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Saitama International Marathon to be Discontinued

It has been learned that the Saitama metropolitan government and the JAAF, organizers of the Saitama International Marathon used as a selection race for World Championships and Olympic teams, plan not to hold the race this year due to problems with attracting elite athletes and other issues. Launched in 2015 as the successor to the discontinued Yokohama International Women's Marathon, the annual Saitama International Marathon was the first World Athletics-certified marathon in the prefecture of Saitama.

But due to its hilly course Saitama earned a reputation for slow times, and cases of elite Japanese women canceling plans to run became more and more frequent. At last month's fifth edition, despite the opportunity to earn a place on the 2020 Olympic team only one elite Japanese woman competed. According to a person involved in the situation, it was no longer possible to justify spending over 700 million yen (~$6.4 million USD) to hold a national team selection race with decreasing participation and popularity.

In light of that situation, the consensus has been reached not to hold the event this year. However, with the accompanying mass participation race having attracted almost 20,000 runners last year to rank it as one of Japan's biggest marathons, the organizers are exploring options to reshape it as a mass participation amateur event beginning next year. However, due to the necessity of closing major roads for an extended period of time, costs for road closure permits and security for the event are high. And because of excellent mass transportation access to the event from the Tokyo metropolitan area, some critics have pointed out that the lack of people staying in local hotels for the race limits its economic benefit to the region.

Costs have also been high due to changes the organizers have made every year in an effort to make the course flatter. Despite those efforts, in including Saitama in the series of races through which Japanese women could qualify for the MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials the JAAF set the qualifying time one minute slower for Saitama than for the Osaka International Women's Marathon and Nagoya Women's Marathon. Even so, not a single athlete qualified at either edition of Saitama held within the qualifying window. Compared to the lone Japanese woman who competed in Saitama in December ten are set to race in Osaka this weekend, illustrating Saitama's lack of popularity.

source article:
https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20200122/k10012254041000.html
translated and edited by Brett Larner

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