translated by Brett Larner
A favorite of athletes from junior high to the corporate leagues, Hyogo prefecture's Himeji Castle Road Race is set to be discontinued after February's 54th running. With a new Himeji Castle World Heritage Site Marathon set to be launched in 2015, the 10-miler's race organization committee will be dismantled and the event's long history of hosting many of the country's best athletes will come to an end.
According to the Hyogo Prefecture Track and Field Association's 50th anniversary commemorative magazine, in 1948 there was a move to inaugurate a series of 10-mile road races in January in all the major cities of the country, but in 1960 the series came to a halt. With Hyogo's event having been held at Himeji Castle since 1954 and having already developed a reputation as a fast course, it was relaunched in 1961 as the first Himeji Castle Road Race with a certified course under the auspices of the Kinki Track and Field Association. The rest is history.
For corporate league and university men, the 10-mile division has been the main draw. Winners have included Tatsuya Moriguchi (Team Kobe Seiko), a member of the ill-fated Moscow Olympics men's long distance team, Hakone Ekiden star and now Waseda University head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe (Waseda Univ.), and men's marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka (Team Kanebo).
In 1990 other divisions were added to allow junior high school-aged runners to compete. London Olympics marathoner Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) and Beijing Olympics track runners Kensuke Takezawa (Team Sumitomo Denko) and Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) were among the countless local junior high school students to run, each of them scoring wins.
Hyogo Track and Field Association director Masaaki Uetsuki commented, "There's a touch of sadness about this decision, but this race has played its role in making Hyogo the home of Japanese distance running. Now we want to support as wide a range of runners as possible and make the Himeji Castle Marathon as popular and successful as we can."