Saiko Marathon – 8 April 2017

On Saturday April 8th, a small group of Yokota Striders attempted the first leg of the infamous Psycho Challenge. The first leg of the challenge is the Saiko Marathon (26.2 miles or 42 kilometers) and the second leg of the challenge is the Kanra Sakura Marathon (12.4 miles or 20 kilometers), which is scheduled for Sunday, April 9th.  It is the only race weekend where the Yokota Striders run back to back races on the same weekend.  The Saiko Marathon was selected as the first leg because the course is beginner friendly with plenty of support from the race organization.  If you ever want to run your first marathon but are overwhelmed at the thought of choosing the perfect race, we understand.  This is why we recommend the Saiko Marathon for beginners.  While running 26.2 miles is never easy, this marathon is a great opportunity for those wanting to take the first step to become a marathoner.  At the same time, why not share the experience with your family and friends since the course is very spectator friendly.

Of course, you are not required to take up the Psycho Challenge, you can run just the Saiko Marathon or the Kanra Sakura Marathon.  There is also a companion Saiko Ultramarathon, a 70 kilometer race, for those wanting a bigger challenge.  All the runners shared the same course but the ultra runners would start 30 minutes earlier.  Yoshi-San was the only runner in this year’s event and he completed the run in under eight hours.  Another opportunity for those runners wanting to run more than the marathon.

The Environment: The weather was absolutely perfect for marathon conditions, a breezy tropical cloudy day blended with a slight precipitation to cool off the runners.  The precipitation magically disappeared when all of us completed the marathon.  The race environment felt like a small base 5 kilometer run with plenty of laughters and easy going attitudes.  Our group showed up at the starting line with only 10 minutes to spare since there were only a few hundred runners and most were recreational runners.  This marathon is truly designed for the beginner runners.

The Course: The Saiko Marathon is not typically known for being the most scenic course in Japan since the course is approximately 4.6 kilometers long and you would need to complete the loop 9 times.  The loop is located at the Saikodoman Green Park and it traverses around a lake that is lined with beautiful Sakura trees.  The course is relatively flat and fast so it’s a great opportunity for a personal record (PR).  There is a slight uphill and downhill but by most standards, it’s not worth mentioning.  Of course, on the last lap, you may feel it in the legs but after 23 miles of running, any hill is a tough hill.  The participants run on a bicycle path so you can tune into your music and run on autopilot.

The Experience: For most of us, this marathon is known as the Culinary Marathon, the amount of food available to the runners is the best ever.  There are two aid stations for each loop so you basically have 17 aid stations throughout the course.  The first station is located about 2.3 kilometer mark and the refreshments included tea, energy drinks, water, fruits, and small energy food.  The main station contained all kind of food and drinks, including udon, sandwiches, rice balls, various fruits and vegetables, and hot soup.  It’s like a Japanese 7-11 food counter.  Most runners gathered around this station and enjoyed the good food during the run.  It’s a buffet every 4.6 kilometers.  You can easily add on 1-3 minutes of eating and drinking at this station.  This is the reason why I didn’t lose any water weight during the run.  Another plus for this marathon is that the time limit is 7 hours, which is very unusual in Japan. The only real downside to this marathon is that you don’t get a finisher’s medal, you get a drifit running T-shirt, plenty of food, and the joy of pure running with other recreational runners.

The six of us completed the marathon and four of us would eventually complete the Psycho Challenge.  Though a small group this year, we look forward to having a larger group for this unique marathon.  If you decide to run next year’s Saiko Marathon, be prepared to eat since we are planning a BBQ for family members and runners.  The location is ideal with nearby restrooms and the parking lot is only a 5 minute walk to the starting and finishing lines. There is something for everyone at this marathon to ensure a positive and memorable first marathon experience.  Of course, the Psycho Challenge is also available.

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