Tokyo Recap – part 2

So to carry on with my Tokyo recap… (read part one HERE and the marathon recap HERE).

Warning: this is rather long post sorry!

The day before the marathon was really jam-packed. Because Chris (my new friend from the tour group) and I were thinking of running the marathon together we thought we’d better test out actually running together before fully committing. Basically to ensure neither of us were “Phoebe runners“. We met up in the hotel lobby in the morning and literally bumped into Wilson Kipsang and a bunch of other elite runners. I had a total fan girl moment by going up to him and asking for a photo.I did feel bad though as I didn’t recognise any of the other elites… so it was just Kipsang I had the photo or spoke with (he was lovely, more than happy to have his photo taken). They were then all herded off to a van with a guy who I assume was their coach/organiser where they were going for their own run.

Our run wasn’t quite as glamorous but still good. I was glad to have Chris with me as, let’s be honest, I could easily have gotten lost on my own or would have ended up doing a really boring out-and-back (with some cheeky undulations). Chris has a good sense of direction so I left the route to him! We were well matched in our pace and kept it nice and comfortable and chatted as we ran. We survived the run and decided we’d run together the next day – with the proviso that either us could ditch the other if the situation arose.

After the run and breakfast we headed out for the day. We started with going up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s a super tall high-rise and has a tourist observatory floor (202m high!) that you can go up for free. There are two towers so you can choose either North or South. I actually can’t remember the one we chose but it had a longer queue (as we got there just before it opened) so we figured we’d go with the most popular one.

Photos from Chris’ camera as it was better quality!

The views were amazing. You were behind glass so it wasn’t like the New York Empire State building but it was pretty good regardless. Each window had an explanation of what you could see which was cool. And on a more clear day you could apparently see Mount Fuji (actually on the last day I saw it from my own hotel room).

Then we headed out to walk to Yoyogi Park which is one of Tokyo’s largest parks. It was a really lovely walk and it’s where you can find Meiji Shrine, which we wanted to see.It was really beautiful. I think there was a wedding happening (though to be honest I have no idea I’m that culturally inept). Basically there were people all dressed fancily and there was a woman having her photo taken in a white dress. Though not a typical Western dress…but it was white. Who knows.Then from there we walked to the Shibuya area. I got swindled by a fake Buddhist Monk who gave me a bracelet and then demanded money from me. I gave him some change and then a Japanese woman ran up to us and basically explained that we were being swindled by a fake. It was nice of her to intervene. I got a bracelet out of it and lost some petty change so wasn’t too bad – the bracelet now reminds me to not be so stupid (probably need more than a bracelet tho…).

On the tour the day before we’d heard about cat cafes in Japan. Actually I’d heard about these before from Lily’s blog (always a good read for travel tips and London adventures). So I really wanted to find one. As we came out of the park we saw one straight away. Well we just had to go.It wasn’t really a cafe per se. You could get a drink but it wasn’t the main thing. You pay for the time you’ll spend in there (we paid for 30 minutes) and then you’re given a bit of cat food to entice the cats over and you sit and play with them. Rather odd… but fun! The cats were beautifully groomed and basically queens of their kingdom. They really were living the life.
You got some slippers and cat ears to wear while you were there. Very fun! Though we met a super intelligent American scientist working on the Juno project and I sat there chatting looking like a twat in a pair of fluffy cat ears.

After the cat cafe we were nicely placed to walk around Shibuya, where there were lots of shops. There were Japanese brands but also Western brands like Next, Laura Ashley, Body Shop, Nike, etc. It was great. After doing some shopping we found the nicest Starbucks I’ve ever been to.It was right at the top of one of the smaller high-rise department store and it opened out onto this beautiful roof-top terrace overlooking the city. Beautiful!I also enjoyed their blossom cup, which is apparently unique to Japan during the blossom season, though I found it amusing that I had to pay extra for milk!

We then found the very busy Shibuya crossing (next to the Shibuya Station) and watched the madness of one of the busiest crossings in the world happen over and over. Apparently it’s even more busy at night.Then it was time to hunt out some food. As I mentioned in a previous post we found a very small and cheap pizza/pasta place in the area and got our carbs sorted for the next day. The pizza was cooked just behind the counter in a proper pizza oven and it was delicious.

After more walking around we passed through Harajuku where we found two very brightly dressed girls…Then we meandered back to our hotel. As it was about 5 o’clock it was too early for dinner and we were fed up of walking so we decided to head to a bar in our hotel that we’d heard about. It was on the 45th floor and though rather expensive a lovely place to grab a green tea (mine was infused with apple!) and watch the sunset.Bliss! After 36,000 steps this was definitely a nice way to chill. We’d booked for dinner in the hotel restaurant for that evening so that was nice and easy too.

Then the marathon happened…go check out the recap!

After the marathon it was time to fully relax and enjoy ourselves. Chris and I headed out to find some food and had a meal in a tiny little restaurant in Shinjuku. The only problem was we had no idea really what we were ordering…

There was a salad bar buffet with unlimited miso soup which was nice (below photo). But I ordered chicken and it came raw. The waiter then turned on the grill in the centre of the table (we were wondering what that was…) and with comical sign language directed us to cook the food on there.Though the meal was very tasty (we also had rice with a raw egg on top that the waiter quickly mixed into the rice in front of us to cook it), it didn’t quite hit the spot. Bare in mind we’d only had breakfast, run a marathon and it was now about 5pm (and I have a bottomless pit of a stomach). So we went on the hunt for some more crepes.

Instead of crepes we found a fabulous little pudding cafe in Shinjuku (seemingly the only one in Tokyo, they really don’t go for their sweet stuff!). We saw two girls sharing this epic looking bread-pudding thing and immediately knew that was for us. We ordered a chocolate banana one to share and I had a Royal Milk Tea. The tea was basically super milky tea but it was delicious! I’m going to try and recreate at home…so comforting.The pudding looked AMAZING. I mean it was massive. Basically very slightly sweet bread (kind of like iced bun bread? In fact I’m not entirely sure it was sweet…) filled with chunks of toasted bread, a scoop of ice cream, a bit of custard sauce, cream and banana slices.If I’m honest, it looked a lot better than it actually was. Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty and we enjoyed pulling it apart but it wasn’t that sweet – one scoop of vanilla ice cream, a tiny bit of custard and cream… it was more bread than anything. We left most of the sides because it was just bread at that point as we’d eaten the more tasty elements. It was nice to try it but it didn’t satisfy my sweet tooth or the marathon runger within.

[Also, random note, but I love that they give you a warm cloth before meals so you can clean your hands!]

Then we headed back to meet up with others on the tour group to go to an Irish bar for a few drinks. It was nice being on the tour because you instantly had a connection with the other people: everyone loved running, had similar goals of completing the Majors and basically were just nice people. It was nice because you could all chat about how the marathon went. Normally at this point I’d be home and my family would be fed up of talking about it. But everyone wanted to talk about it!

I enjoyed quite a few Coroners and had a really good evening. We stayed until closing and as we walked back, Chris, another guy and me decided to needed a bit more sustenance. McDonald’s it was!

Now I haven’t had a McDonald’s since I was about 14. They’re not really my thing, but honestly it was absolutely necessary. And it absolutely hit the spot.I ordered a chicken burger and fries with a Diet Coke (DIET COKE! I missed this!) and after seeing the other guy (for the life of me I can’t remember his name) eating a Chocolate Triangle Pie I ordered one of those too (“premium cocoa and almond in the crust with a chocolate cream filling” Source). Flaky, warm, deliciousness.

The next morning I woke up at 4am not being able to sleep (I actually sent in my Marathon Talk submission for their Listener Podium, which was probably unwise after hearing my jumbled submission on the show last week…. Though I happily came second on the podium – the first lady was the lady I shared a cabin with at the Run Camp, by the way she’s over 60!).

My roomie also couldn’t sleep so we sat chatting for a bit. I idly checked the BA app to see if I could check in to the flight (we were flying that morning) and spotted that it said the flight was delayed. BY A DAY! What?? Panic and a mad FaceTime conversation with my dad ensued (dad’s always know what to do, Anna’s never do).

After a song and dance we had breakfast, headed to the airport as normal and had BA tell us we were delayed by a day. We were given food vouchers for lunch at the airport, a room at a nearby hotel (with free bus shuttles) and dinner and breakfast taken care of. Not too shabby!

A group of us, led by a very savvy and chirpy American, quickly organised a trip to Tokyo Disney which was about an hour away. About seven us made a mad dash to grab the next bus to the hotel to drop our bags off, to then come back to the airport to grab the Disney shuttle.Whew! We got to Disney just before midday.We were like little kids when we got into the park (we went to Disney Sea as it had more rides and attractions for adults).All the females in the group bought Disney ears and we giggled our way round the place.Tokyo Disney is good fun. It was fairly busy – literally full of kids in school uniform everywhere. Most of the rides had an hour plus to queue for them. But we mastered this by doing the Single Rider queues and managed to get on a fair number of rides. The one ride was couldn’t single riders for was queuing inside which I didn’t mind at all because it was VERY cold outside. It was actually quite fun to be amongst so many Japanese kids – so many cultural differences! So fascinating. And we’d only have been waiting around at the airport anyway so really it didn’t matter to me.However as the day got later and the sun started to disappear, I just got too cold to stay for much longer. Chris kindly said he’d leave with me so we headed back to the hotel together. I fell asleep on the bus back – it had been a long day!

The meals (both dinner and breakfast) were amaaaazing. So much food to choose from. I honestly had about three plates each time. At dinner the pudding was pretty cool – the pink fountain was kind of like strawberry sauce?? There were waffles, pancakes, mousses and cakes as well as Japanese sweets such as Daifukus (I had to google…”a glutinous rice cake stuffed with sweet filling, most commonly anko, sweetened red bean paste made from azuki beans” [Source] – oooh er.).

And another interesting thing in my hotel room (I now had my very own room, thank you British Airways) were a pair of pyjamas left on my bed, apparently complimentary for me to use. How very strange!

The only thing to add is that on the plane back most of us had done the marathon and everyone recognised or knew each other. A super friendly flight 🙂

After that VERY lengthy recap (apologies), I have to say I enjoyed Tokyo far more than I thought I would. I saw far more than I thought I would! I thoroughly enjoyed both the marathon and the trip.

Have you ever been to Tokyo?

What cultural differences have surprised you in different countries? If I thought people in America went Disney-mad it was NOTHING compared to the Japanese. Everyone, literally everyone, was wearing something Disney.

Has your flight ever got delayed? This was my first ever delay. It’s nice to know I should get just over £500 in compensation from BA for it.

Tokyo Recap (with the Tokyo Marathon Expo) – part 1

I literally don’t even  where to start with my recap of the Tokyo trip. It definitely exceeding my expectations!

I‘ve decided to write this up in two portions: the first one a few days before the marathon, and then the second the day before the marathon and the after math. Sorry if I’ve waffled too much!

Yes I was looking forward to the trip – it’s Japan after all and I’ve never been to that side of the world. But I was concerned about the marathon and how that would go (no change there then…) and it was only a very short trip with a ridiculous 12 hour plane journey and nine hour time difference.

The plane wasn’t actually too bad. I’d had a nice big meal at Giraffe and had a plan to watch one film, then take a couple of melatonin tablets and then attempt to sleep.Yes it would be late afternoon UK time but I was keen to get into the time zone as soon as possible (it would be very late evening Tokyo time). Well it didn’t quite work out that way and I only managed three hours of disjointed sleep (the tablets did help tho to get me off to sleep gently). It was just too noisy and I was too uncomfortable to sleep long periods.

The plane, by the way, was completely full, which surprised me actually. And I’d say 80-90% we’re going purely for the marathon. Either to run it or to support someone else running it. Honestly you couldn’t move for people discussing their PBs, last races and marathon game plans. There were a lot of skinny people on that flight I can tell you!

It quickly became apparent that most people were doing exactly what I was doing: getting through the Marathon Majors (Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Berlin and Tokyo). I mean I guess it makes sense, it’s a long way to randomly run a marathon. I felt woefully inadequate with “only” having run two of them.

After the long journey, we arrived at Narita airport. I enjoyed my first Japanese toilet experience… I wasn’t brave enough to try the different buttons (yet!) but I did enjoy the heated seat 😉Our tour group met up (by the way, Sports Tours International was absolutely fantastic. I can’t recommend them enough for making everything easy and simple!) and I found I was standing amongst lots of people who had either made friends on the plane or were there with their support person… I had sat with a lady from another tour group on the plane so felt a bit alone. I started chatting to a guy who looked around my age and was also alone. It became apparent that neither of us were psychos and that we got on well so we stuck together. His name is Chris and we spent most of our time together on the trip, which was nice because I had visions of me wandering aimlessly around Tokyo on my own!

The tour company took us via coach straight to the Expo. This was actually perfect as the Expo is quite a way from the centre of Tokyo where we were staying and though the company provided transfers to the Expo on any of the days leading up to the marathon, it was nice to get it done straight away before the rush.I have to say as expos go, this wasn’t the best. It was fairly small and quite a sensory overload. I’m sure this is just a cultural difference but it was a lot Japanese being shouted at you while being handed leaflets you couldn’t read. Everyone was super polite but it was a bit crazy after my lack of sleep.There were a few samples of strange Japanese products (sweets, strange dried food, a nonalcoholic beer, etc.). And a stand of tomatoes…a big thing for aid stations apparently!The clothing section was just ASICS (the sponsor) and asides from the official jacket it wasn’t great. I was a bit disappointed as I remembered Boston and Berlin being amazing with so much to waste/spend your money on. I bought a jacket and that was it.Then Chris and I headed for some food in a food hall as it was lunch time.So my first experience of Japanese food wasn’t exactly the most authentic but it filled a hole and was quite tasty. I had a chicken steak and a burger steak with rice and vegetables. And it quickly became apparent Diet Coke isn’t a thing in Tokyo sadly!

After getting back and having a MUCH needed shower, we headed out to do some exploring. Our hotel (which was lovely! And also where the elites were staying) was really central in Shinjuku.

So we walked to the madness of the main area of Shinjuku which was just a craziness of colours, sounds and busyness. Honestly it was quite overwhelming on such little sleep! But it was fantastic. I didn’t know where to look. There were just so many tiny little restaurants everywhere and arcades screaming multi-colours and sounds. Eventually after walking around just soaking it all in, we found a tiny little restaurant for dinner. I say restaurant but really it was more of a cafe.And the meal was delicious. I found I was quite adept with my chopstick skills but that towards the end of the meal my hand would get tired! It was pork stir-fry with white rice, miso soup and dumplings. Very nice!Thankfully I managed to get a good night sleep that evening – which was good because I’d randomly signed up last minute to the Mount Fuji trip that Sports Tours International had offered and we were off fairly early. After a delicious buffet breakfast (there was a lot to choose from, from more Western options like scrambled egg and bacon, to ratatouille and fish – I went for a mixed bag)…We then headed to the beautiful Lake Ashi to see the mountain in the distance. Unfortunately the clearest views we got were from the coach as we drove alongside it…But the lake was gorgeous and you could still see Fuji in the distance, though with more cloud coverage. I tried my first ever matcha latte which was quite tasty though quite sweet.And then we headed off to a little town where we could do a bit of shopping (lots of little Japanese shops selling traditional Japanese craft work and food). There was also this shop that sold lots of Japanese treats and the best part was that you could try them all as there were tester boxes everywhere!! I was in my element.We then got lunch, which was another buffet – which I love as it means you can try everything!From there we headed to a rather odd but fun pirate boat which took us across a lake so we could see the views from there and then take a cable car to a volcanic valley (called Jigokudani: the Valley of Hell) in Owakudani, Hakone, where there was a huge crater and lots of sulphuric smoke rising up everywhere.The area of the crater was famous for its black chicken eggs, which are basically just normal chicken eggs but boiled for an hour in water containing sulphur and iron. Obviously I had to try it!Yeah they just tasted like regular boiled eggs and they looked exactly like normal eggs inside. But worth a try!

The day was fantastic! I’m so pleased I signed up to it. I found out a lot about Japanese culture as well as on the coach the tour guide was a lovely Japanese lady and she explained so much about life in Tokyo and how things were.

We got back about 7pm and so headed out to find some dinner. I was ravenous at this point and unfortunately quickly found out that Friday night in central Tokyo is a busy busy place and despite there being hundreds of restaurants everywhere, to get a seat anywhere was proving to be virtually impossible. Eventually we found a little restaurant. It felt like quite a hipster place (if that exists in Japan!). There were young Japanese guys looking rather fashionable and smoking. It’s so odd (and unpleasant) that people can smoke in restaurants!Unfortunately the waiter spoke limited English and after lots of pointing, hand gestures and facial expressions we were able to order. It was kind of like Tapas… you ordered a bunch of small things, like deep fried sweet potato, pork, a single chicken wing (yep, had to be done), tofu in broth and squid dumplings (in the photo). It was very tasty but it wasn’t quite enough for me. 

Luckily I’d already clocked a pudding spot on our journeys…We enjoyed a very tasty fruit, cream and chocolate sauce crepe. It made me laugh when the server asked if I wanted a spoon… like how would I eat this otherwise?? Then it was off to bed. The next day Chris and I planned to have a shake-out run to test the waters to see how running together would be (we were thinking of running the marathon together as we seemed well matched in pace and goals). Then we had a jam-packed day planned to hit several different tourist sites we wanted to see…

Have you ever been to Tokyo before?

What’s your favourite crepe topping?

Do you like Japanese food?

Tokyo Marathon 2017

The Tokyo marathon is my third Marathon Major (I’ve done Berlin & Boston previously) and my eighth marathon. My training wasn’t great having suffered from an annoying shin/calf niggle which stopped me doing any non-stop long runs longer than 16 miles. Towards the end though I’d gotten in enough miles to feel relatively confident at surviving it and the goal was to have fun, take some photos and come in around 3:45-4 hours uninjured.

I’ll do a recap of Tokyo itself but this post is just focusing on the race itself as I know that’s probably what people are most interested about!

I’d used Sports Tours International in order to get my place for the marathon as FYI it’s ridiculously hard to get in through the ballot (similar to London). This way I was guaranteed a bib and the organisation of everything was out of my hands, which, let’s be honest, is always required for me as I’m a certified idiot. Yes it’s an expensive way of doing it but it covered the flights, transfer to/from the airport, got me to the Expo, had us in central Tokyo is a perfectly located hotel (Keio-Plaza, which I fully recommend. The elites stayed there too – if it’s good enough for Kipsang, eh!) and provided us with lots of info and tips. I’ll most likely be using them when I do the New York marathon.

Just to put things into context, I’d met a guy called Chris from the tour group on my first day and we pretty much hung round together the entire time. He’s a lovely guy and it was nice to have someone to share the trip with! Our pre-marathon meal was a bit of an odd one. The problem we had was the centre of Tokyo where the restaurants were would be stupidly busy being Saturday night and also having thousands of people there for the marathon. So to avoid the stress of trying to find somewhere, we decided to book a table in one of the hotel’s restaurants. At lunch we’d found a very cheap but very nice pizza and pasta place (right off of the Shibuya crossing).We wanted to make sure we got a significant carby meal while we could without stressing at dinner not finding anything appropriate. So dinner was a bit more relaxed, but ironically a lot more expensive and a lot more posh. It was a seven course a la carte affair. But it was DELICIOUS. And it was nice to see two other tables full of the wheelchair elites and some less famous but still elite marathoners around us.The night before I really struggled to get to sleep. We’d done A LOT during the day – walked over 36,000 steps seeing lots of Tokyo. But I still couldn’t sleep. At midnight I eventually took a melatonin tablet to help and read my book. Just before 1am I fell asleep.My alarm went off at 6am and I got myself together. I was sharing a room with a lovely lady called Nathalie and we were both nervous. It was nice to have her there though to chat to in the morning as we got ready. (Initially I’d been nervous about sharing a room with someone I didn’t know but Nathalie was a dream to share with. We had zero issues and it never felt awkward or weird. She was lovely).I met Chris for breakfast at 6.25am in the hotel and it was teeming with other runners grabbing breakfast. It was fascinating seeing what other people were eating and being amongst other runners – it was such a buzz! I’d brought my own porridge with me and used some hot milk and hot water from the coffee area to make it up (so handy) and also had a slice of toast with butter and jam, alongside a black coffee.Chris and I had decided to run together as we both had similar goals (neither had a specific time goal) and similar paces. We’d run the previous day together as a tester and we were well-suited. We wanted to enjoy the race not push any sort of time goal. Though we were in the same wave we were given different gate numbers to use to get there. I assume this is to reduce traffic. From the breakfast room I could actually see my gate we were that well located!

Just after 7am we decided to head out to our gates. The race would start at 9.10am and we had bags to drop (we had an exact bag drop location too per bib – it was super organised). You can only take the see-through plastic bag with you that was given at the Expo and there’s a security area you walk through in order to get into the race area.Chris and I agreed to meet up in our pens after the bag drop and handily I was able to still use the hotel WIFI as we were so close so I could WhatsApp him if needed. The portable toilets were all over the place and were either Japanese style (a kind of hole in the ground affair…) or said “Western Style” on the door. There weren’t a huge number of Western Style ones (my preference) but they had the shorter queues which was handy! This might be because the majority of the runners were Japanese – by a long way.There were a few aid stations about the place offering snacks and this Pocari Sweat (yep, its actual name) electrolyte stuff. I thought it would be like water but it was gloopy gel stuff. Nice but not what I expected! Then it was a case of waiting in our pen for things to start. It was a cold morning and I was so thankful that my mum had given me an old jumper she no longer needed.It kept me VERY warm. We also had a nice spot on the curb to sit so it was all very relaxed.

Then we heard them announcing the elites. Eventually it was our turn. As the race began a huge explosion of paper petals erupted into the sky and showered down on the starting runners. It was one of the best starts I’ve ever seen! It was fantastic! We were pen C and they were still falling around us as we headed over the start.We settled into a nice comfortable pace and felt the delights of a downhill start. We had to keep our pace in check though as it was so easy to be running a lot faster due to feeling fresh and the course profile – the first mile was 7.33min/mile which was dangerous. We then tried to keep around 8 minute miles and avoided anything below that.Annoyingly as we got into the first mile I realised I needed the loo. I mentioned it to Chris and he said he’d happily stop for a loo break too. By mile two we were actively looking for toilets. At mile three we found a sign point round the corner and we made the decision to stop there. Annoyingly as we turned the corner we saw a crowd of people waiting. There was even barriers to create a queuing system! Oh well, the decision had been made. I realised that I’d have no choice on the type of toilet either and got to use my first ever Japanese style toilet… needs must!

It took about three minutes in total (not that I was clock watching or anything…!!) and it was a surreal experience to stand waiting in a queue while a marathon is steaming ahead down the road. I was grateful to have the stop though as I truly did need to pee. It wasn’t a mental thing, it was an actual need-to-pee situation.

I was a bit worried as I knew my dad was going to track some of the race using the app and I knew he’d see this 10.40ish mile and wonder what was going on. (When I spoke to him afterwards he said it did concern him until I then carried on running consistent miles afterwards).

And then we got back to the marathon and got back into the rhythm. The miles ticked off really quickly. We chatted as we were going along. Chris has run more marathons and more Majors than me so I was able to ask him lots about different marathons and get some tips for Chicago and New York. We also chatted about races that we’d coincidentally run the same year as each other (like Berlin 2014 and Bristol Half 2013). My mind was so off the actual running that I missed the mile I normally take my first gel (mile 8). I decided to just skip it and wait until my next milestone which was half-way.

At around mile 7 we hit our first out and back. I think (though I’m not entirely certain) at some point during the coming miles is when we saw the elites running back the other way. Well, I just had to get my phone out of my Flipbelt to grab a photo! I managed to this while not looking at my camera and just blinding snapping as I wanted to see them rather than see them through my phone. They were absolutely steaming it, as you can imagine.The out and backs were fairly interesting at first as we could watch the ridiculous fast runners coming along and it was a nice way to take your mind off of the running. But eventually the out and backs got tedious as you’d be running down the same road for so long and still know you’d have to come back down the other way. It was mentally tough and I flagged a bit mentally during the 10-14 miles.

What made things worse was how far our watches were out. There were no mile markers to be certain so we’d have to do maths in our head to work out from the kilometres but as we saw half-way on the other side of a road and looked at our watches to find we were well over half-way at that point it was frustrating. We still had to go down a section of road and then come back. By that point we were .3 miles out.

The Tokyo Tower

I took my first gel – an SIS with caffeine – at this point. Again the miles continued to tick by. The course wasn’t entirely flat. There were a few short inclines and then declines. Not as flat as Berlin but relatively flat. No nasty hills to climb.At this point the sun was beating down quite strongly. I was hot and it was very sunny. At every water station we got water. It was nice to have Chris with me as he reminded me to get water each time. There was the Japanese sports drink, Sweat, but I avoided that and went for plain water. They came in paper cups which I didn’t mind. The only annoying thing was that the water stations were only on one side of the road which made getting in and out very tricky.

There were also food stations which contained bananas, orange slices, dried prunes, tomatoes, and even stranger, bread rolls! Apparently the rolls contained chocolate sauce inside. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to eat a bread roll during a marathon! But the Japanese were mad for them.I did try the tomatoes though. They were cold and crisp and a positive delight! The only downside is that the skin does get stuck in your teeth a bit.Another interesting observation was just how many men there were in comparison to women. There were barely any women! Also, wearing just a vest was a real rarity for the Japanese men unless they were super speedy at the front.There was lots of support all round the course which was nice. The Japanese people came out in force with signs, banners and cuddly toys. They cheered and seemed to be having a whale of a time.The out and backs started to get more and more tedious after a while. Seeing the same long city road for mile after mile was getting tough mentally. But our pace was still looking good and at one point we realised we were running 7.30 again and slowed down a bit. I’d never felt so comfortable in a marathon before. Everything felt good physically. It was just keeping ourselves entertained that was tough. The sites were few and far between for what we recognised and we were fed up of tall buildings and uninteresting streets.At around mile 18 I wanted to take another gel but it was a thicker GU one that needed water. Chris is 6ft 2 so could see over the tops of the shorter Japanese runners so I got him on water station watch for me so I could plan my gel eating moment perfectly. Very handy to have him with me! The gel was a Maple Bacon flavoured one which was AMAZING. So tasty.

As we got to mile 20 I couldn’t believe how the miles had just flown by. It was clear that running with company had made things a lot more interesting and bearable. I still felt comfortable and ready to put the hammer down a bit. 10k to go!

We ran down another out and back, this time I really long one, as we saw the “5k to go sign” on the other side.It was dispiriting to see that I have to say…but we knew as soon as we got to the turnaround point we’d be on the home straight. But that bloody road went on forever I tell you. There had been different entertainment bits around the course. There were children doing dance routines, cheerleaders, Japanese traditional dancers, drummers, formal bands, rock bands. There was a lot going on! But during the later stages of a marathon on a hot day it can be tough to keep the demons away no matter what’s going on.

As we hit 22 miles, Chris started to struggle a bit. He was losing his mental battle and I could see him fading. I started nattering away to him about fluff and nonsense to hopefully take his mind off of things. I’m sure I was annoying him but he reassured me that it was OK. I also found that if I waved to the crowds they’d erupt into cheering. So I kept doing that and it helped lift us both.

As we FINALLY got to the “5k to go sign” I said to Chris “just a parkrun to go”. Then he pulled up short grabbing his hamstring. Ahh no!!! He moved to the side and started stretching. I jogged on the spot and didn’t know what to do. We’d already told each other we’d run to the bitter end with the other – I wasn’t bothered about my time as I’d already said and it was nice to run with someone – so I wasn’t going to leave him. But I wasn’t sure what to do to help his hamstring. If he’d pulled it it could mean game over. I started to worry a bit. Luckily the stretching helped and we carried on.

He continued to struggle a bit and, what he later told me, had just gone into himself to sort his demons out. He stopped during the water stations and I didn’t realise and so had to run back to him – which was a bizarre experience, running the wrong way in a marathon against the tide!

The last two miles were tough. I was feeling really quite good but I could see Chris wasn’t quite on board with how I was feeling so I had to be careful I didn’t leave him behind. I carried on waving and cheering to the crowd and this helped I think. If I’m honest, I was having a whale of time. I felt very guilty for enjoying myself as much as I was but I felt really comfortable and was loving the crowds cheering us on.

I mean, I was tired and my legs were aching but I was feeling on top of the world. Though the final push to the finish went on and on. Our watches beeped past 26 miles and the finish line was nowhere near us. We had a long road to run down which was full of supporters so great to wave to, but it just seemed to go on forever. Then FINALLY we turned a corner to see the finish ahead. Well, it was a bit of a disappointing finish as it really wasn’t that obvious!

As we crossed the line we hugged. We’d made it! My official time was 3:41:02. My Garmin told me I’d run 26.9 miles!!Actually, everyone I spoke to later had reported similarly. I almost wish I’d gotten to 27 miles 😉Then it was time for the longest post-race walk I’ve ever done. We were given a towel, the Sweat water, a banana, a bag, a foil wrapper, free samples…and then FINALLY our medals.Honestly all I wanted was my flipping medal! We didn’t need the foil blankets either as it was bloody hot. I could feel my face was already beetroot. Oh dear.I looked at my steps on my watch and we’d done about 45,000 steps. By the time we got to our shuttle bus to take us back to the hotel we’d walked over 50,000 steps. I kid you not. We wanted to sit down but we knew that would be game over. So we kept walking, filling our bag up with freebies, getting our photos taken, snapping selfies and then eventually sitting down in the bus. Whew.I can honestly say this marathon was the “easiest” marathon I’ve ever run. The course wasn’t great I have to say – it was boring. There were sights to see, like the Skytree and the Tokyo Tower, but it was mainly just out and backs along the same long wide city roads with tall buildings either side. The crowds however full made up for that with their cheering and support. They were super. There was also a lot of fancy dress to keep us amuse (lots of people wearing funny hats and costumes). I think that the company definitely helped though. It was nice to have someone to chat to around the course and help lift me in dark moments, and then keep me focused on helping lift him in his dark moments. I also felt well within myself running and felt comfortable the majority of the time.One of the best parts was all the volunteers. They were fantastic. At the end I must have had “congratulations” said to me about 1,000 times. They high-fived us and smiled and just basically told us we were amazing as we walked down collecting our different bits and bobs. And then at the bag drop there was just lines of them clapping and cheering us. I honestly felt like a celebrity! It was lovely. (Though volunteer did say “commiserations” to me which I found amusing. Yes “commiserations” indeed to my legs!).

Basically, I’m over the moon with this marathon. It was fantastic. I loved it. It went far better than I could have imagined. Chris was happy with his time too which was good. It was definitely a team effort!I felt pretty damn good after the marathon. It has made me think about what I want to do next…

Have you ever been to Japan?

Have you ever run a marathon with another person?

Running Lately and the Orlando parkrun

Soo I’m off to Tokyo tomorrow. TOMORROW. I can barely believe it.

I’m going on my own, though with a marathon tour group so technically not alone alone. Though I know no one. I know of people who’ll be there from social media but otherwise it’s just me, myself and I. What could possibly go wrong, eh?

Let’s just talk about my running of late as it seems pertinent to do so considering I’m running the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday.

I mentioned in my Orlando recap that I ran while I was out there. On the first day, as the jet lag worked in my favour gifting me five hours, I woke up ridiculously early Orlando time but actually normal time UK. This gave me lots of hours to play with in terms of getting in a long run right at the start of the holiday so I could chill for the rest of it without having a long run looming over me.

Dark and a little chilly at 6am

It was funny because I had two different people comment that I must be freezing with my vest and shorts on as I headed out to run. I told them I was from the UK and the current temperature was positively balmy! It was probably 16 degrees C. The Hard Rock Hotel concierge said there was a 4ish mile route around the hotel and I was a little disappointed to find that was actually just a road. And a very boring road following along some busy large roads (though I did get to pass near City Walk, see the Hulk in the distance, the new Toothsome restaurant and see Harry Potter on the horizon, so actually pretty good!).

Thankfully as I was leaving another lady was leaving to start her run and she invited me to join her as I wasn’t entirely sure where to go. She only wanted to do one ‘lap’ of the route and I was intending on doing 13 miles or maybe more depending how I felt.That first lap was great as she set a nice pace and we chatted about races and politics (she had a long moan about Trump – she’s from San Francisco so it was interesting to hear an American’s perspective up close). Then before I knew it we were parting ways and I was heading off for lap number two. I listened to a podcast and plodded on. I quite like laps because there’s a level of monotony that means you can switch off, and a great way to segment the long run into smaller easier chunks.

I felt so accomplished by the end of the run and so thankful that I’d gotten 16 miles under my belt before the holiday had really begun. I wanted to do one more long run later but as long as I hit 10 miles I’d be happy so nothing too daunting.I ran 4 miles a few days later and then 13.1 miles on the Thursday. Both runs went well. Though I have to say the food I was eating was not entirely conducive to feeling good on the runs! And it did feel like I slog sometimes. But it had to be done (both the eating and running…).

My favourite run was of course the Clermont Waterfront parkrun, which is about 30 minutes outside of the main Orlando tourist area. Originally Kate and Jamie were going to run it as well but Kate had come down a cold and wasn’t feeling it and Jay was only going to run if Kate did. Thankfully though they were still up for taking me there (I was dependent on them for driving). Even with a 6.15am leaving time!Of course I got the time wrong though. I thought it started at 7am but it was actually 7.30am. This was quite handy as we got there about 6.50am and still had to park. In the end Kate and Jay dropped me off and I raced tot the start…to find them still setting up. I was a bit bewildered until they explain it was a 7.30am start. Ah.

The course had slightly changed to the previous time I’ve run but essentially it was still the flat course that wrapped along the waterfront. You run one mile out, one mile back, then past the finish 0.5 miles out the other direction and back again.

Photo Credit: Clermont Flickr group

I felt quite good setting off and tried to maintain a speedy (for me) pace. I was overtaken by a number of females and was somewhat disheartened but decided to run my own race and just see what I could do.The sun was rising as we were running so I couldn’t help but fish my phone out of my running belt and snap a few photos. Some things have to be done!On the second mile, I starting catching up with the females who overtook me and this spurred me on to keep going and catch them. As I ran past the start I saw Kate and Jay had parked and were standing cheering me on which was nice. Apparently they were the only ones cheering, despite lots of people watching. They said it was ironic that in the UK you can’t clap enough at parkrun (at the start, before, after) whereas in the US it didn’t seem to be a thing…despite Americans being a lot more vocal and “good job”tastic compared to us reserved Brits 😉

Photo Credit: Clermont Flickr group

I managed to squeeze in to second female and had a cool sprint battle with a guy right at the end which definitely made me feel somewhat sick!

Photo Credit: Clermont Flickr group

I got 22:03 which annoyed me sooo much as I so desperately wanted to see 21:xx. But it wasn’t to be.I gave what I could. Thirty seconds(ish) faster than the last time I was there and a negative split so I’m happy with that!So back in the UK my running has continued to go well. I did my last long run on Sunday. Ideally a week before a marathon I’d do 8-13 miles… but as my training hasn’t been entirely stellar in terms of hitting long runs due to my pesky niggle, I decided to go out with the intention to do at least 13 but hopefully hit 16. I had a good route that would, at the last minute, decide how far I wanted to go so I could play it by ear.

Really I knew I was going for 16 miles but I tricked my brain a bit so the night before I didn’t worry too much. I’d had quite a late night and had made some poor food choices on the Saturday (a donut for lunch, then an early dinner…) which meant I felt tired and sluggish from the get-go. Mentally and physically otherwise I felt great though and just stuck with it.

As I reached my 13 or 16 point on the route I knew I’d push on to do 16… part of me hoped to do 18 miles as my legs felt so good – no niggle whatsoever! And in general I felt strong, but it was that awful lack of fuel and energy that ultimately made me take the sensible route of doing 16. I don’t normally feel like this on a run and I guess I’ve been very lucky with never hitting a wall before but it felt pretty rubbish. Especially as everything else felt amazing. I was also very thirsty so made the snap decision to stop at a petrol station and grab a water. Luckily they accepted Apple Pay as I only had my phone and keys with me.(Paces are everywhere as it was mildly undulating). I felt really tired after this run. Definitely down to fuelling. Normally I do all my long runs fasted and have no issues – and this is because the night before I eat dinner at a normal time and have something fairly substantially.

I ate dinner about 5pm, which is a lot earlier, and it was quite light as I was heading out that evening for drinks. Then getting back late… recipe for disaster. I felt a WHOLE lot better eating breakfast. It was literally like I was a Sim and my little energy bar was topped right up after eating (OK that analogy doesn’t work as that would be the hunger bar not the energy bar but you know what I mean!).

Like so many of the marathons I’ve done, I won’t be aiming for any specific time. Around 3:45-4 hours would be good. I imagine anything over 4 hours would mean something has gone wrong (dodgy sushi ;-)) as I’m pretty sure I can at least master 9 minute miles, and I believe the course is relatively flat. I’ll give it my best shot! I want to take some photos and take it all in rather than watching my watch. God I’m so exciting but so nervous. Twelve hour flight? Nine hour time difference? Only five days out there? Yep, not one of my greatest ideas! Wish me luck!

Are you training for any races right now?

Have you ever done a race abroad?

Do you eat before you run?

Orlando food recap and how much weight I gained

Now if you’re anything like me, it’s all about the food on holiday. And when it comes to holiday recaps, I want to know ALL about it. So here we go. Get ready to feel a little bit hungry 😉

I’ll also preface this with saying that I pretty much ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and lots of it. I wanted to include my weight into this post because I want to reassure people that it is completely NORMAL to gain weight on holiday. You’re eating completely different foods and you’re on holiday so there’s lots of treats and eating out.

During a normal week I’ll probably eat out once or twice (usually with pudding). I’ll eat treats through the week but in general I’m quite healthy and routine-based in what I eat Monday to Friday. I like what I eat and I don’t restrict myself any food but in general, yes, I eat fairly healthily.

So going to Orlando and eating everything was bound to have an effect. And I was fully aware of this and quite happy with that eventual outcome. I love food and I didn’t want to come home with any regrets about what I DIDN’T eat, not about what I did eat. Food is a big part of what I love and how I like to spend time with people (as it is for Kate & Jamie who I went with) and it was a major part of why the holiday was AMAZING. And on that note…

Starting with the absolute breakfast must for me before a holiday, the usual fry-up affair at the airport.Gatwick South doesn’t have a great amount of choice (and no Jamie’s Italian, which I think does the best fry-up) but we had a fantastic meal at Grain Store Café & Bar. Though I dislike the baked bean contamination going on!

Anyway, onto actual Orlando food. The first night (being five hours ahead it was like ridiculous o’clock in the morning UK time) we arrived at the hotel from the airport and headed to our respective rooms. I promptly ordered room service as it was dinner time in Orlando and I find it best to get into the swing of the time zone I’m in. Annnnd I was hungry so why not!Not the greatest photo but basically I had a chicken burger with chips though I was a bit disappointed as I really wanted was some overly fried crispy fries. And a huge pickle. God I love America with their love for pickles. And I ate it in my PJs in bed watching TV. BLISS.

One of our first proper meals was at Longhorn Steakhouse. I’m not usually a huge steak lover – though I do enjoy them. I wouldn’t have picked this restaurant myself but Kate and Jay raved about it and I was very relaxed this holiday about where and what we were going to eat that I went with their better judgement. I’m so glad I did!I ordered a fillet steak (rare) with a sweet potato. The sweet potato weirdly came with cinnamon sugar butter which I asked for on the side because it sounded wrong to have it on the potato. I didn’t touch it…just weird. The bread at Longhorn was TO DIE FOR as well. Now I’m fairly ambivalent about bread, but this bread was warm and delicious. So a very simple but a very tasty meal.

We followed this with a trip to Menchies for some fro-yo and I went a bit crazy on the toppings (all the animal cookies, the brownie bites, the cookie dough chunks, the turtle chocolate caramel things). So good.

Another top meal was at a Mexican restaurant called Chuy’s which we went to the last time we went to Orlando together. I had chicken fajitas and it came with all the trimmings.At first I thought I’d need to ask for more tortillas it only came with three. But after piling each one with so much filling that they almost exploded, I really didn’t need anymore! I didn’t need my rice either. The guacamole, sour cream, salsa, cheese, tortillas and chicken with onion and peppers were enough!

We then popped into Coldstone Creamery. Jay and Kate had a crazy ice cream concoction but I went for a candy apple because, well, see blog name.I had a rocky road one and it was covered with caramel, chocolate, nuts and marshmallow. Ahh it was so good. I’m not a huge ice cream fan so the apple was always the way forward for me.

After doing Busche Gardens one day we had a late lunch/early dinner at a lovely little Italian pizza place called Giovanni’s. Again, this is one we’ve been to before and we all loved it. I shared chicken wings with Jamie and had a gyro salad with pita bread. The chicken wings. Good God. They were amazing. Possibly the best of the holiday? It’s hard to say. You know me, I love chicken wings and would eat them every day if I could (I did when I went to Boston) so this is high praise indeed. Buffalo sauce and blue cheese dip. I can’t even.We followed this by going to the ice cream parlour next door and I had seven bars flavour and birthday cake flavour. The seven bars flavour is basically seven different chocolate bars within the ice cream – it literally rocked my world. The birthday cake (which was underneath) sadly didn’t compare but was still good.

And something I always get when I go to Orlando… the turkey leg. It’s one of my favourite things. It brings out the true carnivore in me. And why my friends call me a hyena. When we went to Disney we decided to have a more ‘snacky lunch’ as we were going to Chuy’s that evening (see above).I sniffed out where the turkey legs were and settled myself on a bench with the above view while Kate and Jamie headed off to find what they wanted for lunch. Kate, being the pudding pro, went for an ice cream sandwich while Jamie had a hot dog. They had to wait a bit in a queue so I sat on my own started munching away. Jamie said from a distance it looked like I hadn’t been fed for a week and had finally been shown food… smallish girl with giant turkey leg eating like a hyena. I was in my own little happy world, what can I say!What we tended to do is if we were planning a big lunch, then we’d skip breakfast. I would get a fruit salad and a coffee from the Hard Rock Hotel mini-shop and that would tide me over until lunch. We usually also timed this with the previous night having had a huge dinner so I didn’t really wake up that hungry. So most days we’d have one really big main meal (with pudding) and probably snacks either side. I will say though on the days we didn’t have breakfast by midday I was SO ready to eat. But then so were Kate and Jay. We had very similar stomach clocks so this worked nicely. They’re very food-focused so I knew I’d never be without 😉

One of my favourite restaurants we went to (which we went to twice as it was just so good) was a restaurant about 30 minutes from the tourist area called 4 Rivers Smokehouse.Now I know I eat a lot of ribs, but honestly this was PHENOMENAL. I had a full rack of St. Louis ribs (my favourite style of ribs) and it rocked my world a million times over (OK how often will I use this phrase??). I got two chicken wings on the side because as part of the meal you got a load of sides with it (like cornbread, BBQ beans and Mac & Cheese, Southern greens…things like that) but I just wanted the biscuit and wings. The biscuit was ridiculously soft and delicious. The ribs…so good. If you ever go to Orlando, look this place up. Seriously.

We also went to Cheesecake Factory one day. We don’t really have anything similar to this in the UK. The menu is ridiculous. PAGES upon pages of options. Basically we went purely for the cheesecake. I shared some chicken wings with Kate (see, addicted) and then had a chicken and guacamole salad (so much avocado…) followed by the white chocolate macadamia nut cheesecake (not as good as the Ultimate Red Velvet though).For a giggle I worked out how many calories I ate in this mealThat’s pretty insane, right?? I have honestly never felt so full in my life. Yes I ate all of it. While I was eating the cheesecake I was thinking, “I’m a bit full but I’m OK” and then suddenly within the last bite of it I hit the fullest I’ve ever been. We were all stuffed. I literally needed to lie down and curl up in the fetal position. I think in my future full scale in life that Cheesecake Factory moment will be right at the top.

Another day when I literally ate more than I really should have was one of the best meals of my life. MY ENTIRE LIFE. This is a bold, bold statement I know. I went to Orlando knowing I wanted this meal after seeing a YouTuber eating it. This was brunch after the Orlando parkrun (another post to come) at Hash House A Go Go.Fried chicken on BACON-FILLED waffles covered with fried leeks (random but it worked) and hot maple reduction. It was ENORMOUS. But I was in food heaven. I dream about this meal even now.Best meal of the holiday. Best meal of my life. I pretty much ate it all bar maybe one of the waffles and the two random cherry tomatoes they served it with (weird). Jay ate those.It said it came with eggs but I honestly can’t remember eggs being in there. Anyway I felt ridiculously full. We ate about 9.30am? I didn’t eat again (absolutely nothing – not even coffee) until after 7pm (and that was a salad). What do you do after you’ve eaten a ridiculous big meal and feel a bit ill? Go to SeaWorld and do the roller coasters. Ooof. Especially when we went on Manta which holds you horizontal and we got held there at the end for a good 5 minutes as they took ages boarding the next people. I’ve never been sick on a ride but honestly I was THIS close. Stupid, stupid idea.

And the best pudding of the holiday? The chocolate brownie milkshake I got from the new City Walk restaurant, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. After *cough* chicken wings for starters (with an insanely good chocolate ale sauce) and a chicken salad, I had the best milkshake (and pudding) of the holiday.The brownie milkshake came with chocolate ice cream as the base of the milkshake but I changed to vanilla as I thought it would be a bit too chocolatey. They blend up a brownie in there too so this was a very wise choice. I was in heaven. I dipped the brownie in the milkshake and just floated away to heaven. Kate got the peanut butter one (far right) and Jamie got the Dulche Leche (middle). We all agreed it was AMAZING. My one regret of the holiday is not going back for the red velvet milkshake (they put a red velvet cupcake on top). But a reason to go back…

Other puddings worthy of a shout-out were the slices of red velvet and carrot cake at the bakery in 4 Rivers Smokehouse (can that place get any better?).Kate and I shared the slices as we couldn’t make our minds up. It worked out nicely as I found I preferred the carrot cake and she preferred the red velvet.

And then another candy apple that I got to choose the toppings for in the Disney Springs candy shop.It was a caramel base, a white chocolate covering, Butterfingers and Graham Cracker sprinkled all over and then a dark chocolate drizzle. Oh it was so good. But I felt incredibly sick that evening. Way too much sugar.

This obviously isn’t everything I ate on holiday, but it’s the real highlights. And the reason why I gained half a stone (7lbs)! I weighed myself before going on holiday and then after making a prediction with Kate and Jamie about how much I’d have put on, I weighed myself as soon as I got back from the airport. Half a stone! I mean to be honest I’m surprised I didn’t put more on but we did walk over 25,000 steps a day, I did lots of running and a few gym visits so really I came out quite well I think. I’m quite proud of myself 😉

But having weighed myself today (a week and a half later) I’m pretty much back to my pre-holiday weight. I DID NOT go on a ridiculous starvation diet. I just went back to my usual eating, running and gym visits (no more than usual). Honestly, I didn’t feel guilty or awful about what I ate or how much weight I put on. I knew when I got home things would readjust back. And they have done. I mean if I’m honest, I was craving my normal food and healthier ways of eating when I got back so it wasn’t that hard. Though I miss that milkshake and chicken and waffles every day. EVERY DAY.

So there we go. Go on holiday, eat all the foods, relax and think about the memories you make not the calories you’re eating!

Do you eat lots of holiday?

Best meal of your life?

What’s your favourite pudding you’ve ever had?