Thursday, March 29, 2018

Nagoya Women's Marathon 2018 Expo

As far as expos go, Nagoya Women’s Marathon’s expo was by far one of the smallest I’ve ever gone for. I expected it to be bigger, with more grandeur befitting of the world’s largest women only marathon event.

Nevertheless I was excited to see what the expo had to offer. In hopes of getting some event exclusive merchandise, I went on the first day of the expo to collect my race kit. The collection for foreigners and international participants at the Nagoya Higashi Sport Center was fast with volunteers and staff all around to help.

The languages they can speak were visible on their vest which made it easy to get help. All one needed for the race kit collection was the passport (original or photocopy) and number card which the race organisers sent out via email three weeks before the race. The number card indicated the bib number and also which pen the runner will be starting from. The Nagoya Dome Mae subway train station was decorated in signs indicating where to go as soon as one got off making it an easy walk to the venue.

I completed my collection within 5 minutes of entering and exited with a Menard woven bag, my bib, the baggage drop bag, bag sticker and some flyers from the sponsors. The programme book also included the expo layout, the finalised course route and cut off times but most of the information was in Japanese. I would recommend referring to the online version instead as it came completely in English.

After collecting my race kit, I brisk-walked over to Nagoya Dome and glimpsed the start line on the way. There were many volunteers and signs to direct visitors on where to go as the race kit collection for the locals were held at the Dome. The expo, right smack in the center of the dome, went hand-in-hand with the finish line and what a sight it made from the higher spectator seats.

I immediately made a beeline for New Balance, lined up side by side with the Menard booth. I will admit, I was disappointed when I learnt that Nike was no longer the official apparel sponsor for this race. I’ve seen their merchandise and shirt design for the previous races and those were nice and attractive as memorabilia. Furthermore, my preferred running shoes has always been the Nike Pegasus range for years.

As it turned out, my disappointment was valid when I saw New Balance’s products for the event. The event-exclusive shirts looked pretty genetic. Other event products were such as sweatbands, caps (not even drifit material) and towels. I couldn’t find anything remotely useful for running and simply moved on to the next booth.

The Tokyo Marathon expo was held over two levels and it took me four hours to properly sweep the entire area for running products and merchandise. The Kyoto Marathon’s expo, also held over two floors in a hall near the finish line, displayed an exhibition of the race’s history and even had a 3D display of the course route.

Meanwhile, the Nagoya Women’s Marathon hosted only the main sponsors and few smaller booths with no clear dictation of the walking flow. As a result, I did almost miss out a few things such as the Sydney Marathon booth. A few runners even missed out on the wall of runner’s names.

Because I was early, I managed to snap a photo at the Seiko booth. Okinawa prefecture did command a sizable booth and was promoting their running events. Having just flown in from the southern most island of Japan itself and sporting a sunburn from being in the hot sun there, I was excited to snatch up a few English flyers.

I snapped a few photos of the finishing line and grabbed a bite at the food stalls at the expo. I would advice you to eat at the Aeon mall next door as the prices at the expo were on the high end. After a quick lookover again at the product again, I headed back to Nishiki to check into Red Planet Nishiki Nagoya and to rest my legs. I went to the expo again the following day to meet up with some of the Malaysian runners and a friend and to also check out the crowd.

While even more crowded with more runners arriving on the eve of run, it wasn’t overwhelmingly congested like Tokyo which was good. The New Balance booth saw a queue for their T-Shirts but once again, nothing caught my eye. I really wished they had an official event windbreaker or jacket like the ones sponsored for the staff and volunteers or even socks or running gloves. Hopefully they would improve on their merchandising next year.

Of course, the main attraction of the expo was the finish line and the Tiffany counters where we could be handed the finishing pendant from Tiffany upon completion of the race. The main reason why this race remains the most highly balloted women’s marathon in the world. Unlike Kyoto and Tokyo Marathon, the design of the pendant and finisher shirt wasn’t revealed until the eve of the race at the expo and on Facebook. While the event merchandise left much to be desired, the finisher entitlements had me excited and motivated to see through to the end of the race.

Some tips for the Nagoya Women’s Marathon expo:
1) Go on the first day to beat the crowd and to get first dibs on the products.
2) Go in the morning of the second day to beat the crowd.
3) Bring cash. Only the major booths have credit card facilities.
4) You can still browse around the expo after the race.
5) For meals, just go to the Aeon mall next door for a bigger variety and different price ranges.
6) Don’t expect discounts on the last day of the expo aka race day as everything is at a fixed price.

Also, despite being a sponsor of the race, Tiffany doesn't have a booth at the expo although they do have a display of the past race pendants and the current winner trophies. According to the organisers, until August, finishers can get their timing engraved into their pendants at Tiffany shops in only Japan. What they don’t tell you is that, it will cost 1,600yen plus tax. However the process would take three weeks to do which isn’t ideal for foreigners unless you have a local friend who can mail the pendant back to you.

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