On May 7 an information session took place in Tokyo for athletes who have qualified for September's new "one-shot" selection race that will determine at least two members of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics men's and women's marathon teams. Two of the top men and women at the Sept. 15 MGC Race will be named to the three-member marathon team rosters for the Tokyo Olympics.
34 men and 15 women qualified for the more-or-less "one-shot" race, which will be a first in Japanese Olympic selection. 40 of the qualifiers and their coaches attended the May 7 briefing session in Tokyo. One notable absence was U.S.-based men's marathon national record holder Suguru Osako. JAAF marathon development project team leader Toshihiko Seko began by reiterating the significance of the new-format selection race.
Seko told them, "This race will be challenging and will place tremendous pressure upon you. The athletes who can deal with that will be the ones who become our true Olympic representatives and next summer's Games. I hope that this race will generate excitement throughout Japan and as we approach the Olympics I hope that you will make your own dreams come true."
The briefing session presented various information about the MGC Race such as the fact that as a test event for the Olympics the water tables at the MGC Race will be arranged differently than usual, always being placed on the athletes' right. With drink tables bound to play a key role in what is expected to be a hot race, there were a number of questions from the athletes on issues such as the placement of the tables on the course and the bottle order on them.
Because there are qualifiers for the MGC Race who plan to run September's Doha World Championships, the JAAF will announce the final MGC entry lineup minus World Championships team members early next month.
Following the session, half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara commented, "It's really starting to feel like it's on the horizon now. If I'm running it that means I want to get a place on the Olympic team. The MGC is an important race, but at the same time to me it's just like any other one. I'm not going to do anything particularly different for it and want to run it just like usual."
Before the MGC Race Shitara is planning to run July's Gold Coast Marathon in Australia. "Things are coming along better than I expected," he said. "If I keep training like this without getting injured again then things will get even better. Last year I had the disappointment of seeing my marathon national record get broken, so I want to get into the kind of shape where I can break the record again either this year or next year."
In another post-session interview, Ayuko Suzuki, winner of last August's Hokkaido Marathon in her debut over the distance, commented, "Hearing today how much people all across the country are going to be paying attention to this race makes me a bit nervous. I think the most important is getting completely ready for it. Everyone here seemed to be really focused on the drink stations, so that's something I need to work on before the big day. Being on the starting line in perfect shape on Sept. 15 will be critical, so I want to work on getting stronger and being ready to win a high-pressure race."
translated by Brett Larner