2024 Tokyo Marathon – A Seamless Racing Experience

I tried several years in a row and finally entered the Tokyo Marathon in 2024!

Leading up to the event, I heard some concerns about logistical challenges unique to Tokyo, such as restrictions on discarding clothes at the start, off-course restrooms, etc. For the majors, I’ve run Boston, Chicago and NYC before, and always had the impression that they were well organized. So I was surprised that Japan, known for being extremely detail oriented, would be any different.

As it turned out, I had a really enjoyable and seamless racing experience.

In this article, I’ll share some important things I learned about the Tokyo Marathon.

Runner’s Handbook:

It goes without saying that the organizer’s instructions are important, but I feel that the Runner’s Handbook from Tokyo Marathon is particularly so. It’s packed with valuable information, including layouts of the start and finish areas. The amount of details is quite impressive, and it’s worth reading thoroughly to maximize your race day experience.


a. The expo offers extended hours on Thursday and Friday (10am-8:30pm). We arrived on Friday afternoon, and still had ample time to visit the expo and get our race packets, thus leaving Saturday free to relax and also scout the start and finish areas.

b. The expo is impressively well-organized, with separate entry lines for runners and their family members. Only runners can collect their bibs.

c. The 2024 time chip feels slightly heavier than others, and requires recycling after the race. Ensure it’s functioning before leaving the bib area – very important!

d. Gear check bags are of decent size; attach a small bib to yours for easy retrieval later.

e. Pins are not provided in the gear check bag, so bring your own or get them separately at the expo.

f. Merchandise tends to sell out quickly, so consider visiting the expo early if you plan to make purchases.

g. Each bib is color-coded, corresponding to designated areas at the finish line.

h. Charity runners should visit their charity booth at the expo for additional perks.

i. A free metro day pass is provided for use on race day.

Start Area:

a. The start area has two levels, initially confusing but clear upon inspection. Faster runners are positioned on the second floor, while others are on the first. They are connected by a walkway.

b. Expect long lines at bathrooms unless you arrive early.

c. Utilize clothing bins before entering the corral, as well as those near the start line to stay warm.

d. Gear check requires opting in during registration. Drop off your belongings at the designated truck area, marked with your assigned number.

e. Gates and corrals are indicated on your bib. Pass through security gates before reaching your corral.

f. The race begins promptly with no waiting between corrals.

Finish Area:

a. Study the layout using the handbook before the race. Once you cross the finish line, just follow your bib color to easily locate your gear bag. If you don’t know where you’re supposed to go, you may have to wonder for a while because it’s crowded and complicated.

b. If you’ve earned your sixth star, make sure you collect your special medal before retrieving gear.

c. Charity runners have access to a lounge for changing after the race.


a. The race starts at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku and finishes at Tokyo Station.

b. The course includes four hairpin turns, with the last one after 35km being the most challenging (it seems to take forever to reach that point). One benefit, however, is that I saw all the elite runners at mile 9.8 when they made the turn!

c. GPS generally functions well, with minimal deviations. I ran 26.8 miles, and a lot of runners are close to that number. The high rise seems to impact the GPS signal a little bit but not too bad.

d. Bathrooms are conveniently located along the route. I heard some say that you have to run half a mile or even more to use a restroom on the course but it may have been a misunderstanding: I did see signs saying “bathroom is 800 meters away”. It simply means that the next restroom is 800 meters ahead, not 800 meters off the course. So if you have to use the restroom during the race, it’s perfectly fine. In addition, there are also volunteers stationed next to restrooms.

e. Spectators line up the route, providing mental support and energy boost. They’re not necessarily the loudest, but you definitely feel encouraged from their cheers. A couple of places even have drums, which I personally really liked.

f. Elevation changes are minor. A little decline for the first four miles and some incline when you cross the bridge. But they are smooth and subtle, and you might not even notice the gain.

g. Water stations are well-stocked, and energy drinks are available every 3 miles. Bring your own gels. Since my GPS went a little off, I did some math in my head to calculate when the next water stop is to help kill time. Supposedly, station tables will be assigned according to the last digit of your bib number, but I don’t think anyone is looking for their designated table. You get the cup whenever you can since it’s pretty congested the whole time.

h. Trash collection volunteers maintain cleanliness along the course. Tokyo is so clean that you would feel guilty just tossing water cups on the street. There are many volunteers with trash bags waiting on the side.

i. Pacers are available for those who wish to follow.


Choose between starting and finishing areas, each with its own advantages. Staying in Shinjuku offers proximity to the start, while accommodations near the finish eliminate the need for gear check. I stayed in Shinjuku and did not leave the hotel till 7:40ish for the race.


Take advantage of sightseeing opportunities in Tokyo, including panoramic views from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where you can see some beautiful city views. If the weather is good, you can even see Mount Fuji and beautiful sunset.

Packing Essentials:

Japan is still a cash society to some degree. So make sure to bring some Japanese yen, as not all establishments accept credit cards. As a matter of fact, the first purchase I made (sky access ticket from Narita to Tokyo) was cash only.

Airport Transportation:

Several options are available for travelling between the airport and the city, including express trains and direct buses. An express train can take you from the airport to Tokyo in about an hour.

For us, there happens to be an airport bus stop right below our hotel in Shinjuku. So instead of taking the train back to the airport, we took the non-stop Express Bus which was quite convenient since you don’t have to switch between subway and train while carrying a bunch of luggage.


First time taking the low-cost airline to Japan. $550 round trip from California, so couldn’t pass up the deal. But everything costs extra, including food, drink, seat selection, and extra luggage (carry-on 7kg limit). You can order meals, or just buy in-flight snacks which are fairly inexpensive. One can of beer is slightly over $3. Overall not a bad experience at all.

Cherry Blossoms:

Being held in early March, Tokyo Marathon typically precedes the full bloom of cherry blossoms, but you may still catch glimpses of their beauty around Tokyo. I did see some beautiful cherry blossoms at the entrance of Ueno Park.

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