On Dec. 25 it was learned that the longest-running marathon in Japan, the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, will become a part of the Osaka Marathon beginning in 2022. Following Lake Biwa's 76th edition on Feb. 28, 2021, it will next take place under the tentative title of the 10th Osaka Marathon and 77th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Combined Competition.
The Osaka Marathon executive committee finalized the plan at a meeting in Osaka on Dec. 25. Plans call for the 2022 race to take place on Feb. 27 utilizing the existing Osaka course. With an eye toward World Athletics' preference for large-scale races that combine elite and mass participation marathons, the plan will combine Lake Biwa's history of attracting top-level international and domestic athletes with Osaka's status as the second-largest mass-participation marathon behind only the Tokyo Marathon. Organizers are aiming to go one level higher than Lake Biwa's current World Athletics ranking of gold to achieve the top-level platinum ranking, and hope that the arrival of such a prestigious event will help pave the way for success for the Kansai region at the 2025 Osaka World Expo.
Lake Biwa's first edition in 1946 was held in Osaka, moving to its current location in 1962. Its lakeside course has welcomed countless famous athletes and helped produced a large number of Olympic and World Championships team members. The Osaka Marathon began in 2011. Starting in front of the Osaka Government Offices, its course passes many of Osaka's most popular tourist sites before finishing at Osaka Castle Park. Its 10th running in late November this year was canceled due to the coronavirus crisis, but it had attracted a field of 35,000 entrants.
Translator's note: The move to the last weekend of February puts Osaka a week before the platinum label Tokyo Marathon, Japan's largest, and two weeks before the platinum label Nagoya Women's Marathon, the world's largest women-only marathon. Obviously there are problems with that kind of schedule, but due to the demands of the fall ekiden season there aren't too many other options. It may sustain the Lake Biwa legacy if its organizers are to handle Osaka's elite field, but it would seem to put pressure on the future of the Osaka International Women's Marathon just a month earlier. A similar chain of events in Tokyo ultimately killed off the historic Tokyo International Women's Marathon while preserving the men-only Tokyo International Marathon as the Tokyo Marathon's elite field in its early years.
translated by Brett Larner