a bit of luck (in terms of weather, no significant injuries, etc.). A marathon training block is a long process, and one needs to keep various elements in control – training, recovery, nutrition, strength, and injuries. From an overall perspective, the marathon was one of the best I have run from an experiential standpoint, and a bit unique since this is different from the global races one does in Europe and the US.

I have always felt that marathons if done well, drain you physically and mentally. The concept of recovering and recharging appeals to me quite a bit! My next tryst with marathons will be in 2025, potentially with Mumbai, and then for sure going on to my sixth major, the London Marathon. If things stay well, the final frontier remains the New York Marathon of 2025. To keep in shape for 2024, I would be looking to do some of the shorter distances around the half marathon well in the second half of 2024!


Vijayaraghavan Venugopal, has been running for over a decade and is a sub 3 hours marathon runner. He has qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2017 and participated in world marathon majors at NewYork City, Chicago and Berlin. Vijay is the CEO of Fast&Up India.

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