People in Japan love to run. No, they not only love it, they are obsessed about running. Almost every town has some sort of organised running event, be it an ekiden (long distance relay), fun run, marathon or an ultra. Yet still, due to the enormous number of applicants, it is extremely hard to get in.
The most popular events use a lottery to pick participants, means if you're not lucky you can wait for years to run your dream Japanese marathon. I am not particularly lucky. I tried many times already, but for the last two years I was getting only "Lottery Result / Not accepted"
What can I say, I love Japan, it is such a beautiful and extremely well organised country. I went there just over 3 years ago travelling for a month with not only my husband and son, but also my in-laws that we invited to join us.
I really wanted to go back and, since I started running marathons overseas, I really wanted to run a marathon there. The perfect sightseeing/running combo ever. The most perfect Mummy's holidays.
But try, after try, after try, I had no luck. Until 6 of October last year. Yeeeeessss!!! Finally. I got lucky, and how lucky, it was one of my most favourite cities in the world - Kyoto.
Kyoto Marathon Registration
Some of the biggest marathons in Japan use their own websites to take registrations, races like Tokyo or Osaka. Some use agencies like JTB Sports (branch of JTB Corporation, the largest, formerly government - owned travel agency in Japan and one of the biggest in the world). That was the case with Kyoto Marathon.
To even register for the lottery you need to first become a member of JTB Sports. Very handy since they support many other marathons in Japan. Sign up is free and very easy through their website jtbsports.jp/en/
Kyoto Marathon 2018 was to be held on Sunday 18 February and the lottery entry application period was between 20 July and 31 August 2017. During that time they received 65,948 entries to fill 16,000 places!!!
Then on Friday, 6 October the official results have been announced... well... sort of. The email I got on that day from JTB Sports didn't really say whether I won or not, it just directed me to their website to check the status of my application and, in case I was successful, urged to finalise the payment.
I was successful and super excited, and just paid straight away JPY 15,000 (around AUD 180).
... and that would be it... however...
I was also Drawn to run in Nagoya
How did that happen? Oh well, after all the rejection I experienced previously I was panicking a bit that I might not get in. Over 4 people per place doesn't look nearly as bad as 11 per place in Tokyo, but as I said, I am not particularly lucky and just a few days before Kyoto lottery results I applied for 2018 Nagoya Women's Marathon... and also got in.
I would love to run in Nagoya on 10 March 2018, I have never been there (really, except just about half an hour when changing trains between Osaka and Nagiso, to visit Tsumago and Magome) and would love to see it the runners way...
...and guess what? Nagoya Marathon is famous for one unusual thing... because it is women's marathon they do not give medals when you finish. They give Tiffany's necklaces and Menard cosmetics! How cute.
But between these two, when it came to decide, there was only one place I really wanted to go, the city of serene temples and shrines, charming narrow streets with traditional wooden houses, beautiful Geishas and unbelievably skilled craftsmen... it was Kyoto.