Expo Review: 2018 Tokyo Marathon

Over the span of three days (Thursday, Feb 23 to Saturday, Feb 25), the spaceship-like structure that is the Tokyo Big Sight played host to the Tokyo Marathon Expo.

On the fourth floor, big name sponsors including Tokyo Metro, Yamazaki Baking Co., Asics, and Pocari Sweat lined the booth space immediately following the area restricted to runners.

While the sponsor booths freely distribute samples and boasted all kinds of inspiring backgrounds for photo ops, this part of the expo purely served a promotional purpose and with the exception of the Tokyo Marathon official shop, few items were for purchase.

For security reasons, access to the initial part of the expo was restricted to runners. After successfully passing through the necessary procedures, runners were streamed towards the rest of the expo, which was open to the general public.

2018 Tokyo Marathon Expo
© TOKYO MARATHON FOUNDATION
© TOKYO MARATHON FOUNDATION
Tokyo Marathon check-in
Tokyo Marathon wristbands

The Tokyo Marathon implemented a variety of measures to raise awareness about heightened security procedures and surveillance before and during the marathon, as well as in case of emergency, e.g. an earthquake or other large-scale accident.

This year, all runners were given smart wristbands containing personal information that function not only to prevent bib-swapping but also assist with identification in crisis situations. Over the course of three days, the Tokyo Marathon efficiently processed more than 35,000 runners though a system that flowed from one stop to the next.

First, runners received their wristband, which was input with personal information, then picked up their race packet and bib.

Tokyo Marathon check in
Tokyo Marathon staff next to map

From there, each runner had their headshot taken, which was again input to their wristband, and timing chips were checked.

After picking up the official race shirt, runners were taken through a short but informative exhibition regarding the course map, race rules, and safety measures.

Once finished surveying the exhibit, runners finally streamed into the expo area open to the general public.

Asics Bonanza: How Deep Is Your Wallet?

Tokyo Marathon Asics shoes
Asics shoes

As a major sponsor, Asics arguably had one of the biggest and splashiest displays at both the sponsors expo and general expo. Official 2018 Tokyo Marathon Asics products drew a frenzied crowd to purchase every combination of branded shirts, shoes, and sports gear.

From running gloves and ponchos to socks and drawstring bags, nearly every item was proudly emblazoned with the 2018 Tokyo Marathon logo. The designs were surprisingly tasteful (no Engrish here) and appealed to an international crowd.

Asic shoes
Tokyo Marathon shirts

Special edition items such as the Japan Series running shoes (for example, Tarthers and Skysensors) and the newly launched Gel Nimbus 20 city series were ready to be taken home – for a hefty price tag.

Buy All The Things

shoes at Tokyo Marathon expo

The days leading up to a major race can be full of nervousness and uncertainty. For some, it can also lead to a lighter wallet as they become victim to the bargains and original goods available at the expo.

For those who have trained for months and perhaps even prepared years for the opportunity to run the Tokyo Marathon, the price tag was perhaps a non-issue!

While the sponsor expo lacked outlets for financial transactions, the general expo was filled with more than enough products to outfit an Olympic track team for a lifetime.

From official Tokyo Marathon goods to original memorabilia, fitness tracker watches, and running shoes, there was no shortage of ways to spend your money. A small range of goods were exclusively for purchase by non-Japanese residents. 

As with all expos, the best time to go is in the waning hours of the last day – the crowds will have dissipated and rather than take back inventory, vendors are eager to sell (or give away) remaining items at a discount. 

mens fashion sign
A potential stocking stuffer for the male runners

Endurance events can take a toll on parts of the body exposed to fabrics rubbing against the skin. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again but…don’t be the bleeding nipples guy at the finish line!

snacks at Tokyo Marathon expo
"Lunch Pack" snacks similar to Uncrustables

Tasty and inexpensive carbo-loading snacks by the Yamazaki Baking Co. From classic flavors (peanut butter and jelly, egg salad) to seasonal or limited edition (blueberry and cream cheese, crunchy chocolate) and area-specific (Tokyo curry, yakisoba and mayonnaise) sandwiches, these sweet and savory “Lunchpacks” are the Japanese answer to Uncrustables, a popular premade, sealed, and crustless sandwich brand in America.

Try All The Things

After exiting the runners-only area, runners and the general public were welcomed into the sponsor expo featuring a wide range of booths put on by the big name sponsors. In a bid to attract more lollygaggers to their booths, the trend towards interactive booths and photo-friendly displays was clear.

The large majority of booths honed in on one of three themes related to the Tokyo Marathon, including “fitness”, “running” and Tokyo or Japan. Meandering through the expo, it’s hard to refuse all of the colorful flyers, entire magazines, cans of ice-cold alcohol-free beer, and tote bags shoved into your arms. 

Tokyo Marathon expo booth
Tokyo marathon expo booth

After exiting the runners-only area, runners and the general public were welcomed into the sponsor expo featuring a wide range of booths put on by the big name sponsors. In a bid to attract more lollygaggers to their booths, the trend towards interactive booths and photo-friendly displays was clear.

The large majority of booths honed in on one of three themes related to the Tokyo Marathon, including “fitness”, “running” and Tokyo or Japan. Meandering through the expo, it’s hard to refuse all of the colorful flyers, entire magazines, cans of ice-cold alcohol-free beer, and tote bags shoved into your arms.

Another popular sponsor booth was hosted by BMW Japan, the official car of the 2018 Tokyo Marathon.

Demonstrating another attempt to stay connected to the “fitness” theme, this interactive booth pit four motorized cars on a loop course powered by participants furiously stomping on stepping machines. Unfortunately, the crowds often became impatient as the emcee hostess took several minutes too long introducing this rather self-explanatory activity.

Perhaps best known internationally for Pacman, Bandai Namco Entertainment took advantage of the iconic video game characters to draw big crowds to their booth.

While the connection to running and the Tokyo Marathon was less apparent, the interactive nature of their photo booth and support wall was clever and “More fun for everyone”.