translated by Brett Larner
A new Japanese national record in the marathon will now be worth 100 million yen. To provide extra motivation to the Japanese marathoning world in the buildup to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Japan Industrial Track and Field Association overseeing the country's corporate running league has approved plans to establish the exceptional bonus [worth roughly $1 million USD at normal exchange rates] and will make the formal decision at a meeting of its board of directors in Tokyo on March 18.
The national records symbolize the stagnation of Japan's marathoning world. They have not been touched since Toshinari Takaoka ran 2:06:16 in 2002 and Mizuki Noguchi ran 2:19:12 in 2005. In the Olympics as well, nobody has won a medal since Koichi Morishita took silver at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and Noguchi gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
However, thanks to the popularity of the ekiden the depth of athletes has increased tremendously, and if that can be channeled into the marathon then success at the Tokyo Olympics will become a possibility. In addition to the bonus for athletes who break the record, their coaches will also be paid 50 million yen [~$500,000 USD] with the goal of creating an active focus not just on the ekiden but also on the marathon.
There are still issues to be faced with collecting funds for the bonus from sponsors, but plans call for the bonus to be in place by the fall with possible provisions to extend it to athletes outside the corporate league as well.