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Tokyo Marathon Announces Major Course Change for 2017

translated by Brett Larner
click here for a map of the 2017 Tokyo Marathon course

Thanks to your support, last month the Tokyo Marathon celebrated its tenth edition as an annual event since its first running in 2007.  During those ten years the landscape has changed dramatically, from redevelopment in the city center that has brought about a spectacular new Tokyo cityscape to the evolution of the marathon as a high-speed event and the rise to international prominence of wheelchair racing.  Thus, from the twin perspectives of showing the best of modern Tokyo inside and out and of offering a course capable of producing the fastest times in the world, the Tokyo Marathon will feature a new course beginning with 2017's race.

Translator's note:  Roughly 13-14 km of the 2017 course will cover new and flatter ground, the rest representing a shuffling of current segments.  The new course keeps the same starting point at Tokyo city hall but eliminates the unpopular hilly and barren last 6 km, moving the finish point to its originally envisioned location between the western side of Tokyo Station and the eastern side of the Imperial Palace.  

To achieve this the course will no longer pass the Imperial Palace between 5 and 10 km, instead heading through more nondescript business districts to a new 10 km point at Nihonbashi.  There it picks up the out-and-back to Asakusa that formed the third quarter of the old course, with the addition of an entirely new ~9 km out-and-back segment on the eastern side of the Sumida River between 16 and 25 km before returning through Ginza.  The ~10 km long out-and-back to Shinagawa that formed the second quarter holding pattern of the old course now makes up its last 10 km, with the finish outside Tokyo Station offering the only glimpse of the Imperial Palace.  

As such the new course is both a win and a loss, doubtlessly succeeding in the goal of being faster but pretty questionable on the other goal of showcasing the best of Tokyo despite the elimination of the bridges-and-landfill blight of the old finish.  The politics of dealing with the Tokyo police department and the Imperial Household Agency are complex, but while it's not the best remix that could have been done the new course should at the very least make up for its shortcomings by offering the average runner better crowd support late in the race and far more convenient post-race logistics.


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