Organized by the city of Nikko every November since 2014, the all-uhill Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden has been discontinued. Likewise, the mass-participation Nikko Highway Marathon running up Nikko's famous tree-lined Nikko-Utsunomiya Road has also been discontinued. For both races, participation rates have been lower than expected and on a downward trend.
According to organizers and the city government, the Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden was created with the intention of it becoming a high-profile event for university women like the Hakone Ekiden is for university men, but fewer top-level universities than expected showed interest in running it. The number of teams peaked at 18 in 2015, but last year it fell to record low levels with only 13 teams from 12 schools.
The Nikko Highway Marathon was billed as featuring a course normally accessible only by car. The field size was set at a maximum of 8000, but in its first edition in 2014 it had only 3400 runners. This fell to 2100 in 2015, leading organizers to postpone the event for review in 2016 and 2017.
Both races featured uniques courses with the downside of making it difficult for spectators to cheer freely from the roadside. Local residents had also called for improvement to the events. Nikko mayor Fumio Saito commented, "I regret that we were not able to achieve out original goal of making Nikko into 'holy ground,' but this was the decision of the organizing committee."
translated by Brett Larner