translated by Mika Tokairin and edited by Brett Larner
Having brought some of the world's best runners to race in Sapporo for the last 55 years, it has been decided that the 2012 edition of the Sapporo International Half Marathon will be its final running.
The Sapporo International Half Marathon, starting and finishing at Maruyama Field, passing through the streets of downtown Sapporo and Odori Park and turning around at Shiraishi in East Sapporo, is known to be a race that produces good times due both to its course and to favorable weather. In recent years it has served as a selection race for the Japanese team at the World Half Marathon Championships. At this year's 55th running on July 1st, a total of 323 runners including both men and women started the race, with a very high 98% finisher rate.
At the 43rd running in 2000, Naoko Takahashi won the women's race as a step toward her gold medal at the Sydney Olympics later that summer. A year later in 2001 Mizuki Noguchi, who later won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, raced head-to-head against Sydney silver medalist Lidia Simon (Romania), losing by 5 seconds but gaining experience that was crucial toward her Olympic success.
It is very rare to hold a half-marathon in mid-summer in Japan, and in that sense it has been very meaningful to have this race in Sapporo. However, when the four bodies involved in organizing the race met to discuss the future editions they came to the conclusion that its prospects, both financially and in terms of value to the media, were limited, and it was determined that the best course of action was to cease holding the race. The proposal to discontinue the race was submitted to the Japanese Federation, one of its advisory bodies, who accepted the decision.
We would like to express our deep gratitude to all the organizations related to the race, including each o the sponsors, the Hokkaido Police Headquarters, the security companies and others. We hope to continue to contribute to the development of athletics and sports in the future and ask for you continued support.
Translator's note: The Sapporo International Half Marathon was one of the world's greatest half marathon events, with course records of 1:08:14 by Mizuki Noguchi in 2006 and 59:54 by Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) in 2007. Click here for a complete list of past winners. In recent years its start time had been pushed back to mid-afternoon to meet the requirements of race broadcaster Nihon TV, and the sudden announcement of the race's termination suggests NTV's complete withdrawal of its support.
The termination of the race after 55 years follows the elimination of the elite field from Sapporo's Hokkaido Marathon this year. Sapporo International now joins other elite half marathons including the Miyazaki Women's Half Marathon, Kobe Women's Half Marathon and Nagoya Half Marathon to disappear or be incorporated into large mass-participation events.