More than a fun run

It’s the taking part that counts

More than a fun run

With less than a month to go until Tokyo Marathon 2010, the lucky [or unlucky— depending on how you look at it] 35,000 elected runners will undoubtedly be looking for opportunities to stretch their legs prior to the big day. As any serious runner will tell you, the more practice beforehand, the more enjoyable the actual marathon.

Starting at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and finishing at Tokyo Big Site, Tokyo Marathon covers 42.195 km. The course visits various well-known sightseeing spots and is flat for the most part, bar a testing slope that appears after crossing Tsukuda Ohashi bridge. Thanks to shouts of encouragement from a terrific turnout of sideline supporters and a new relaxed time limit of seven hours, 2009 saw the runners finishing the course jump to an incredible 97.4%— a figure that seems set to increase again this year. However, if your name wasn’t drawn from the marathon lottery’s incredible 310,000 applicants, don’t despair. As exciting as the Tokyo Marathon is, it’s by no means the only chance to run around the city in an organised event.

To wit: Neko Hiroshi, a famous cat-like owarai comedian from the Japanese world of show business, recently released a publication entitled ‘Neko Majikuran!! Omoshiro Marason Gaidobukku’. A guidebook in which Hiroshi documents his participation in various unique marathons, all sorts of runs –such as those with refreshment stations lined with food– are covered. As would be expected of an owarai running devotee however, each of these events come with a twist. The book’s trick is simply to find the marathon that suits your fancy. There are events for those aiming to set new records, run in costumes, or run as a relay team… The list is endless and according to book editor Keiko Shirataki, many more Tokyo omoshiroi marathons didn’t make the cut.

Frostbite Road Race

The Frostbite Road Race takes place every January at Yokota Air Base, in Fusa. The course, which runs parallel to the runway, is ‘as flat as a pancake’ and with various options available, including a half marathon, 5km race, 2km kids run and 2km family run, it’s an event to be enjoyed by all. With many English speaking families and base personnel cheering from the sidelines, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually in Japan instead of an overseas marathon. Also adding to the event’s popularity are the various goodies on offer, with American chocolate cake and cute sweatshirts given as rewards for participation.


Tokyo Arakawa Shimin Marathon

The seven hour Tokyo Arakawa Shimin Marathon is especially welcoming for beginners. We admit, with no windbreaks, the river’s wind is tiring when it blows; however, on the flip side, the course is entirely flat making this a relatively easy marathon to finish. Yatta! In 2009, 96.4% of participants made the distance, ably assisted by refreshment stations located in fifteen spots throughout the course. One of these has made the event that little bit more famous— the ‘Sherbet Station’, located at the marathon’s 35km mark.


Ekiden Carnival (Eastern and Western Tokyo events)

Ekiden Carnival takes place in April by the Arakawa River and November at Showa Kinen Koen (Showa Memorial Park). Long-distance relay races, these events are some of the largest of their kind— the combined number of participants taking part in the 2009 Eastern Tokyo, Western Tokyo and Osaka relay races alone reached approximately 20,000 runners. To take part in a 2010 event, you just need your running shoes and three other runners to make a team of four.


Tomisato Suika Road Race, Chiba Prefecture

A worthy inclusion in Neko Hiroshi’s guidebook, the ‘Tomisato Suika Road Race’ is a race featuring all-you-can-eat watermelon refreshments— with many runners caring more for the watermelon than they do anything else. Indeed, some sit down by the roadside to eat and others carry their own salt as they run (in Japan it’s commonly thought that sprinkling salt on your watermelon makes it taste sweeter). Taking place each June in Chiba’s Tomisato city, the 10km, 5km and 3km courses cater to runners of all persuasions. No matter which course you choose however, fear not, because the watermelon is available to all runners regardless.


Ansei Toashi Samurai Marathon, Gunma Prefecture

Taking place on the second Sunday of May, this annual marathon began during Japan’s Edo period— when the then daimyo of Annaka, Katsuakira Itakura, ordered its establishment as a means to further discipline his retainers’ minds and spirit. There are two courses to this event: a 20km course known as the ‘Sekisho Course’ and a considerably tougher 30km ‘Toge Course’ which differs in elevation of over 1000m between its start and finish point. Over 80% percent of the participants run in costume— making this a marathon where the runners who don’t dress up that are the ones who stand out from the crowd!


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By Akiko Toya
Translated by Brin Wilson
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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