I reckon a marathon race is a cuisine provided by the city who organize it. Tokyo Marathon is a fabulous banquet that you will never forget. Nara Marathon is a homemade dinner, full of passion from the Nara people. While Kyoto marathon is an à la carte menu, you get what you want.
I would like to share with you my 10 reasons to run (or run again) the Kyoto Marathon.
Reason 1: Kyoto Marathon is a meaningful race
There are numerous reasons why a city organises a marathon race. It can be due to historical background, like the Athens Classic Marathon, to trace the footsteps of Pheidippides, the ancient hero of Greece. Most of the time, a marathon race is a sponsorship based event, like the Hong Kong Marathon which major sponsorship coming from a bank.
The 1st Kyoto Marathon took place in 2012, to support the reconstruction of the Great East Japan Earthquake happened on 2011. Now, in its 5th round, it is still the main focus of the event. The event is free for those earthquake-affected regions ‘runners. There are donation boxes to the public to raise fund to assist reconstruction. There is also a few booths selling accessories and souvenir which made by the affected regions’ residents.
“Do you know Kyoto?” is the message that created after the enactment of Kyoto Protocol in 1997. It means doing some good for the environment. Kyoto Marathon takes a lot of attempts to become environmental friendly event as, for example, providing tap water in water stations, encouraging runners to use personal water bottles, making the event day as no personal car day, minimising print out unless it is necessary, and collecting clothes dumping by runners at the starting point and reuse them.
Reason 2: Lots of fun @ EXPO
The event expo is held at Miyako-Messe (Kyoto International Exhibition Hall) which is close to the Higashiyama subway station. There are volunteers who can speak foreign languages (English and Mandarin as I can see) to serve the overseas runners.
The runner pack has no T-shirt included but a multi-functional headwear by Buff which becomes very handy in the cold race day. Comparing to Tokyo Marathon, the variety of souvenir is not that much but there are stuff that will make you spending money on, like the crossover tote bag from CW-X with PORTER, limited edition of magnetic bib button, “finisher” sweet and Japanese dessert.
Local manufacturers show off their food products at the expo that you can try out for free.
Discounted Sport wear and accessories booths are always welcomed by runners. There is a photo booth which I have the chance to take a picture with your predict finishing time, with Yoshimi Ozaki (real, not cardboard~!), who took the silver medal at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics.
There is also an exhibition to talk about the history of Kyoto marathon with lots of graphics, real size winners cardboard which you can take picture with, and finisher gifts and medals display. TV show the course video so you can have a virtual tour before the run. The organiser also run a countdown campaign by asking government officials, entertainers and local residents to write their own encouragement note to runners, and show at the expo.
There is also an area to demonstrate traditional craftwork of Kyoto by the masters, including family crest drawing, Japanese candle painting, and Japanese doll hair arrangement.
If you feel hungry after walking around the exhibition hall, you can buy some food from the food stall, pairing with the zero-alcohol beer provided by the exhibitor for free, sit down and enjoy your meal, before the race day on Sunday.
Reason 3: Real geisha performance on the course with the chance of taking selfie pic
Have you ever seen the geisha show when you travel to Japan? If not, this is the chance you can see the traditional Japanese entertainers, geisha, perform at the marathon event up close and for free. Whilst geisha normally do not allow to response to anyone else other then their client, you may have the chance to take a selfie with them during their performance break!
Reason 4: Interactive with cosplayers and local people during your run
Though cosplaying is not recommendation by Kyoto Marathon organiser, I can still find many interesting cosplayers on the road, like the ultraman, Donald duck (my all-time favour Disney character) , a gentleman in pink and a Taiwanese runner who play ukulele and sing while running.
People in Kyoto look shy comparing to the Tokyo. Don’t hesitate to show your passion, they are very friendly. Many companies also organize the cheering teams on their own. You can definitely feel the hospitality of Kyoto people.
Reason 5：Detailling of the organizer
The starting point of Kyoto marathon is in Nishikyogoku Athletic Park where is kinda remote area. There is shuttle service to pick up runners from Kyoto station to there. You can purchase the ticket at the expo.
The starting point itself is a stadium which provide adequate washroom to runners. Runner bags are collected by volunteers and transferred to finishing point by trucks. The finisher certificate will be provided right after the run and no need to wait for mailing.
One of the best setup I found is the mobile washroom along the course. It is clean, with aroma diffuser inside to keep the air fresh inside. Outside the washroom is the washing basin with mirror, good for runners to shape themselves up before taking selfie.
Reason 6：A beautiful round trip in Kyoto
The course of Kyoto Marathon starts from Nishikyogoku Athletic Park, heading north to Arashiyama, passing Ninna-ji, the head temple of the Omuro school of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism. Runners will run through the Kyoto Botanical Gardens, going south along Kamo River. Then they will pass outside Kyoto City Hall and Kyoto University, and back to Miyako Messe to finish the race.
The course includes several UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites, and local attractions and scenery including the five mountains of bon fire.
Reason 7：Plum blossom on the run
February is the plum blossom period and runners can enjoy it while running through Kyoto Botanical Gardens and Kamo River. You would like to have a small camera or mobile phone with you to take photos. But beware, don’t be too distracted by the beautiful flowers and miss the cutoff time!
Reason 8：Cheerleading squad which heat up the atmosphere
The cheerleading squad of Kyoto Marathon is the combination of student, corporations and organisations volunteers and local residents.
They are station along the course to encourage runners by different activities like dancing and music performance, heating up the atmosphere in the cold spring morning.
Reason 9：Kyoto specialty food along the course
One of the features of Japan races is the variety of food supply. The organizer keeps providing fresh fruit like bananas, clementines, rice cake, chocolate, red bean bread and sweet bean jelly. My favourite is the “生八橋” (a triangles shape dumpling with red bean or green tea stuffing) which normally cost you few hundred yen and now is free~!
Don’t miss out the food supply by local residents. They offer fruits, self-made desserts, alcohol-free beer and sweets and much along the road.
Reason 10：Delightful stay after run
You can find what you are looking for in Kyoto: load of cultural heritage attractions like Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkaku-ji, Higashi Honganji and Sanjūsangen-dōare all are worth to visit. You can also enjoy traditional kaiseki dinner or local Kyoto crusine around. You will be happy if you are the green tea freak as you can find all the best green tea stuff there.
Kyoto is also famous with her natural scenery like Arashiyama and Kamo River. Running in the morning along Kamo River is a good recovery program after the race. After the run, you can shop at Nishiki Market, the local market that Kyoto people will go daily. After that, you can have a roasted coffee and enjoy the rest of the day.