translated and edited by Brett Larner
On Oct. 22 the organizers of the Nov. 16 Yokohama International Women's Marathon revealed that the event, jointly operated by the JAAF and the Asahi Newspaper group, will be discontinued after this year's sixth running due to ongoing financial difficulties with the race. As a continuation of the former Tokyo International Women's Marathon it played an important role in establishing the prosperity of Japanese women's distance running over its 36-year history, a history on which the curtain is now set to fall after this year's race.
Established in 1979 to encourage the participation and development of female athletes, the Tokyo International Women's Marathon was the first women-only marathon in the world to be officially certified by the IAAF and led directly to the introduction of a women's marathon to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. It laid the foundations for Japanese women to win marathon medals at four straight Olympics from Barcelona in 1992 through Athens in 2004. In 2009 the event was relocated from Tokyo to Yokohama.
In recent years the JAAF has changed its direction, focusing on supporting the launch of new marathons in cities across the country. As mass-participation marathons like the Tokyo Marathon continue to gain popularity they have sought to continue to support elite women-only races, but the weakening performances of Japanese women in recent years has led to declining interest from sponsors.
Translator's note: Sad but unsurprising news. The Yokohama International Women's Marathon's move from Tokyo to Yokohama was a direct result of the expansion of the Tokyo Marathon from an elite men's race to a mass-participation format and was due in large part to issues with obtaining road closure permits from the Tokyo police. The move to Yokohama itself killed off the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden, another long-standing event, in favor of the marathon.
This article does not mention that Yokohama will also begin to host a mass-participation marathon, the Yokohama Marathon, in March 2015, but that is surely also related to the discontinuation of Yokohama International. With Fukuoka launching a mass-participation marathon next month there have to be concerns about the future of the Asahi Newspaper-organized Fukuoka International Marathon, an historic elite men's race just four weeks later which has struggled in recent years to attract top Japanese men due to the increasing importance of the New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships and has already examined moving from its traditional date at the beginning of December to February.