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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Exceed bonus his earnings for the day came to 109 million yen (830,000 Euro or $1,022,000 USD) not including whatever unpublished time bonuses and appearance fees he may have received from Tokyo or bonuses paid by Nike or his corporate team sponsor Honda.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yen (76,000 Euro / $94,000 USD) from Project Exceed for a payday of 10,750,000 yen (82,000 Euro / $101,000 USD) plus unpublished bonuses and 5 million yen (38,000 Euro / $47,000 USD) for his coach.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

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