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Tokyo Marathon 2024

Julia Hardy | Published on 3/24/2024


Nine members of the Merrimack Valley Striders crossed the finish line at the Tokyo Marathon on March 3rd. Here are some of their stories!

“I was psyched for this marathon. I’d hired our track coach, Sharon Johnson, to work with me during this training cycle so that I could ensure I would beat the time cutoffs along the course and have a successful race. I followed her guidance to the letter and I felt that my training went as well as it could have. But as the saying goes, ‘On any given day, a marathon can humble you.’ In my corral on race morning, I was humbled immediately when I realized that the zipper on my belt was stuck, and I lost access to my gels and my salt pills. I only had two emergency water packs in the pockets of my rain shell. I knew I would have to improvise and resolved to try not to worry about my strategy going awry before I’d even started. Once over the start line, I tried to keep myself as steady as I could. I felt strong and confident, and I clocked sub-10:00’s for the first 13-14 miles. But while I was making ample use of the aid stations, the lack of fuel started to catch up to me, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain that. Some banana halves at my next opportunity gave me a much-needed boost and the strength to keep going. I kept reminding myself that I’d come so far to get this far, and I wasn’t going to give up. I gave the last bit of distance all that I could, and with one last left turn towards the Imperial Palace, I saw the finish line ahead, and I was thrilled when I crossed it. I finished in 4:35:28, my new marathon PR by 6 minutes and 37 seconds. Even though not all circumstances were in my favor, my training certainly kicked in when it was supposed to and got me past all the course checkpoints with ample time to spare and over the finish line. At the Six-Star Finisher tent, I was surprised to be congratulated by B.A.A. President and CEO Jack Fleming, who, when he saw I was wearing my Striders singlet and my Mak Memorial Pin, not only gave me many hugs, but also my Six-Star medal, which was the icing on the cake of this accomplishment. My first six marathons were the Big Six. And I achieved all of them in just under two years. I can’t even begin to fathom how fortunate I am. I came full circle with this marathon: the current race director of my first Major (Boston) placed my Six-Star Medal around my neck at my last Major (Tokyo). And to have slayed this particular dragon in the Year of the Dragon…it feels like a fitting conclusion to my Abbott World Marathon Majors Adventure.” –Julia Hardy


“Japan was my 5th major. Maura and I had been in Japan for nearly 2 weeks. Most days there was an element of rain, but not enough to deter. However, race day had almost ideal conditions of no rain, a start in the 30's and very little wind, which was the opposite of the day before. By staying in an InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) hotel, I was able to carb load - not easy when you are gluten-free. The net result was a PR of 4:23:20, besting Boston by 9 minutes. Within 30 minutes all 35,000 runners were on the course. Unlike any race I had done before, there was always a pack of runners in front of me. But the pack moved at my speed and that made the course faster for me. With all the out-and-backs, I did get to see elite runners (mostly the women), which was really cool. From communications to not one pothole and practically no litter, this was a first-rate marathon experience. As a bonus, it was nice to connect with MVS members: Julia, Katie, and Lanshan.” –Andrew Szendey


“Embrace the culture and embrace the race. Japan is a beautiful country which is steeped in hospitality and pride. This is so apparent during the marathon, which has rules we don't usually see in the US, which are all around keeping the marathon clean and safe - and being able to open the streets according to a schedule. The marathon, which had a mass start, was probably the most congested marathon I've run, but on the flip side, due to the numerous out and backs, we were able to see the elite runners - as well as friends along the course. The day was perfect weather-wise, the roads were amazing (not a pothole to be seen), the fans were very exuberant (with lots of traditional Japanese entertainment along the way), the volunteers were incredible, and the charity we ran for was just so appreciative. Spending time to explore parts of Japan made the trip even more amazing. There was something so special about experiencing a non-western culture, both through touring and running the race. And of course, the 6-star medal!” –Maura Szendey

Lanshan Cao
Tom Dolan
Sandra Wood Lehane
Conrad Mmasi
Melissa Qian
Katie Yeaton-Hromada


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