It’s almost here. Japan’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon trials. The Marathon Grand Championships Race. All of Japan’s best marathoners. All in one place. All in one race. What the people have always wanted. The first national Olympic trials race to be recognized with Gold Label status by the IAAF. The only one that legitimately met the Gold Label requirements. It was the hardest marathon ever to qualify for. It should be the best marathon of 2019. It could be the most tedious. Maybe both.
If you’re in Japan you can watch the live broadcast of the men’s race on TBS at 8:50 and the women’s race on NHK starting twenty minutes later. If you’re not in Japan your options for being part of it are limited. There is an official live stream of the men's race via Paravi, a paid service with a 30-day free trial. It's not clear if it's available overseas and signup looks to be only in Japanese. NHK's TV broadcast is available in some areas outside Japan. It’s also live streaming both races, but only within Japan.
If a VPN doesn’t work for the official streams, the TV Japan Live site I tweeted about a month ago looks to be good for the TBS broadcast, although NHK doesn't seem to be working. The mov3.co TBS and NHK channels also make it possible to watch Japanese TV online. JRN isn’t involved with either site and doesn’t endorse them, we are simply pointing out that they exist. We’ll also be covering both races live on Twitter on the @JRNLive feed, not the usual JRNHeadlines one. Live results can be had via TBS.
Succeed or fail, with everything that’s at stake the JAAF deserve major credit and respect for taking this huge risk of completely changing up their selection system ahead of a home-soil Olympics in one of the most risk-averse places in the world. Below is all the key info you need to get the most out of the fruit of that leap of faith. Here’s to it paying off.
What: Marathon Grand Championship Race (MGC Race), the Japanese 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games marathon trials. Official program
Where: 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games marathon course
When: Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, 8:50 start (men), 9:10 start (women)
How: The top two finishers in each race earn places on the 2020 Olympic team. The 3rd-placer is provisionally named to the team and the 4th and 5th placers are provisionally named alternates. If a Japanese man runs 2:05:49 or better at the winter, 2019-20 season Fukuoka International, Tokyo or Lake Biwa marathons, or if a woman runs 2:22:22 or better in Saitama, Osaka Women’s or Nagoya Women’s during the same season, they will pick up the third spot on the Tokyo 2020 team. In that case, the 3rd-place finisher at the MGC Race will be bumped to primary alternate, with the 5th-placer cut from the provisional lineup.
Why: Transparency in national team selection. The desire to produce better national teams of proven performers at their peaks. Capitalization on the surge in popularity of the Hakone Ekiden and rapid growth of Japanese amateur marathon market.
Who: The 40 best marathoners in Japan, 10 women and 30 men. Click any photo below for detailed profiles.
Fastest woman during qualifying period. Two-time 10000 m national champ.
First woman to qualify for MGC Race with win in Hokkaido 2017.
Only non-corporate league woman in race.
Oldest qualifier female or male. Going for fifth Olympic team.
One of only two Japanese women ever to make Olympic 5000 m final.
Youngest qualifier female or male.
Missed Rio Olympic team by one second.
2018 Jakarta Asian Games marathon silver medalist.
Debut marathon national record holder wth 2:21:36 in Nagoya 2017.
Ran all-time Japanese #3 half marathon time of 1:07:55 in February.
National record holder. DNF in Tokyo 2019.
Previous national record holder. 1st in Gold Coast in July in 2:07:50.
2018 Jakarta Asian Games marathon gold medalist. Fastest non-Vaporfly runner in field.
30 km collegiate national record holder. Had internal surgery in late April.
One of only Japanese men to break 2:08 outside Japan. Had stress fracture in spring.
Fastest man in field not to run Hakone Ekiden. Injury setbacks since Tokyo 2018 breakthrough.
2013 National University Half Marathon champion. 1:02:04 first half in Tokyo this year.
Fastest ponytail / man bun marathoner in world?
Once exactly tied 10000 m PB of 27:41.57. Gritty debut in Tokyo 2014.
Three-time Hakone Ekiden stage record breaker. Top Japanese man at Gold Coast Half in July.
Only man in field to go to university outside Tokyo area.
Only man in field to go to a top Hakone Ekiden university without ever making its starting roster.
Brilliant run on New Year Ekiden anchor stage but underperformed in last MGC tune-up race.
Distinctive head tilt like Hiromi Taniguchi and Abel Kirui.
Qualified for MGC Race in Hamburg in April after DNF at Beppu-Oita in February.
First man to qualify for MGC Race with win in Hokkaido 2017. High school teammate of Osako.
Strong finish at Godl Coast but DNF in Tokyo this year.
Two half marathon PBs this spring.
Qualified by 12 seconds in Hamburg in second attempt in under two months.
Hakone Ekiden uphill stage winner.
Hakone Ekiden uphill course record breaker. One of two non-corporate league runners in men’s race.
Youngest man in race and only university runner to qualify.
2017 National University Half Marathon champion, qualified by 3 seconds in Hamburg in April.
Hakone Ekiden uphill legend, coached by last Japanese man to win an Olympic marathon medal.
Best-ever Japanese placer at NYC Marathon at 4th in 2016.
Member of national champion high school ekiden team and Hakone Ekiden champion university team.
Doha World Championships marathon team alternate. Only man in field to go to non-Hakone Ekiden university in Tokyo area.
Official JRN dark horse pick. Broke elbow during fall at Beppu-Oita in February.
Japan’s best championships marathoner with top ten finishes in all four of his Olympics and World Championships appearances.
Only qualifier female or male to have never broken 2020 Olympic qualifying standard.
Qualified with one of fastest-ever JPN debuts. DNS with apparent stress fracture.
Marathon collegiate national record holder. DNS due to injury to right thigh.
2015 National University Half Marathon champion. High school teammate of Hattori. DNS with tendon problems.
© 2019 Brett Larner, all rights reserved