I missed your post earlier...but i think you have it absolutely right!
Some of my club mates juste competed in Tokyo othawara marathon. While open to all they, like most marathon in japan, enforce a strict 4h cut off time based on the same philosophy: this is a running event. If you cant run a marathon start running a 5k or 10k the a 1/2 etc,,,!
The japanese running culture is quite inspiring in that sense. Nothing elitist about it (ask a japanese runner what he considers elite he will tell you sub- 2:15!). A japanese running club will show the same support and encouragement to beguinners than any other club but as a japanese runner once told me "walkers are not allowed to run - runners are not allowed to walk!". Gambatte !!
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