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Tokyo Sees First Road Race in Over Three Months

As far as I'm aware the last road race to happen in Tokyo was the scaled-back Tokyo Marathon on Mar. 1. As fall and winter races continue to cancel one after another and even one as far away as next February's Himeji Castle Marathon talking about the possibility of cancelation, one small event with a total of 89 participants went ahead yesterday along the Arakawa River on Tokyo's northern border. Race timing pro Takuya Fujii was at the 22nd Smile Marathon and wrote about it on his blog. Photos of the race can be found there. Complete results here.

Today in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward, the 22nd Smile Marathon was held along the banks of the Arakawa River. It was the first road race I've gone to since the corona situation started (it wasn't a timing job).  The race started and finished at Ojima Komatsugawa Park. It was organized by Dan Communications Co. Ltd. This is what they have to say about the event on their official website:

The entry fee is reasonable enough to put a smile on your wallet! The race is not chip timed, but all times will still be properly recorded. With a flat course it's great for beginners, and it can also be a good training run for advanced runners. Our event is inexpensive, but rest assured that it is well-organized. Our goal is to put on an event that will make every participant smile! Our event may be small now but we hope that together we can take it to the next level.

The concept may be small, but it's something they had been putting on almost every month. It had been canceled for a while because of the corona situation, and this was the first time they were doing it in three months. There were a wide range of distances on offer: 30 km, half, 10 km, 5 km and a 3 km family run. One of the operational goals this time was to avoid large crowds of participants, so bib pickup times were staggered for the different divisions. Staff wearing face shields measured participants' temperatures, then people had to fill out a checklist on their physical condition. They then picked up their bib numbers and participation goods from a tent where staff were behind a clear plastic sheet.

There were no official change room or baggage storage facilities. Participants were responsible for that themselves. The race organizers did offer storage for valuables, but items had to be sealed inside a plastic ziplock bag first. Instead of doing it all at once like before, each race division had separate opening ceremonies and guided warmup stretches to minimize the number of people assembled at once.

The half marathon was the first race of the day. Runners lined up at the start in rows according to marks placed on the ground in regular intervals. They didn't have to wear masks during the race itself, although everybody did the rest of the time. The course was a scenic out-and-back 5 km circuit along the banks of the Arakawa River. Finish times were taken by hand. Finisher's certificates were to be mailed later, so there was no award ceremony and people dispersed pretty quickly after they finished. Overall, the operation succeeded in avoiding dense crowds of people at the start and finish.

What I saw was a post-corona road race taking the steps necessary to deal with the virus issue. One thing that was really noticeable was that the already-existing premise in race operation of both the race management and participants understanding the rules and working together to conduct the race smoothly extended into the countermeasures against the coronavirus.

These measures cost the organizers more in terms of both labor and money. I think participants will find them more inconvenient compared to how things used to be. But the only way for races to go forward given the current situation in which we find ourselves is for mutual agreement between race organizers and participants to accept them. I'm glad I saw it for myself.

source article:
translated by Brett Larner

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Yokohama said…
Exactly! That's the kind of events/races I want to participate in when I move to Tokyo/Yokohama area!

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