translated by Brett Larner
Tokyo International Women`s Marathon main sponsor Asahi Newspapers announced on Dec. 17 that the 30th edition of the race to be held next year on Nov. 16 will be its final running. With the shift in the Tokyo metropolitan government`s support to the mass-participation Tokyo Marathon, the Tokyo Police Department is now unwilling to issue road closure permits for 2 marathons. A spokesperson from the JAAF commented, "There is nothing we can do to stop the race from being cancelled." With an eye to the future, "We are looking at other locations and opportunities for a new women-only marathon."
The Tokyo International Women`s Marathon was founded in 1979 as the world`s first women-only marathon. 50 women ran in the first running and very few finished, leading many commentators of the time to hold the view that it was too soon for women`s marathoning. Nevertheless, the Tokyo International Marathon was one of the triggers for the women`s marathon being added to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and as such is an important part of the foundation of women`s marathoning.
At this year`s 29th edition of the Tokyo International Women`s Marathon, Athens Olympics gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) ran a course record time of 2:21:37 to win. 2 further races remain to determine the women`s marathon team for the Beijing Olympics.
The JAAF`s Keisuke Sawagi said, "The Tokyo International Women`s Marathon played an important role in the history of women`s marathoning, but the times have changed." Yuko Arimori countered, "I hope a way can be found to adapt this event to suit the era. The Tokyo International Women`s Marathon has been crucial in the development of athletes from around the world."
On the same day that the cancellation of the Tokyo International Women`s Marathon was released, the JAAF announced that in 2009 the mass-participation Tokyo Marathon will move to Mar. 22 due to the Tokyo metropolitan government`s concerns about weather conditions and other factors. Both this year`s inaugural Tokyo Marathon and next year`s running were scheduled for mid-February.
The Tokyo Marathon also serves as a selection race for Olympic and World Championship men`s teams. Toshihiko Seko commented, "The end of March is too late for a selection race. Most of the top talent will skip Tokyo and run one of the earlier selection races." Nevertheless, the JAAF decided to move the race to March rather than to an earlier date as had been proposed.
The JAAF also announced that the selections for the Beijing Olympic team will take place at the National Track and Field Championships in Todoroki, Kanagawa Prefecture from June 26 to 29. Athletes who win their events and break the Olympic A-standard in the meet will be selected for the Olympic team. Kenyan athletes who reside in Japan are currently not be allowed to take part, but discussion on this point are underway.
Translator`s note: Putting these two stories together, it seems possible that these moves are being made to enable the Tokyo Marathon to join the World Marathon Majors. Tokyo has been in discussion with the WMM since the marathon was still in planning and invited the race directors of all 5 majors to attend the first running. The main obstacle to Tokyo`s inclusion is the absence of an elite women`s field; the Tokyo Marathon absorbed the elite men`s Tokyo International Marathon and the elimination of the Tokyo International Women`s Marathon could be read as leading to a similar absorption with the aim of overcoming this obstacle. Race Results Weekly`s article on this topic quotes Tokyo International Women`s Marathon elite athlete coordinator Wataru Ogushi as denying that this is the case, but it is hard to see the Tokyo Marathon having any serious ambitions as an international event without an elite women`s field. There are many pros and cons to each aspect of these stories, not only the elimination of a respected women`s race or the impact of the date change upon the many long-standing marathons, elite and amateur, already held in Japan in March, but also the ramifications of the Tokyo Marathon becoming a significant world event.