translated and edited by Brett Larner
Following recent news that the Nagoya International Women's Marathon will drop its elite-only format to become a mass-participation race beginning in March, 2012, the cities of Osaka and Kobe have announced the dates for the first runnings of their new mass-participation marathons. Osaka will hold the first Osaka Marathon on Oct. 30, 2011 with a field limit of 30,000 on par with London and the world's four other great marathons, a seven-hour time limit, and wheelchair and family run divisions. The first edition of the Kobe Marathon will take place three weeks later on Nov. 20, 2011 with a field size of 20,000 and a time limit of seven hours. Applications for Kobe, which will also feature quarter-marathon (app. 10 km) and 1-3 km family run divisions, will open in April.
Osaka's course will be publically announced in January or February, but some preliminary details concerning the route were made available. The Osaka Marathon will begin at Osaka Castle, pass by many of Osaka's major public attractions, and finish in front of the waterfront Intex Osaka International Exhibition Center. With an aim for the Osaka Marathon to become a major charity event, organizers will select seven charities for which runners will raise funds. Each charity will be assigned a different-colored wristband and runners will join one charity's "team," wearing the appropriate wristband and creating a rainbow of color along the course. The rainbow theme is expected to become the Osaka Marathon's trademark feature.
The Kobe Marathon is designed to show how the city has returned from the disaster of the Great Hanshin Earthquake to renew itself as a world-class city. The course begins in front of Kobe City Hall and tours many of the downtown areas that were most heavily damaged in the earthquake before finishing at the Port Island waterfront park. The city will invite victims of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake in China and this year's Haiti Earthquake as guests of honor, pairing them with local residents who will offer their hospitality in the form of homestays. Organizers intend for the race to raise money to help with supplying water and other relief to earthquake-stricken areas around the world. The runners themselves can look forward to sampling many of Kobe's reknowned local delicacies.
Beyond Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe, Kyoto is expected to make an announcement soon concerning the first running of its new marathon in the winter of 2011-2012, making the Kansai region home to four large new marathons. The venerable Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in Kyushu is also said to be considering adding a women's field and relaxing its entry standards to accomodate slower runners.