On Sept. 9 the JAAF announced that January's National Women's Ekiden Championships and National Men's Ekiden Championships have been canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Officials cited the events' unique format, which brings together top junior high school, high school, university and pro athletes on teams representing each prefecture, as the key factor in the decision, saying that it made countermeasures difficult and increased the potential impact were someone to get infected.
JAAF executive Mitsugi Ogata commented, "These events allow athletes to run for their home prefectures. If, for example, one university had five athletes in the race, they would each return to the prefecture they were from. This would immediately elevate the risk of widespread exposure. Under the current circumstances of the coronavirus crisis, what makes these races special is precisely what makes them too risky."
The 39th National Women's Ekiden Championships were scheduled for Jan. 17 in Kyoto, with the 26th National Men's Ekiden Championships set for Jan. 24 in Hiroshima. JAAF executive Hiroshi Yokokawa commented, "This was a tough decision, but necessary to help prevent the spread of the virus. Without question, we will bring these events back better than ever. I look forward to that day. I ask all the athletes to keep making these races a priority and bringing their best performances when that day does come, and for everyone involved in putting them on to keep supporting them."
translated and edited by Brett Larner