With just a few days left until the 2016 Tokyo marathon on Sunday 28 February, the metropolis that will also host the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 is clearly getting excited.
Stylish flags such as the one shown above can be found at street level across the city, and inspiring posters such as the one below can be seen at subterranean level inside the city’s metro stations. Furthermore, if you visit the Imperial Palace area, in the morning, afternoon or evening, you will notice a stream of 2016 marathon runners - both Japanese and non-Japanese - earnestly doing preparatory laps around the Japanese Emperor’s home.
The 2016 Tokyo marathon is particularly significant because it will be the 10th time for the race to take place but also because the Japanese male runners who will compete at Rio 2016 will be selected based on Sunday’s results.
Having started in 2007, the Tokyo marathon is still a relatively ’young’ marathon - compared to a marathon such as London (1981) for example - but it has firmly established itself as one of the top city marathons on the circuit - along with Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York – and it is one that the world’s top marathon runners will all have marked in their calendar.
Photo: David SpurrAnd when I refer to the world’s top marathon runners, it is worth remembering that some of these people are Japanese. Naoko Takahashi, for example, the winner of the women’s marathon at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, is one of the first names that comes to mind. When Takahashi won the 26-mile race in the Australian sunshine in 2000, she won over the nation’s hearts with her “girl next door” persona, quiet determination and unwavering smile, and further raised the profile of marathon running in Japan. Seven years later, in 2007, the Tokyo
marathon was born and the event has been going from strength to strength ever since.
Training by the Imperial Palace. Photo: David SpurrSo, if you are in Tokyo this weekend, and free on Sunday, I would recommend that you try to watch some of the Tokyo marathon. The race will start at 09:10 on Sunday 28 February outside the Tocho government buildings in Shinjuku, head past the Imperial Palace, go down towards the Shinagawa business district, come back up to “downtown” Asakusa, move on through the luxurious shopping zone in Ginza, go past the famous Tsukiji fish market, and then finish at Tokyo Big Sight – Japan’s largest exhibition complex.
The only remaining question is, “OK, I am up for watching it. But where should I stand?” Personally, I would go for somewhere that is about 2/3 into the race because the drama would have unfolded nicely by that stage, but there is still a chance for a twist in the tale. So, for this reason, I would suggest that you take the subway (Ginza line) to Asakusa, and watch the race from there. The advantage of going to Asakusa of course is that you can also do some sightseeing. Perhaps you could have a look at Sensoji - which is Tokyo’s oldest temple - and which has been running for a very long time indeed.