Elswick’s Harriers Richard Houghton and Scott Brady took to the streets of Toyko on 3rd March 2019 to race the Marathon. Both athletes looking for personal bests. Both athletes going for ‘Abbot World Marathon Status’ (completing the six marathon major courses in London, Boston, Chicago, New York, Berlin and Toyko). For Richard, he would become the first Elswick Athlete to achieve this milestone. Scott is on schedule in 2020 to complete the ‘sixth star’. Two Reports by Richard. The one below and the other is at the bottom of the report, which summarises Richards running career to date and the quest for the six stars. Enjoy the read, Cheers, GB.
There is so much I could write about our stay in Tokyo, it’s hard to know where to start but anyway let’s start here. The Japanese culture is incredible, as soon as we arrived we were struck by how tidy, clean, safe and efficient it was – the people were kind and helpful and made our journey and stay extremely easy and pleasant. Even the expo was efficient – any of you who have been to expo’s know they are normally quite manic and chaotic, yet although the Tokyo one was busy, it was ordered, calm and logical, with runners going in one entrance, families in another and a general sense of community and friendship going throughout the whole thing – it was pouring with rain on expo day and the expo was being held in a series of marquees due to the upcoming Olympics, so local people were sharing umbrellas with us and wishing us well on our way.
The expo itself had stages to move through i.e. wristband, number collection, shirt collection, Abbott world marathon majors stand (which I had to visit to have a special sticker placed upon my number so that I could receive my 6 star medal at the end of the race). In my excitement I missed this stand on my first attempt at the expo, so had to follow the river of people to the end of the expo and go back through to find it and get my all-important sticker (which subsequently ruined my Elswick vest on race day).
We managed then to enjoy the shops within the expo and see the various stands, while spending a small fortune on race merchandise, much to Carolyn’s delight!
In between expo day and race day, I carried on with my training plan of runs and stretches, mainly training along the beautiful Sumida River and getting used to the weather (which was extremely variable) and running conditions. The family and I made the most of sightseeing and taking in all Tokyo had to offer, whilst resting my legs as much as possible.
Race day came I felt I was in the best shape of my life – I was confident no matter what the gods threw at me I was in for a good day. In typical marathon style, I was up early at 05:30 am stretching and eating my obligatory porridge breakfast. I then left to get the metro to the start which was easy and stress free. I managed to get out of the huge station at Shinjuku easily, thanks to the signs and a trial run a few days before and got to my gate (Gate 3) just as the rain started, despite my phone telling me the rain wouldn’t start until 11:00. The start gates were all under cover, so I stayed dry and warm, which was a welcome change after the horrendous conditions in Boston last year.
Once I moved out to the main start areas, I spotted Andrew Alderson who runs for Blaydon so we chatted for a while and then Scott spotted us and came to join us, so we were able to start the race together which was an unexpected bonus.
As the start gun went off, Scott and I stayed together for the first few miles, which was great, although as always the first few miles are frustrating due to congestion – there was a sea of ponchos all around us of both runners and spectators and the rain didn’t seem to affect the mood or excitement of the day. I was slightly colder than I would have liked at the start due to the rain, but I stayed positive knowing I would warm up as the distance passed, and used previous experience of this to keep me going. I always work in kilometres in a race, so focussed on trying to do 4min Kilometres and started ticking the 42k course off in my head. The pace felt comfortable and was in line with the 18 week training plan I had completed and the constant maths kept me focussed and thinking. In addition, my wife and kids, along with Scott’s wife and kids had met up and I was able to spot them a number of times throughout the course, for cheers and morale boosting shouts. All these things kept me in the game for reaching the finish line in what was my aim of 2:50. Furthermore, as I had my Abbott sticker on my back, I got extra cheers from people who recognised the challenge I was competing.
The only slightly frustrating thing is that the race course was longer than the distance, so often my watch showed progress when the course signs didn’t and as there was no blue line to follow I knew I just had to keep going.
There were a number of cut backs on the course, where I was able to get good support and see Andrew or Scott as they passed me on their stage of the course, offering each other encouragement and support to keep things going. I kept my tactic of running KM’s in 4 minutes and continued to try to maintain this even at the infamous 20 mile wall, by which point the hamstrings and quads began to struggle. The last 6 miles were as tough as ever in a marathon and the focus became about keeping one foot in front of the other and focussing on positive thoughts – I knew at this stage I wouldn’t break 2:50 but was still on target for sub 2:55.
During the last 2km, I started to seize up, but the focus on that 6 star medal, and completing the challenge kept me going. As I came round the final corner, at the Imperial Palace and could see the finish in the distance the relief his and I knew I was going to make it. I crossed the line in 2:53:05 average 4:02 a km running a total of 26.54 miles.
What made it even more special was as I was taking in the reality of finishing, I turned to look for Scott who I knew couldn’t be far away and managed to find him and come out through the finish area together – given how much me have trained together over the years, it was brilliant to have him with me on that fine stage as I went to receive my 6 star medal.
After I received the medal and Scott and I made our way out of the finish zone, the typical post-race coldness hit and Scott and I made our way out to meet our wives and kids in the charity zone, where we were met with a warm room, lots of hugs and some well needed refreshments.
In line with our normal tradition, The Brady clan joined us as the Hard Rock Café for tea. Conversation soon turned to Scott earning his 6 star medal which will be in New York and after the Tokyo marathon we both know have good for age qualifying times for 2020 so I will look forward to accompanying him on his final marathon in the challenge. However, before we can even think of that, there is the small matter of the London marathon on 28th April 2019!
How it all began…….. > Richards Marathon Career