City-run marathons take big steps to resume

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Participants run past the start line at the Toyama Marathon on Nov. 7.

City-run marathons featuring members of the general public have returned to various locations nationwide this winter, and it is apparent they have done so under strict measures to prevent coronavirus infections.

Races involving 10,000 runners, which had to be canceled last year in the midst of the pandemic, gradually reappeared on the calendar this year, with event organizers keeping a close eye on the spread of variants.

From Kanazawa

Marathon events in urban areas kicked off on Oct. 31 with the Kanazawa Marathon.

The event was online-only last year, but this time, about 9,800 entrants took part as the virus had subsided.

About 9,900 runners trotted through the crisp air on Nov. 7 in the Toyama Marathon, with 1992 Barcelona Olympics silver medalist Yuko Arimori on hand as a guest runner.

In Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, the Nomaoi-no-sato Healthy Marathon Race was held on Dec. 5 for the first time in two years, attracting about 2,000 participants. The race was conducted online last year.

“It had been quite a while since I was able to run through the quake-hit area,” a 52-year-old participant from Tokyo said. “And it was like a breath of fresh air to hear the cheers along the course.”

Self-governing rules

Organizers implement infection control measures in line with guidelines drawn up in June 2020 by the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, also considering the advice of doctors and experts.

They mainly establish rules such as requiring participants to submit documentation of health checkups, and limiting the size of competitions to help avoid crowded settings.

Some organizers went a step further, asking participants not to participate if they were from regions under a state of emergency or areas taking emergency-level priority measures.

Moving forward, organizers planning to hold races must closely monitor the number of omicron variant infections, or the sixth wave of the outbreak.

International races

Infection status for runners up to one month prior to the event will affect the decision to hold the Shonan International Marathon, scheduled for Feb. 20, 2022, in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Despite being hopeful about holding the race, organizers will require participants to undergo a PCR test or have completed a second round of vaccinations, while also asking that spectators refrain from gathering along the course to cheer on the runners.

There are already more than 10,000 entrants for the race, and additional applications were being accepted as of Friday.

“The Tokyo Olympics were able to take place even though it was a state of emergency. We should do everything we can to get ready to hold the event, rather than cancelling,” a Shonan marathon organizer said.