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First Tokyo Marathon Attracts 30,000 Runners (March 23, 2007)

The runners begin their journey. (Jiji)
On February 18, 2007, the inaugural Tokyo Marathon was held, with the course taking runners past such famous landmarks as the Imperial Palace, Ginza, and Asakusa. This was a major event that attracted nearly 30,000 participants. Some 1.78 million spectators lined the streets to cheer the runners on, handing them snacks and performing traditional dances to raise their spirits. Some 96.7% of the entrants finished the race, a very high figure considering that it was the first time the race was held and that the wet winter weather made things even harder.

Making an Olympic Appeal
To date, the only marathons held in central Tokyo have been the Tokyo International Marathon and the Tokyo City Road Race, a 10-km event aimed at ordinary runners and people with disabilities. The Tokyo Marathon combined the two and was planned as a city marathon that ordinary citizens could participate in, like the famous marathons in New York City, London, and Boston. This race allowed ordinary people to fulfill their dreams of running on streets that are normally reserved for auto traffic. Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro, who guided efforts to make the marathon a reality, commented: "It also shows the appeal of holding the Olympics in Tokyo."

The 42.195-km course started in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and went from Yasukuni Street past the Imperial Palace, by Hibiya, Shinagawa, Ginza, Nihonbashi, and Tsukiji, before ending at the Tokyo Big Sight. All kinds of people participated, as the event was divided into a full marathon for men and women, a 10-km race for men and women, a wheelchair full marathon, and a 10-km race for the disabled. Roughly 10,000 volunteers provided support by doing things like passing out water and also offering guidance to spectators. This was the largest marathon ever held in Japan, as evidenced by TV ratings that peaked at over 31%.

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Runners pass through Asakusa (Jiji)

A Homemade Race
The winners of the first Tokyo Marathon were Daniel Njenga in the men’s race and Niiya Hitomi in the women’s. Most of the attention, though, went to the large number of ordinary citizens taking part, and it was among them that various dramas unfolded. The number of participants was so great that the last start of the race took place 20 minutes after the first. The sight of runners braving the winter cold was impressive, as was the image of volunteers passing out bananas and other refreshments to the runners.

There were performances by a brass band and of traditional Japanese kanda-bayashi music along the road. This was a race that left a strong impression of being "homemade" by local citizens. People were pleased with the seven-hour event, telling organizers that it was what they had been waiting for and that they hoped the event would be held again next year.

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Copyright (c) 2007 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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