I just got an entry in for the half marathon event at the 2010 Toda Marathon in Saiko on November 21st. As I've mentioned before, getting signed up early is essential in Japan as places fill up quickly.
My first ever race was the 10km run at this event last year, since then I've run a full marathon, but find myself wanting to go back to Toda and run on the anniversary of my first race. When I ran the 10km race last year I wasn't even sure if I would still be running one year into the future, let alone be running the half marathon, so competing there this year holds a special significance for me.
For a marathon sandwiched between the metropolis of Tokyo and Saitama, the Toda Marathon has a nice local feel. Set in parkland on the banks of the Arakawa river, with the course meandering around a lake, it is an easy train ride from either Shibuya or Shinjuku and attracts enough runners to give it some atmosphere, but not so many that it detracts from the enjoyment of competing.
The course takes runners on one or two 10km loops around a lake on sealed roads and bicycle paths which are in exceptional condition. A short hill roughly 2km into the race serves nicely to spread out the field and you find yourself running with others of similar ability early on. Most supporters tend to stay close to the start finish line, so there is little crowd support on the course, but the volunteers at drink stations, conveniently located every 3km, do their best to cheer the runners on.
In addition to the 10km and half marathon events there are also shorter events for children to run by themselves, and others that even the smallest of runners can participate in with their parents.
The start/finish area has a lovely festival like atmosphere with roadside vendors selling food and beer! There is space for families to lay their picnic blankets where they can still see the finish line, and a small outdoor expo which despite its size produces some real bargains. There is also a stage which when not being used for medal presentations and boring speeches plays host to a number of presenters who speak on such topics as good running form and stretching technique.
So if you're looking for a family friendly race located conveniently close to Tokyo the Toda Marathon comes highly recommended.
The official homepage for the Toda Marathon in Saiko is here, and entries can be made via runnet.