The Tokyo Marathon is one of the most popular marathons globally, attracting runners from around the world.
As one of the six World Marathon Majors, this race is challenging, yet exciting, and promises everything from historic sites to vibrant energy to Japanese cultural experiences.
However, this beautiful marathon is unlike any other marathon, as it has stringent qualifying standards that demand runners to put in more effort and training days than the average marathon.
One of the common questions that many runners ask is how many miles they need to run to qualify and complete the Tokyo Marathon.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the number of miles you should run before a marathon like the Tokyo Marathon.
Your training needs to be personalized based on your fitness level, running experience, and overall health.
If you’re new to running or have never completed a marathon, you will likely need more of a build-up to the marathon level than a seasoned marathoner would need.
In this blog, we will dive into what it takes to run the Tokyo Marathon and the mileage needed to achieve your goals.
The Foundation: Building Your Running Base
Building a strong base is crucial before starting your Tokyo Marathon training. This means that you should be able to comfortably run a specific number of miles per week before diving into a marathon-specific training plan.
Building a base helps reduce the risk of injuries and prepares your body for the demands of marathon training.
Easy runs play a fundamental role in building your running base because they serve as the foundation upon which you can gradually increase your running endurance, aerobic capacity, and overall fitness
The key to easy runs is keeping a genuinely relaxed and conversational pace.
“Easy” means truly easy, where you can comfortably chat with a running buddy as if you were in a noisy restaurant or bar.
If you prefer solo runs, you should be able to burst into song without getting out of breath.
So, whether you’re sharing stories with a friend or singing to your favorite tunes, the idea is to maintain an effortless pace.
Easy runs primarily target your aerobic system, which provides energy during submaximal efforts. They allow your body to adapt, strengthen, and recover while enhancing your energy metabolism.
By running at an appropriate intensity, you strike a balance between stimulating your aerobic capacity and allowing your muscles, tendons, and ligaments to heal and strengthen.
It’s important to note that easy runs are generally shorter than long runs, typically lasting about an hour and a half or less.
While these runs are much slower than your race pace, they should still be faster than your recovery runs, typically about 5 to 10 seconds per km (8-16 seconds per mile) quicker. The problem is that most people do not do their recovery runs at the correct pace and therefore end up running everything too fast, leading you to injury.
It’s essential to differentiate between easy runs and more demanding workouts like tempo runs or interval training, which involve higher effort and intensity.
Easy runs play a vital role in your overall training plan, contributing to your fitness and helping you prepare for more strenuous workouts and races.
For a closer look at the importance of easy runs in your training plan and how they can have a profoundly positive impact, check out our video, “Why Are Easy Runs Important & Do You Need Easy Runs In Your Training?”
The Long Run: Mileage Building For Endurance
One of the cornerstones of marathon training is the long run. These extended sessions help you build the endurance required to take on the 26.2 miles (42.2 km) of the Tokyo Marathon course.
The primary goal of long runs is to enhance your endurance, which is essential for marathon running. They also contribute to improving your running economy, making your body more efficient at maintaining a steady pace over long distances.
This increased efficiency can lead to better performance during the actual marathon.
Mentally, these long runs prepare you for the challenge of being on your feet for an extended period, a vital aspect of marathon racing. Physically, they contribute to strengthening your tendons, ligaments, and muscles, reducing the risk of injuries.
One significant advantage of long runs is the opportunity to experiment with different nutrition strategies to determine what works best for you during the marathon.
Nutrition is a critical factor in marathon success, and these runs provide a practical testing ground for your race-day fueling and hydration plan.
However, it’s essential to approach long runs with the right mindset. They shouldn’t be about speed or fitness testing. Instead, they should be enjoyed as part of your training.
During long runs, aim for a comfortable pace where you can chat with a running buddy, making them more about building endurance and less about pushing your limits.
Long runs have a sweet spot, typically between 17-23-23 miles (27-32 km), beyond which the added benefits become minimal while the risk of injuries increases. Running even longer distances might not be worth the potential harm.
Common mistakes people make during long runs include running too hard, increasing mileage too rapidly, and stopping too often.
It’s crucial to maintain an appropriate pace, gradually increase the distance, and minimize interruptions to derive the most benefits from your long runs.
Incorporate Strength Training
To maintain a healthy and injury-free body while enhancing your running performance, it’s crucial to incorporate strength training into your routine.
Strength training offers a range of benefits, particularly injury prevention.
It ensures that smaller muscle groups are functioning correctly and at the right time, helping stabilize your body during running.
When these smaller muscles are compromised, larger ones take over, leading to misaligned movement patterns and potential injuries.
Moreover, scientific studies have demonstrated that strength training can improve your running economy by 4% to 6%, depending on your level, the type of training, and frequency.
Think of running economy as the fuel efficiency of your car; you aim to cover more distance more efficiently with less fuel, which translates to running farther and more effectively with less energy expenditure.
This improved running economy also delays the onset of fatigue.
Incorporating strength training into your routine typically involves 1 to 3 strength training sessions per week. The older we get we need to consider strength training more and more, so the ideal then would be 2-3 sessions per week and if you are under the age of 40 years then 1-2 sessions will suffice.
While you might feel time is limited for strength training, it’s essential to make time for it, as it plays a significant role in injury prevention and performance enhancement.
Consistency is key to building the foundation and improving your overall training plan.
Balancing strength training with running is essential, and the positive effects of strength training may become apparent when you temporarily stop the practice after consistent engagement.
It’s a fundamental aspect of Coach Parry’s training philosophy, and our training plans incorporate Strength and Conditioning to underscore its importance.
Making sure you do the correct strength training is important. The good news is we’ve created a free strength training plan for runners that you can download by clicking here.
In addition to strength training, cross-training is another valuable component of a well-rounded training plan.
Cross-training allows you to engage in activities that positively impact your cardiovascular system and load your muscles without subjecting them to the eccentric loading that running involves.
Running primarily consists of high-impact movements that stress your muscles, so cross-training provides a balanced approach to your training.
Here are some excellent cross-training options to consider:
Incorporating these cross-training activities diversifies your workouts, minimizes the strain on your body, and contributes to your overall fitness and performance.
Cross-training can help you prepare effectively for the Tokyo Marathon while offering the variety your body needs.
The Taper: Easing Off Before The Big Day
In the final weeks leading up to the Tokyo Marathon, you’ll enter a tapering phase. Tapering is a critical phase in your Tokyo Marathon preparation.
It involves reducing your training volume in the weeks leading up to the marathon to allow for increased recovery and optimize the benefits of your training.
Although tapering is essential, many athletes find it mentally challenging, fearing they might lose fitness.
However, it’s important to remember that the real benefits of training come during the recovery phase, not while you’re actively training.
Tapering primarily focuses on reducing the volume of training while, in some cases, maintaining the training intensity.
For the Tokyo Marathon, it’s recommended to start the taper period no longer than 2 weeks before race day. This period is vital for a complete recovery from training and achieving peak performance.
The key to mastering tapering is to strike a balance between maintaining some training stimulus and allowing your body to refresh and maximize its strength for the upcoming race day.
Rest Days: Listening To Your Body
Rest days are a crucial but often overlooked component of any training plan. The idea of “no pain, no gain” has been a common mantra, but understanding exercise physiology shows us the importance of rest in training.
It’s vital to recognize that without proper recovery, you won’t reap the full benefits of your training.
Stressing the body through exercise is necessary to see improvements, but it’s during the recovery phase that your body has the chance to adjust and progress in response to the training you’ve already done.
Without adequate recovery, you risk missing out on the full benefits of your training efforts. Moreover, you increase the risk of injury and your susceptibility to illness.
Taking the time to recover after your runs is essential for allowing your body to adapt and improve, setting the stage for your next run. It’s all part of the process to ensure you reach your training goals while minimizing the risk of setbacks and injuries.
Personalize Your Training Plan
Every runner is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Tailoring your marathon training plan to your individual fitness level and goals is essential.
If you’re new to long-distance running or aiming for a specific time goal, seeking guidance from a coach or experienced runner can be incredibly beneficial.
They can help you fine-tune your training, offer advice on nutrition and hydration, and share recovery strategies that can enhance your overall marathon experience.
Get Your Nutrition Right
A well-balanced diet is essential for achieving peak performance during marathon training.
This diet should include a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, and the necessary micro and macronutrients.
However, if you’re experiencing persistent fatigue and tiredness, especially after your morning workouts, it might be an indication that your post-workout nutrition and overall daily nutrition need some adjustment.
While training naturally causes fatigue, a significant portion of it can be mitigated by enhancing your nutritional intake. Your body requires a certain amount of calories just to maintain its normal functions and basal metabolic rate.
When you exercise, this calorie requirement increases. If you don’t match your calorie intake with your calorie expenditure, you may experience fatigue, sleepiness, and overall tiredness.
Persistently low energy availability can lead to performance decline and, in severe cases, physiological damage such as stress fractures and amenorrhea. It’s important to fuel your body adequately to support the demands of marathon training.
For expert guidance on optimizing your marathon training nutrition plan, consider consulting with Nicki de Villiers, a highly experienced Sports Nutritionist.
Nicki has over 20 years of experience in the field of dietetics, with a specialization in sports nutrition, and works with elite athletes, including Olympic athletes and Comrades Marathon participants.
It’s important to note that access to Nicki de Villiers’ nutritional services is exclusive to members of the Coach Parry Training Club. Our members enjoy the privilege of engaging with Nicki in the forum and during live coaching calls as part of their package.
Additionally, they benefit from reduced individual rates for consultations. However, it’s worth mentioning that anyone, regardless of membership status, can reach out to Nicki individually if they wish to seek her services.
If you’re located in Pretoria, South Africa, you also have the option to schedule an in-person consultation with Nicki at her practice in Hatfield.
Now, let’s talk about the timing of your last long run before the Tokyo Marathon…
When Should Your Last Long Run Be Before The Tokyo Marathon?
Determining the right timing for your longest run before the Tokyo Marathon is crucial.
You want to strike a balance between not feeling overly fatigued on race day and still benefiting fully from your training.
The ideal timing depends on your running ability and experience:
1. Novices: If you’re new to marathon training, plan your last long run approximately 4 weeks before the London Marathon. This allows sufficient time for recovery and tapering leading up to the race.
2. Intermediate and advanced runners: If you have some marathon experience, schedule your last long run around 3 weeks prior to the race. This timing balances adequate recovery with maintaining your fitness level.
3. Elite runners: For those in the top 5% of the field, such as sub-3-hour marathoners, you have the flexibility to adjust the timing based on your personal preferences and what works best for your preparation.
With the timing sorted, it’s important to consider the pace you should aim for during your longest run.
At What Pace Should I Do My Longest Run Before I Run The Tokyo Marathon
Finding the right balance in your longest training runs for the Tokyo Marathon is essential. While these runs are significant in your preparation, excessively long runs may not always be the best approach. Here’s why:
1. Length and Timing: The ideal length and timing of your long run should align with your race goal and running experience. Customizing these aspects to suit your specific needs and abilities is crucial.
2. Diminishing Returns and Potential Damage: There is a point after which the benefits of extremely long runs start to diminish. Pushing beyond this threshold can lead to potential harm, compromising your overall training and performance on race day.
To illustrate the variations in the longest run leading up to the Tokyo Marathon based on your race goal, we provide guidelines in our Coach Parry plans.
Keep in mind that these distances can be adjusted based on your progress.
It’s essential to avoid placing too much emphasis on a single long run. Your overall performance is not determined by this one run but by the cumulative, progressive buildup of training over time.
Trust your chosen marathon training plan, adhere to the process, and remember that success on race day is influenced by consistent training rather than the outcome of a single run.
For comprehensive guidance and training plans, consider our 12-week Coach Parry Tokyo Marathon Training Roadmap.
This science-based plan outlines daily training sessions, specifies appropriate paces, and helps you avoid injuries while ensuring you’re neither overtrained nor undertrained on race day.