Skip to main content

Shitara's Million-Dollar Payday

Since Yuta Shitara's national record-breaking 2:06:11 yesterday at the Tokyo Marathon I've been getting a lot of questions about the 100 million yen bonus he received for doing it. The bonus comes via Project Exceed, an initiative launched in 2015 by the National Corporate Federation to try to produce new men's and women's marathon national records ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Under the plan, any Japanese citizen, whether a registered corporate league athlete or not, who broke the men's national record of 2:06:16 or the women's record of 2:19:12 on a record-legal course would receive 100 million yen, roughly 760,000 Euro or $937,000 USD at today's exchange rate. The athlete's coach or team would also receive a separate 50 million yen (380,000 Euro or $468,000 USD) bonus for their role in having made the record happen. If more than one athlete broke the record in the same race, the other athletes breaking the record would receive 10 million yen (76,000 Euro / $94,000 USD), with their coach or team getting 5 million yen (38,000 Euro / $47,000 USD).

Project Exceed offers additional bonuses to corporate league-registered Japanese citizens. Any man under 2:07:00 or woman under 2:22:00 would be paid 10 million yen (76,000 Euro / $94,000 USD), their coach or team receiving 5 million yen (38,000 Euro / $47,000 USD). Any man under 2:08:00 or woman under 2:23:00 would receive 5 million yen (38,000 Euro / $47,000 USD), their coach or team getting 2.5 million yen (19,000 Euro / $23,000 USD).

In Shitara's case, 2nd place in Tokyo was worth 4 million yen, Tokyo also offering a Japanese NR bonus of 5 million yen. Combined with his Project Exceed bonus his earnings for the day came to 109 million yen (830,000 Euro or $1,022,000 USD) not including whatever unpublished time bonuses and appearance fees he may have received from Tokyo or bonuses paid by Nike or his corporate team sponsor Honda. His coach also walked away with a cool 50 million yen (380,000 Euro / $468,000 USD).

The second Japanese man in Tokyo, Hiroto Inoue, ran 2:06:54 for 5th overall. Inoue's prize money from Tokyo was 750,000 yen (5,700 Euro / $7,000 USD). By clearing 2:07:00 Inoue earned 10 million yen (76,000 Euro / $94,000 USD) from Project Exceed for a payday of 10,750,000 yen (82,000 Euro / $101,000 USD) plus unpublished bonuses and 5 million yen (38,000 Euro / $47,000 USD) for his coach.

Similarly, Mizuki Matsuda's 2:22:44 debut in Osaka last month earned her 5 million yen (38,000 Euro / $47,000 USD) from Project Exceed independent of whatever unpublished prize money and bonuses she earned directly from Osaka for winning it. Her coach also picked up 2.5 million yen (19,000 Euro / $23,000 USD). By contrast, as, to the best of my knowledge, Nike Oregon Project runner Suguru Osako is not registered with the National Corporate Federation, he and his coach would not have picked up the 5 million + 2.5 million bonus for the sub-2:08 he ran in Fukuoka in December.

The bonus surely played a role in Inoue hanging on to go just sub-2:07. You could see how much it meant to the Japanese athletes in Tokyo in the splits of Inoue's training partner Ryo Kiname, who closed the fastest in the field after 40 km but came up just short of the sub-2:08:00 cutoff for the 5 million yen bonus, finishing in 2:08:08 and earning only 400,000 yen (3,000 Euro / $3,750 USD) for his trouble.

You can't always solve problems by throwing money at them and being motivated by the potential to make bank is still a relatively novel concept for most corporate leaguers, but in this case it worked. Shitara went all in, pulled out the record, and walked away a millionaire. Good on him. If that's what it's going to take to take things to the next level then others elsewhere would do well to follow Project Exceed's lead.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Fukuoka Winner Yuma Hattori: "Running Isn't Fun"

At the Dec. 2 Fukuoka International MarathonYuma Hattori (25, Toyota) ran 2:07:27 to win and become the eighth-fastest Japanese man ever. It was the first time since 2004 that a Japanese man became the Fukuoka champion. Hattori now stands among the leading competitors in the fierce battle to make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon team.

Hattori and his younger brother Hazuma Hattori (23, Toenec) were star members of Toyo University's 2014 Hakone Ekiden winning team. They rank among the most famous brothers in Japanese athletics, but neither of them actually wanted to be a runner. "I wanted to play soccer," Hattori said. "Hazuma wanted to play table tennis. We're from the sticks out in Niigata and my junior high school didn't have a soccer team. I thought about joining a club team, but it was too far away."

"My dad had been a decathlete," Hattori continued, "so I started doing track and field as well. My mom was a cross-country skier, so bo…

Iron Injections Remain an Issue in Japanese High School Girls' Distance Running

To treat anemia some of the country's top high school ekiden teams inappropriately utilize iron injections that could have a harmful effect on athletes' health.

Iron injections are primarily used to treat serious anemia arising from iron deficiency, but according to experts they also improve endurance. As a result their use has spread across the country over the last 20 years, primarily among female athletes who are more prone to anemia.

Following a 2015 case in which an athlete was confirmed to have suffered liver damage as a result of excess iron levels, in April, 2016 the JAAF issued a warning for coaches to stop the practice of injections, saying, "The accumulation of iron in the internal organs has deleterious effects on the body." In an interview two women who graduated prior to the JAAF's warning talked about their firsthand experience in high school. Under their coaches' direction both used iron injections throughout their high school careers and pro…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …