Skip links

Finding My Legs Again in Tokyo


On Sunday March 3, I joyfully ran-walked the Tokyo Marathon, earning my fifth star 🌟 in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Series. I’m not typically a run-walker, so let me explain how I got there.

In April of last year, I completed California’s Big Sur Marathon. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the course, it’s very hilly 🌄 with almost 2,200 feet of elevation gain and over 2,500 feet of descent along the beautiful Central Coast. Miles 10-12 are particularly beastly, featuring a 500+ foot ascent to Hurricane Point. In preparation for this iconic race I spent a lot of time training on hills, including nearly 20 ascents of Harlem Hill in a week, 11 of them on a single long run. Little did I know I was overworking my body and would pay for it dearly after the race.😓

My husband David Ezra and I ran Big Sur together, and we had a lovely experience taking in the scenery along the Pacific Coast while being challenged by the topography. We enjoyed a few days afterwards on the Monterey Peninsula and tasting wines 🍷🍷🍇 in Paso Robles, recovering from the marathon.

Back in New York a week later, I took my first running steps and immediately felt pain in my left hamstring that grew worse as I continued. The same thing happened on a subsequent run the next day, so I stopped and made an appointment with my physical therapist that turned into three months of treatment. When I resumed running, the pain discouragingly returned. It was time to figure out what was happening inside my body. 

An MRI revealed two high partial tears of my left hamstring tendons along with moderate tendinosis. Plans to attempt to train for the Amsterdam Marathon in October were abandoned, and after some rest and time moping around feeling sorry for myself it was time to find a new PT who could nurse me back to health. Adding to the pressure were the Tokyo and London marathons looming in Spring 2024, for which David and I had each secured charity bibs and which would mark the end of our World Marathon Majors six-star journey.

Friend and fellow Flyer Shitij Arora recommended Josh Grahlman at Clutch PT, with whom I got to work on a careful program for recovery. I committed to daily strength training and performed all of the exercises he gave me, of which there were many.💪 At the same time, I began communicating with Flyers Coach Amy Sitar. Both were a little unsure of my ambitions to run Tokyo in just a few months but we set our sights on it.

After two months with Josh and as the December holidays passed, he gave me permission to start working with Amy. With only about eight weeks to get ready for the race she devised a training plan, which she and I evaluated from week to week, to get me to the starting line in Japan. The secret sauce would be run-walking, which I’d had no experience with before, along with runs only every other day to lessen the impact on my hamstring and continue to give it time to heal. We would rely on my decade of experience running marathons to make up for the short and light training cycle.

The plan worked, amazingly. My body held up. I packed my bag for Tokyo cautiously excited, and off David and I went on a journey halfway across the world. Four days later on a cool and sunny morning, having (mostly) adjusted to the fourteen-hour time difference, I stood in the corral with a big grin on my face. It was showtime.

Never was I so appreciative for the opportunity to run a race. As I crossed the starting line, I found a run-walk rhythm. I took in all of the sights and sounds, looking at the inspiring people around me, from my fellow amateurs to Eliud Kipchoge and all of the other elite runners as they passed by across the road during an out-and-back section of the course. As I grew tired and began to fade, I kept smiling and thinking about how lucky I was to be racing again.😊

When I finally crossed the finish line, I jumped for joy and began to cry. I had feared maybe my marathoning days were behind me. But no, with the help of Josh and Amy, it was possible once again. After receiving my medal, I found David and we slowly walked back to the hotel together, ready to rest and enjoy a beautiful visit in Tokyo and Kyoto. And to think about London, up next.

-Mary Beth Ezra