Frustration in Tokyo as Runners Deal With Strict Cutoffs

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Tokyo, Japan - February 22, 2015: Spectators, athletes and volunteers at the Tokyo Marathon.

The Tokyo Marathon has notoriously strict cutoff times. It was reported b participants that ‘hundreds of runners’ were prevented from continuing the race after the 10 kilometer cutoff.

Tokyo Marathon Cutoff Times – 2019 Runners Handbook

The race started at 9:10 AM. The last runners started more than 20 minutes after the gun. While the cutoff times are harsh, and do not represent a consistent pace, they should not have come as a surprise to the participants.

The runner captured at the end of this video was caught off guard and was particularly irate.

While I can empathize with the man’s frustration, his reaction towards the volunteers cannot be justified. This could have been avoided had he spent 30 minutes looking through The Runner’s Handbook.

Through social media, he explained that he stopped to use the restroom, causing him to miss the 11:00 am cutoff.

“As I reached mile 6, I headed to the line that had at least 500 people waiting to take a potty break. 30 minutes later, I headed to the 10k mark to find that the Tokyo Marathon official had closed the race stating it was the rules we did not make the time allocated to reach the 10k mark…”

“…my race was interrupted by unknown rules that were never publicly presented.”

“It was all in the fine print of the registration form they would have cut off times, what they didn’t tell you was you got no credit for Potty Breaks!!!”

Not exactly true. The cutoff times were clearly printed in the Runner’s Handbook. It wasn’t fine print. It was clear that it did not matter what time you crossed the starting line, or whether you stopped for a “Potty Break”.

As it turns out, the man did manage to return to the course, likely cutting approximately 20 kilometers off of the course.

“I Found a Way to get back on the course, but that did not get me the results I was looking for as to qualifying the Tokyo Marathon”

After being cut at the 10km point, his next timing split registered at 30k. He registered a finishing time of 3:28:58 before being removed from the results. It is apparent that he crossed the street at around the point where he was stopped, cutting off nearly 20km from the course.

This is a perfect example of why runners need to be aware of the rules. The cutoff times were not a secret.

“I felt like it was 1942 all over again and at some point you got to stand up and fight for what you believe is important to you”

“It’s just the American way finding a solution under all circumstances and then finishing what you started out to do.”

This runner was not singled out. He was in the same exact position as all those other runners that missed the cutoff. He deserved no special consideration as an American. The Tokyo Marathon is strict with their rules, and they do not make exceptions.

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56 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, way to embrace the ugly American stereotype. On what planet does it matter if you stop for a potty break or are just too slow to make a checkpoint? Ignorance of the rules aren’t an excuse. Sometimes I really hate people.

  2. There’s a certain type of white male that has to link everything back to previous wars isn’t there? In the UK if a German ever ‘steps out of line’ it’s bloody WWII again, and it seems any slight by the Japanese against a US citizen is ‘Pearl Harbor’ territory.

  3. “I felt like it was 1942 all over again and at some point you got to stand up and fight for what you believe is important to you”

    Wow, did he just equate walking across the street to skip 20 km off a marathon to the sacrifices made to end a global conflict during WWII? As an American, I feel the need to apologize to Japan for this guy’s behavior.

  4. While I understand his frustration, it’s Tokyo, one of the most crowded cities in the world. They can’t keep the streets closed for long when so many people need to use them. The video makes me cringe, seeing an angry American screaming at volunteers in another country. And bringing WWII into his post? I can’t imagine why he even wanted to visit Japan.

  5. What a terrible human being, to fight over one of the most privileged things you can do, run for a really long time for the hell of it, while paying thousands to do so.

  6. Look at the tone and reaction of the woman at the beginning of the short video (and everyone else in camera view) – calm, respectful, following the rules. The man at the end instead is angry, cursing, and shouting, “rules, nuthin’ “. I’ll never forget a quote from one of my professors – “we are known by the least of us”. What a horrible way to represent our country. No wonder so many people hate Americans.

    Another sad fact is that he was doing the race for St. Jude Children’s Hospital (and is apparently a greater part of the charity community); what a poor reflection on them. This is like road rage on foot, where seemingly ‘normal’ and ‘respectable’ people just lose it when others respond calmly and appropriately when life doesn’t always go their way.

    It’s hard to believe that since he was part of a group of charity team was unaware of the rules. I have never run Tokyo and those cutoffs are all I’ve been hearing about for the past six months. Certainly if I was running a race (I have), especially in a foreign country (I have), I would have been (and was) well aware of the rules.

  7. Given his abuse of race volunteers and his general attitude, he should be banned from any other IAAF rules events in perpetuity.

  8. 1, Abott should take this seriously and ban him from all Majors for few years. Not because of the attack on volunteer (but now when I read his silly excuses…), but for the ‘American way of finding solution…’ . Disobeying orders from event organizers can get you in trouble in many countries, including US I believe…

    2, Cut-offs were clearly described in runners handbook circulated weeks before race, in printed guidebook every runner received at the Expo and on the course were big banners at every cut off, telling where is the next one, what time it closes and there were clocks showing real time next to them. What else do you want

    3, Corral K runners could have easily ignore closing time for corral and go to toilet in the already vacated start area. Because what happened, if you were not in corral by 8:45 and they closed? You had to start from the back, meaning corral K… Thinking and planning.

    4, Volunteers deserve out big respect. They were smashed by heavy rain on Thursday at the Expo (happening in tents), some of them being there the full day and still smiling. Also on race day, weather was miserable (Reuters), they were along the course much longer than majority of runners, doing great job. For what? To be insulted by ‘runner’?

    5, I have got my first unregistered mat in my life at 20k. Hope not to get email from Derek 🙂

  9. I can understand guy was pissed because he probally blew a lot of money just for “Traveling” costs.

    However he should of had more tact. Definitely gives us yankees a bad name.

    Also despite this guys behavior, Tokyo needs to have qualifying times to just enter the lotto to help alleviate this and get the message across.

    The marathon completion time is 7 hrs per their site and all I see if qualifying times for elites.

    According to the story here, the cut off for the first 10k or 6ish miles is 1-1:20 depending on start wave.

    If anything, this is going to encourage slower runners to start/sneak in first waves unless Tokyo does qual times. I personally hate that as it causes traffic jams (unless course is wide enough).

  10. only beginners don’t read the race guidelines and take note of cut-offs or turning points. this cut-off is actually not that strict – even run and walkers can manage it.

  11. So the runners had 1:50 to run 10k? Even with a 20 minute late start and spending 30 minutes in a porta potty line (sigh), they had 1 hour, a 9:39 pace? Yes I know people compete at all levels in all kinds of bodies. But geez. Maybe there should be a “soft” qualification standard for a race like this in addition to lottery, say a 5:30 marathon in the year before registration.

  12. Japan is a very rules-based country. Society is very orderly because everyone follows the rules. This guy is the epitome of the “Gaijin” stereotype in Japan; doesn’t bother to learn the rules/customs, is rude and throws a fit in public, expects that the rules shouldn’t apply to him, is arrogant and not humble in any way, does not take responsibility for his mistakes. How embarrassing.
    (Source: I lived in Tokyo)

  13. I hope they called a ‘waaaambulance’ for him, it sounds like a crisis situation. And who over 10 calls it a ‘potty break’? I’m sorry that his run was cut short, that’s a horrible end to his training, but taking it out on the volunteers isn’t appropriate.

  14. He really thought he’d get a credit against his time for potty breaks?!? He’s an idiot as well as an entitled prick.

    • What? You’ve never run a marathon where you punch out before going to the bathroom and then punch back in when you start running.. and then the sweepers will look for those punch cards, run the numbers, and decide whether or not to sweep you? And then if you aren’t swept, have another dedicated sweeper assigned to you based on your potty-adjusted time?

  15. “…that did not get me the results I was looking for as to qualifying the Tokyo Marathon”.

    What does that even mean? I mean, he was obviously in no rush if he waited in the bathroom line for 30 minutes.

    • The best I can interpret that comment is “that did not get me the results I was looking for, as to [BOSTON] qualifying the Tokyo marathon”. But who knows with this tool.

  16. Just another entitled delta-bravo that blames everyone (in this case, including history) but himself, especially for his lack of reading and respect for rules. It’s a double-whammy because Japan is one of the most hospitable, civilized countries in the world (i.e. you feel safer just landing there).

  17. So he spend aprox 90 min to run the first 10km and then claims that he was aiming for a qualifying time (if he had not been stopped)???

    The guy should be banned from all future major races within the big5 group due to how he behaves in front of the officials – that is never okay. And afterward he acts like he is an all-American hero because he cut course. His charity group must be proud of being accociated with him.

    • He took 90 mins to complete the first 10km, rejoined the course at around the 29km mark (based on the route map), and finished at 3:28:58, implies he covered the next 13km in 2 hours. What qualifying time is he talking about? Such a repulsive behavior and still has the cheek to write about it online. He should be banned from all marathons and should be sued by the organizers for slander.

      I was at the race on March 3. The Japanese organizers and volunteers were nothing but polite and respectful. They do not deserve any of these vicious lies.

  18. Wow.

    While I can understand the frustration (spending a lot of money to travel and run in one of the WMM), the behavior is inexcusable. It’s not like they re-wrote the rule book at 9:15a in order to surprise people and pull them off the course. What good would that do for the race?

    And while I highly doubt there was 500 people in line at a porto, even if it did take a long time to use it, why in the world did he think he was going to get a time credit for using it? Imagine if Kipchoge had to take a 5 minute bathroom break, ran a 2:04:50 and then claimed, with this potty-time-credit, that he finally broke 2!

    And the 1942 reference. Seriously? Him “standing up” against rules that existed, cutting a huge chunk off the course, and finishing a race illegally is really being compared to the heroic actions of the Greatest Generation destroying the Nazi regime? I’ll take two of whatever he’s smoking, because it’s obviously taking him somewhere outside the plane of our existence.

  19. Ditto all previous comments. One thing that got me was his statement “… finishing what you started out to do.” Yeah, by “any means necessary.” SMH! NO, you DIDN’T finish, you CUT the course and were thus DQ’ed! “Delta-Bravo” indeed! 🙂

  20. I throw the BS flag on this. I ran Tokyo as well- it was NOT a secret. There was a tent at the EXPO specifically dedicated to explaining the rules IN ENGLISH. They had big signs up talking about what was prohibited (water bottles, camelbacks, etc), and the time cutoffs were clearly displayed. On top of that- at each checkpoint there were signs that said THIS CHECKPOINT CLOSES at XXX time. NEXT CHECKPOINT is XXX Miles, and closes at xxx time. AND if that isn’t enough they had pace clocks IN ADDITION to race clocks. So about every 5k you could see what pace you were running (assuming you started at the gun)… The overall pace limit was well published… Oh yeah.. ONE MORE THING.. There was not a 30min potty line prior to 10k. Japanese are very efficient, they queued people up and cycled thrugh the line very quickly. I waited in one of the longest lines just after start and it was only 10min… I wasn’t sure if I had to go again, so I checked out all the lines leading up to the 10k mark… and thought I should have waited a little while these lines are much better.
    I moved to Japan in 2014.. these type of people give us a bad name in a country that is very strict, but also very kind, generous and friendly.

    • Excellent comment and couldn’t agree more if you’re in a foreign country learn the rules and good things will happen…

      Indeed there is no way of missing the cut offs ran TYO twice and was more than clear.

  21. While I agree this particular complainant is a jerk, the fact is that cut-off times are harshest on the least-able runners and those with least experience. The difference between gun time and when someone starting at the back of the block actually crosses the start line can be 20 minutes or more. Let’s take it as 20 minutes. To make up a 20-minute deficit in 10 km requires one to run 2 minutes a kilometer faster than planned for the first 10 km of a heavily congested race–not an easy task. Even spread over 42 km it works out at nearly 30 seconds a kilometer. Nowhere in any of the “How to run your first marathon” guides I’ve read does it say “Oh, and when figuring out your race pace, remember to calculate in a 20-minute penalty. Cut-off times should be adjusted to net time, not gun time.

    • If you don’t agree with what race organizers think are efficient cut off times, don’t run the race. You aren’t entitled to run the race, you are bound by their rules.

      Cut off times are usually dictated by permit / street opening times (Tokyo is a busy, busy city) and that kind of bureaucratic thing, so it doesn’t make sense to adjust to net time.

    • But you’re still looking at 90mins to run the first 10km. You can train for that pace right?

      I’ve run Tokyo twice in 2012 and 2013, can’t recall any cut-off times back then, but fortunately they would not have been a factor for me.

    • “the fact is that cut-off times are harshest on the least-able runners and those with least experience”
      Isn’t this self-evident whenever there are cutoff times anywhere? How could the reverse be true?

    • Even if you calculate on 20-minute penalty, you still have 90 minutes to run the first. That should be more than enough for everybody trying to run a marathon, and if someone is in the group that is cutting it close they should always be extra observant on time rules.

      Calculating a precise cut-off time for every participant is not possible. As everybody is saying, the cut-off time is due to the fact that they have to reopen the roads. And honestly, I dont know how hard it is to figure out that you have to be at the 10K mark before 11:00 or you will DNF. The same goes for the 7 hour cut-off for the whole marathon – which is based on gun-time, and i believe is the same everywhere in the world

    • Maybe a marathon isn’t for the ‘least able runners?’ Look I love a great ‘X overcomes adversity’ story but 7 hrs is a long time, esp. to close down roads in a mega-metropolis like Tokyo. Nobody should be going into a marathon planning on a 6:59 finish. Yeah, they do, but they shouldn’t. Injuries and conditions may set someone up for that kind of finish but unless one is officially ‘disabled’ this isn’t what people should be doing.

      P.S. If I was at that other website they would excoriate me as a ‘hobby jogger’ with my lame 4:20 PR. But 4:20 ain’t 7 hrs either.

  22. OMG, this is such BS. 500 people lined up for a potty break? Not a friggen’ chance – particularly at any potty line prior to the 10k mark. Check points and cut-off times are clearly displayed, both at the Expo, on the course, and of course in the Handbook.

    And this makes no sense:
    “As I reached mile 6, I headed to the line that had at least 500 people waiting to take a potty break. 30 minutes later, I headed to the 10k mark”.

    Six miles is 9.6 kilometers. He claims it took him 30 minutes to go to the bathroom and move 300 meters? Sorry, clearly a lie.

  23. I’m a Tokyo native. Sorry that they had to be swept. The traffic control is strictly enforced in Japan, especially in Tokyo. The race organizer has no power to extend the cut-off. The network of highway had many ramps closed on that day for the race, and they would have to be reopened on time. Any road in the central Tokyo is busy road. Nihon-bashi (Nihon bridge) at 10km is no exception.

    For the future I hope the race organizer would consider much earlier start time like 7am. That way they can afford a bit longer time without affecting traffic. That way it should be easier to obtain the permit from the police. Why wait until 9am when the traffic is already bad on the usual Sunday?

    • If you a Tokyo native you know nearly all people in Tokyo use the public transportation. Even if they drive, they cannot do that near Shinjuku on the race day. If you move the start time to 7am, you have to open the start area at 5am. That means the volunteers and the staff have to be there by 3:30 to 4am. How can they get there? Not everyone lives near the start line in Shinjuku. Runners can choose to stay at a near by hotel but you don’t expect the volunteers to do the same, right? Besides Boston and NYC starts later than Tokyo!

  24. Thomas represents the classic MI.com case.
    *Below average marathoner
    *Huge, self-aggrandizing social media presence populated by sychophants
    *Social media is open to all so that bragging and exaggerating reaches the maximum audience
    * A strong sense of self-righteousness because he/she is representative of a movement much larger that the individual
    *And, of course, overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to cross the finish line VICTORIOUS

  25. Just so I understand, the race started at 9:10 and they had until 11:00 to reach 10KM ? They do understand that this is a running event? Changing the units into ones I use for running, I make that around 17:30 minute miling, a brisk walk for me (because I have tried it out with my Garmin) is about 13:30 minute miling.

    • Exactly. Even WORST case scenario the back of the pack left the starting line at 9:40. That’s still 1:20 to run a 10k. That’s a 13.3min mile. Yes- that may be fast for some back of the pack runners, but this is a MARATHON, not a city fun run. All you had to do was make the cutoff and then maintain a 16min pace. Even the friendliest place on earth has a 16mm pace requirement.

        • Those balloon ladies strike fear in the hearts of those Disney fanatics that sign up because “It’s Disneyland!” and they don’t realize 13.1 miles a LONG distance. Lol! I’ve run a few Disney races (not fast but fast enough for Coral A or B) and volunteered at several here on the West Coast and the net of fear these balloon ladies cast always is funny.

  26. That’s an alpha right there. I’m certain he will be able to blow off steam this week-end by getting in fights with parents at a 10 year old girls soccer game.

  27. 500 people, a 30 minute wait, for a porta potty line during the race? I call bullshit on that. You see that many people in line, you keep running and find the next one.

  28. I hope they don’t let that crying jerk back into the the United States. We have enough real babies, and don’t need another over-entitled adult baby to deal with.

    But I’m sure the brat needs to get back to the U.S., like he needed to finish his marathon. Or else his bitch-ass won’t have a way to suck on his mama’s teat.

  29. The early part of the race is net downhill, so even with congestion, I would expect that to be the fastest part of the course.

  30. Hi Derek. There is no excuse for the behavior of this person. Absolutely NOT, especially when the Tokyo Marathon volunteers and officials were so splendid and kind. I would like to comment though, in regards the cut-off times: They were certainly very clear in the handbook. As we had a tragedy in the family we couldn’t train properly but we were CERTAIN that we could have completed the race within the time limit offered at time of registration: 7 hours. 1) The 7-hour limit was misleading as it is 7 hours from the start of the gun. The 5hr30min block (where we were) crossed the start line 22 minutes after the start. So we were in a 6:38 time limit, that we were also certain we could do as this was a 15:11 min/mile. There were hundreds of people behind us that crossed after 30 min. 2) The cut-off checkpoints were inconsistent. Going at our consistent pace jog/walk strategy of 14:30 we were going to be swept. That was no sufficient to pass the checkpoint at Km 30.1 (Mile 18.8) as it was super close to our time. We looked at each other at Km 28/mile and she said: mom, go!. I didn’t want to leave her behind but this is my 5th Major. I sprinted at km 28 (mile 17.5) as if the 30K was the finish line. Made it with 1min 27sec to spare. Daughter missed it by 1min. The worse frustration was when the second to last check point from 34.2K to 39.8K gave us 1h 10min to do these 5.6K (3.5 miles) which is a 20 min/mile. The last 2.4 Km to the finish line were for a 18:50 min/mile. With checkpoints for consistent paces daughter would’ve made it. It was very, very disappointing.

    • Agree totally. That was the point I was trying to make. Cut-off times should be adjusted to take into account the fact that they are based on gun time, not net time. And no one is asking for the city’s roads (and I live in Tokyo) be closed down ALL day–just that they be extended to accurately reflect the actual time from when the last runner managed to get across the start line. And given that just about every marathon–and certainly all the majors–uses timing chips, the actual finished time can be easily and accurately calculated.

  31. Yes Les, but also the paces for each cut-off should be all consistent. It was very frustrating for people that DNFd that could have finished keeping their consistent pace. It makes no sense for the back of the pack to have to go faster in some segments just to cross the checkpoint. The last two checkpoints provided so much time, that these minutes should have been spread in earlier checkpoints. It made the run stressful and all but enjoyable.

  32. No defending the guy but I ran the race. Here are my thoughts on this:

    1. Japanese are super rule oriented. So not surprised by the strictness.
    2. The bathroom situation was sort of weird. I’ve never had to literally RUN of the course quite a bit to get to a restroom and then have to go down two flights of stairs. I think I did lose about 5 mins going to the bathroom and there was barely a line. I would not be surprised if a bigger line took 15min+. I don’t think they had what I would consider on course restrooms.
    3. Asking a back of the packer to run the first 10km in their best time for a marathon is weird. Imagine if this applied to everyone. I’ve always been told to save some gas for the end. Dont go out too fast. Yet we expect the least able to follow a different set of rules. Feels wrong considering we allow a 7 hour finish.

  33. Really deplorable behavior by this individual. I also ran Tokyo this year. I agree with a lot that has been said already. I did talk with some other runners after I heard about people being upset about being swept. I can understand their disappointment especially since most folks coming from abroad are running it for to add to their 6 star WMM journey. It is a very large financial commitment and I’m guessing he was quite frustrated and upset. That being said you never ever treat another person like he did. Everyone we encountered on our trip was as kind, gentle and helpful as any I have ever met in my lifetime. And these volunteers were out there in pretty terrible conditions supporting the runners all day long. We have nothing but positive thoughts from our experience in Japan and I would wholeheartedly recommend this race to anyone looking for a really fast course along with an amazing life experience.

  34. No surprised at all! Like many Americans in other countries, he feel so superior. Just like your elected-President!
    You did’nt see the 2018’s Boston Marathon? …the commentators are so racist with Kawauchi!

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