My Experience Running The Tokyo Marathon

Beth Henry, runner and guest blogger has been running for over 10 years, entering a total of 9 marathons, and she isn’t planning on slowing down any time soon. Beth explains her incredible experience running Asia's biggest marathon, and shares her top things to think about if you plan to enter yourself. 


I’ve always wanted to visit Japan, so when the opportunity came up to run the Tokyo Marathon in 2023, I grabbed it with both hands. Once I’d said yes, I then had to start to work my way through the logistics of running an international marathon. I’d chosen a race just about the furthest distance possible from where I live (just the 5,925 miles!), so I had plenty to think about.  

Entering The World Marathon Majors

I was really lucky; I got a place the first time I applied. I know that competition is fierce for the World Marathon Majors (Tokyo, London, New York, Chicago, Boston and Berlin), so prepare for some potential disappointment before you get your spot. The Tokyo Marathon Foundation are super communicative, so there were plenty of emails telling participants what they needed to complete and when. As we were in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic there was possibly more paperwork than usual, but nothing unmanageable.  

Planning The Logistics

Return flights to Tokyo from London aren’t cheap (at the time, £1,162 for Japan Airlines Economy), so it’s a good idea to get them booked as soon as you know you’re running. They also get more expensive around the weekend of the marathon. It’s a long old way, 14 hours direct, but there are options for layovers to bring the price down. As it gets closer to your travel date, you’ll need to fill in various forms online to get your quarantine QR codes –  these can be done at the airport, but you’ll probably have to queue, and it’ll end up taking you much longer. It’s worth having a really good read through all your travel documents before you leave, that way you won’t be caught short without a code you need to get into the country. As a British citizen I didn’t need a visa for Japan, but if you’re travelling somewhere else or with a different passport you may need to get one in advance of your travel date.  

Account For Time Difference

Consider the time difference before you leave. Japan is +9 hours GMT, and it is brutal. To try to adjust our body clocks slightly, we started getting up really early the week before so that our bodies were more adapted. I think it really did help; I didn’t feel much in the way of jet lag but that’s largely dependent on the individual. If you know you’re a bad sleeper and you struggle with jet lag, it’s probably a good idea to try to adapt before you leave.  

Where I Stayed & The Route

The Tokyo Marathon route is a winding one, with lots of out and backs along the way. I decided to stay near the end of the route in Shimbashi to minimise any potential walking after the race. We stayed at the Park Hotel in Tokyo – a fantastic option right in the heart of the city. Each room is designed by an individual artist who picks the theme and has free reign to paint, and the results are fascinating, we stayed in the Lucky Cat room – which turned out to be pretty lucky for me! ( The start was a half hour tube ride from where we stayed, so we scouted out the best way to the start the day before. I’d hugely recommend doing this to avoid unnecessary stress on the morning of the race. Some people had obviously not and were sprinting towards the start line as they closed the starting pens… not an ideal start to a race!    

Pre-Race Registration

The Expo was beautifully organised, as is everything in Japan. Again, you NEED to make sure you’ve jumped through all the hoops written in the pre-race instructions. If you haven’t, they will simply tell you that you’re not able to run. We were required to register our details on the Global Safety App and check our temperatures every day for the week before. We also had to record symptoms of any kind of illness. If you hadn’t done this and couldn’t prove it on the app, I have no doubt that they would have turned you away. Luckily, I didn’t have any, and was able to pick up my bib with ease.  

My Running Kit

I went for Saucony Endorphin 3s as my shoes of choice for Tokyo, and some lovely bright kit from Runners Need. I always wear something that’s easy to spot so that my supporters can see me from as far off as possible! Make sure you take everything that you need with you, it’s really stressful if you can’t get the gels/electrolytes/socks/plasters that you need out there. I had a whole extra bag of marathon paraphernalia for this trip.  

My Tips For Race Day

We booked a pasta restaurant before we left as there aren’t too many in Tokyo, it turned out to be a good idea as many places were full – we saw parties of runners being turned away. Research somewhere and book before you leave to avoid unnecessary stress. 


Race day was a bit of a dream. The start line in Shinjuku was so well organised, there were enough porta-loos for everyone with very small queues which was fantastic, and we were all corralled into our start pens with no drama at all. The race started at 9.10am and I was over the line at 9.16am in wave D – you’d usually be looking at a huge delay while the waves in front of you get going, but that wasn’t the case in Tokyo. It was a well-oiled machine.  

The Race

Wow. What a race. The supporters were absolutely brilliant, the course was lined with people both sides and the atmosphere was electric the whole way round. The out and backs on the route were mentally quite tough to run, but it did mean that the crowds sounded louder!  


I had my wonderful husband to pass me drinks and food along the course, but the water/aid stations were plentiful – more than I’ve seen at any other marathon by a long way. 

Why Run An International Race?

I’d hugely recommend running an international race if you have the opportunity to do so. It’s a privilege to take part in an event in another country, and it’s a great opportunity to learn about other cultures. The Japanese are the most respectful, hospitable and kind people I’ve ever known. As long as you’re organised (which I’m usually not, so it is definitely possible!) you should get through it with no issues at all. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. It’s also a great excuse for a holiday! We stayed on for a week after the race and travelled around Japan. The Bullet Train (Shinkansen) is so impressive, you can travel around the country super quickly (the clue is in the name) and relatively cheaply. Tickets are available for either 7, 10 or 14 days online at Just make sure you look up, take it all in, soak it up and enjoy it!  

Thank you, Beth, for writing this amazing account of the race! If you’re thinking about running the Tokyo Marathon, here’s your sign to enter.


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About Beth

This blog post was written by Beth Henry, who works for This Is London Magazine. The magazine makes sure that their readers are up to date with the latest information on all things London. Find them on Instagram or Twitter.   


Beth has been a keen runner for over 10 years, completing 9 marathons and a number of other races. Her personal running Twitter account is @bethplodsalong.

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