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Tokyo Marathon's amateur runners show mixed feelings over cancellation, no refund

Runners at the 2019 Tokyo Marathon are seen setting off outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in the capital's Shinjuku Ward on March 3, 2019. (Pool photo)

TOKYO -- While a number of amateur runners who were set to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Marathon on March 1 have voiced their frustration after it was anounced that the event will be restricted to elite runners amid fears of the new coronavirus' spread, others have expressed their understanding.

The Tokyo Marathon Foundation confirmed on Feb. 17 that only top runners would be permitted to run the annual race, reducing an event originally set to feature 38,000 participants down to just around 200.

But the foundation has said it will not reimburse amateur runners, who paid either 16,200 yen (about $147) if applying in Japan, or 18,200 yen (about $165) when applying outside the country.

Additionally, to run the marathon in 2021, the cancelled participants of this year's race will have to pay the fees again, although they will be afforded the right to enter without going through the usual lottery system to assign places.

A number of people affected have said they appreciated why the foundation made its decision to limit the race to professional runners only, but also expressed conflicted feelings about the development.

One 41-year-old company employee living in the suburban city of Chofu in Tokyo, didn't hide his despondency. "I'd finally been picked to run, and trained for it," he said. This year he applied for the ninth time to run the marathon, and at last had received a berth in the race.

To get ready, he'd been cycling the 23-kilometer round trip to and from work, and had got a colleague to cover for him on the day of the marathon. His wife, friends and others had planned to be there to cheer him on. "I want to know what they're going to do about the participation fees, and the charity fundraising involved," he said.

Another man in his 30s residing in the capital's Chuo Ward and who had been set to appear in the race for the first time said, "I'm so shocked by it; I feel no motivation at all." With the aim of running a personal best at the event, he had been doing repeated laps of the Imperial Palace Grounds in the center of Tokyo. "If they can, I'd like them to return the participation fees," he said.

A 51-year-old business owner in the southwestern Japan city of Isahaya in Nagasaki Prefecture had planned to run the race seven years after his last appearance. Regarding the cancellation, he said, "Infections from the coronavirus have spread, so I was thinking about giving up my spot. When the suspension decision came through, I resigned myself to it." But he admitted, "Make no mistake, I really had wanted to run it in an Olympic year."

A woman in her 30s living in Kanagawa Prefecture had been expecting to run the Tokyo Marathon for the first time this year. She said, "It can't be helped that they cancelled the race, but I feel really disappointed that I won't be able to run it."

(Japanese original by Yujiro Futamura, City News Department, and Mizuki Osawa, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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