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Tokyo International Women's Marathon Cancelled, Does This Open the Door for the Tokyo Marathon to Join the World Marathon Majors?
Brett Larner, a letsrun.com fan, who lives in Japan, has been providing excellent coverage of the Japanese running scene for English speakers on his Japanese Running Blog.
Today he covers the news that the Tokyo International Women's Marathon, one of the top women's marathons in the world (Olympic champ Mizuki Noguchi ran a course record 2:21:37 this past December to qualify for the 2008 Olympic team) will be cancelled after this year's 30th running.
Speculation is that with the women's Tokyo marathon being cancelled, this open's up the opportunity for the Tokyo Marathon (a different marathon that is a mass participation race for men and women in Japan that had 25,000 runners in its first year, which we'll designate as Tokyo (Mass) Marathon in the rest of this article) to eventually join the World Marathon Majors by adding an elite women's field. Japan is a marathon mad country, but many marathons in Japan are reserved solely for elite runners and often only for men or women. The World Marathon Majors say that a mass participation race is one requirement for being a major. Another is for the race to have world class men's and women's fields which no race in Japan really has.
The Tokyo (Mass) Marathon seems to be the only race in Japan with the potential to meet the self created criteria to join the World Marathon Majors. But it did not have an elite women's field. With the elimination of the Tokyo International Women's Marathon, it seems the opportunity is there for the Tokyo (mass) Marathon to add a women's field and eventually join the World Marathon Majors.
Race Results Weekly (editor's note: Race Results Weekly is published by David Monti who is the Elite Coordinator for the ING NYC Marathon) covered the demise of the Tokyo International Women's Marathon, and even had a quote from the Elite Athlete Coordinator, Wataru Ogushi, that the Tokyo (Mass) Marathon will not be adding an elite women's race. Ogushi said, "It is NOT true that Tokyo Marathon (with mass runners) will also hold the elite women's race with men's elite that they have already done."
But Brett Larner surmises that is exactly what could happen as the Tokyo (Mass) Marathon likely wants to join the World Marathon Majors. We agree with Brett's logic as well. No doubt the Tokyo (Mass) Marathon will not add an elite women's field this year, but they have plenty of time to do it by 2009. Japan is the most obsessed marathon country in the world and has the resources for a World Marathon Major, but never has met the criteria. That likely could change with the Tokyo (Mass) Marathon. It will be interesting to see how the World Marathon Majors react to competition from Tokyo. If the resources are invested into a World Class women's field it seems like they will have a hard time excluding Tokyo.
The only other race that currently seems to have the resources to outclass any of the World Marathon Majors is the Dubai Marathon which is offering a $1 million prize purse, $250,000 to the winners, and a $1 million world record bonus. It has already attracted Haile Gebrselassie and Lornah Kiplagat, but Tokyo is our bet to break into the World Marathon Majors before Dubai (which doesn't have the numbers of Tokyo in terms of mass participants).