Big Marathons Returning to Japan – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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Big Marathons Returning to Japan

Written by on November 12, 2021

Although the official new coronavirus case count 7-day average for the entire country of Japan has dropped below 200, about 1/5 that of New York City which hosted its marathon this past weekend, marathons as far away as the Mar. 13, 2022 Shizuoka Marathon are still citing pandemic risks and announcing fresh cancelations. Despite that, some of Japan’s marathons have bucked the trend of timidity and are bringing large-scale races back.

The Oct. 31 Kanazawa Marathon was the first, with 9,457 finishers and winning times of 2:17:03 by Junichi Ushiyama and an excellent 2:35:52 PB by 47-year-old Mai Fujisawa
On the Nov. 3 public holiday, the Gunma Marathon in Maebashi returned for its 31st running. 3,408 people finished, Taku Fujiwara winning the men’s race in 2:23:14 and Tomomi Sawahata winning for the fifth time in a course record 2:37:02.
The same day as New York, 8,880 people finished the 6th edition of the Toyama Marathon within its 7-hour limit. Hiroki Sugawa won the men’s race for the second time in 2:19:53, while Mitsuko Hirose, like Kanazawa winner Fujisawa 47 years old, scored a third win in the women’s race in 2:44:32.
Also Sunday, the Shimonoseki Kaikyo Marathon in Yamaguchi, the first of them to announce that it would go ahead for sure, held its 15th running, with a total of 4,308 people finishing. Keiichiro Tomomori set a course record 2:22:21 to win the men’s race, with Chika Yokota winning the women’s race for the third time in 2:49:25. Off a 1:24:17 first half 63-year-old Mariko Yugeta, the first woman 60 or older to break 3 hours in the marathon, ran 3:01:17, taking 6:31 off the previous single-age record.

Since the mass-participation Tokyo Marathon launched in 2007 Japan has seen a massive boom in both the number of people running and the number of new marathons in almost every mid- to large-sized city. One effect of the pandemic that we might be in the process of seeing is exposure of the fact that this might have been a bubble to some extent. Local politics and sponsor issues factor heavily in a race’s decision to go ahead, but one other aspect that seems to be coming to light is which races are being put on by people who really have a passion for what they’re doing and which were simply economic vehicles or a result of the social pressure of every other city on the map having a big marathon. Some of these races will thrive, but it won’t be a surprise to see many never come back.

© 2021 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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