FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Team JAPAN Announced For International Team Challenge at
Scotia Toronto Waterfront, Sept. 26th
TORONTO. July 7th. For the first time, the International Team Challenge at
the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will see a team from Japan. They
are also the first to announce their team for this year's Challenge. It is
a strong one. Not only have they established themselves as the team to
beat against Team CANADA, Team MEXICO and Team ENGLAND, but it will be
intriguing to see Japanese marathoners in a city-marathon outside their
For decades, Japan has been one of the most-prestigious and most fanatical
homes of "the marathon"; yet the marathon in Japan has traditionally been
something only for elite participation, and a major spectator sport for the
masses. Japan established global prestige with such races as the Fukuoka
Marathon [where Jerome Drayton set the Canadian National Men's Record of
2:10:09 in 1975], and the Tokyo and Osaka Ladies Marathons. These
"Invitational", elite-only events enjoyed huge television audiences to
watch perhaps 150 athletes toe the start lines as Japan's best took on some
of the world's stars - on home soil. For the most part, the top Japanese
runners only ventured abroad for championship events like the Olympic Games
and IAAF World Championships. Most Japanese elite distance runners belonged
[and still do belong] to a relatively-isolated world of corporate teams
that compete in leagues, much like professional sports in North America.
Until recently, marathoning in Japan was something only for the elites, and
a major spectator sport for the masses. Then four years ago , the
Tokyo Marathon was created. It was the first mass marathon in Japan.
Instantly, it made the marathon accessible to everyone and it became an
overnight success. This year, Tokyo Marathon received an astounding 310,000
applications for 35,000 places - almost 3 times the number of applications
that New York or London receive. Next year, there are 4 new mass marathons
planned to start in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. The "marathon boom" is
hitting Japan like a tsunami. At the same time, Japanese marathoners are
starting to compare Tokyo with London, New York, Berlin, Boston or Chicago
- the Marathon Majors - to look outside their country for competition.
And Canada is a significant part of this. In a dramatic move this Spring,
Arata Fujiwara resigned from his corporate team, Japan Railways Higashi
Nihon, and walked away from his salary as a professional runner, his
sponsorship, all of his supporting infrastructure, to be less-bound by the
corporate league structure and to be able to compete more internationally.
He had placed 2nd in this February's Tokyo Marathon. He resigned from Team
JR Higashi Nihon in late March. He then came to Canada, to race the Ottawa
Marathon in May for his first big test as an "individual", with enormous
pressure. Could a Japanese marathoner walk away from the system and
succeed? The result - victory in Ottawa, in a course record of 2:09:34!
As Brett Larner's announcement on Team JAPAN for STWM (below) notes, the
athletes coming to Toronto are from corporate teams that are allowing their
athletes more freedom and opportunity to race internationally. The 2 men
are from the Honda Team - one of Japan's best - and they are clubmates of
Masakazu Fujiwara, the runner who won this year's Tokyo Marathon.
THANKS to Brett Larner of Japan Running News for the Team JAPAN