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50,000 Sign Petition to Change Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon to Mass-Participation Format

http://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nnp/oita/article/115175

translated by Brett Larner

An organization seeking to change one of Japan's oldest elite marathons, the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon held each February in the cities of Oita and Beppu, delivered a petition with 50,000 signatures to the Oita Prefectural Government on Sept. 19.  After delivering the petition the group held a press conference at the Government headquarters, saying, "We call on race organizers to do their part to promote tourism and increase the number of people coming to the prefecture by making it possible for more amateur runners to participate in the race."

The group submitting the petition was the "Beppu-Oita Mainichi Mass Participation Marathon Citizens' Council" organized by members of the Beppu city tourism board.  Among the requests on the petition they delivered to Governor Katsusada Hirose were calls to relax the current sub-3:30 time requirement for participation and course changes involving a start in front of Beppu Station and a finish on Oita's main Chuo Dori street in front of Oita Station.

At the press conference, Citizens' Council chairman Katsumi Takamiya commented, "If the race opens the door to the average amateur it will have a tremendous impact on local tourism.  Road closures and many other issues remain challenges to be faced, but the benefits of developing Oita Prefecture's image as "Home of the Hot Spring" are tremendous."

Translator's note: The Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon relaxed its long-standing elite and sub-elite-only format in 2011 to allow amateurs up to the sub-3:30 level, including women, to run.  A wave of other historic elite-only races across the country have also moved to mass-participation formats in the last few years, some abandoning their elite components and others finding ways to incorporate them into the mass-participation event.  Oita Prefecture, and in particular the town of Beppu, is one of Japan's biggest hot spring hot spots.

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