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Plans Announced to Move Yokohama International Women's Marathon to Saitama With Mass-Participation Race

translated by Brett Larner

On Oct. 24 it was announced that plans are in their final stages for a successor event to the Yokohama International Women's Marathon, facing its final running on Nov. 16, to be held in Saitama beginning next year.  The new event is planned as a joint operation between the Saitama metropolitan and Saitama prefectural governments with a course beginning and ending at Saitama Super Arena.  With a cherished history as a selection race for Olympic and World Championships teams, the women's marathon will be born again in Saitama.

According to a Saitama metropolitan government official, the new event's first running is planned for mid-November, 2015.  The proposal for the race to begin and end at Saitama Super Arena is the current favorite, with the course passing Saitama Stadium, the Saitama Prefectural Government offices and Saitama City Hall.  The JAAF has also weighed in, saying, "We would like to see a course conducive to fast times."  The 2015 running will be restricted to elite athletes as usual, but with its second running in 2016 it will switch formats to include a mass-participation race.  Full details will be announced next month.

The JAAF had previously announced on Oct. 23 that the Yokohama International Women's Marathon would be cancelled due to financial problems following its sixth running on Nov. 16.  Established in 1979 in its previous incarnation as the Tokyo International Women's Marathon, it was the world's first IAAF-certified women's only marathon and came to serve as a selection race for Olympic and World Championships teams.  However, with the launch of the Tokyo Marathon in 2007 it experienced problems with the Tokyo police and was reincarnated Yokohama following its 30th running in 2008.

The JAAF approached the Saitama Prefectural Government in April this year.  A joint operation by the Saitama metropolitan and prefectural governments would allow costs to be split between the two, and discussions are underway with the Saitama Police Department with regard to road closures and providing security.  Saitama city was already looking at expanding the Saitama City Half Marathon held every February or March to a full marathon format, but both the city and prefectural governments have long hoped to work under JAAF leadership in organizing a major marathon event.  That dream looks set to come true by taking the reins of an international women's marathon with 36 years of history in two of the country's biggest metropolises.

Translator's note: The Saitama Police Department is very strict with regard to road closure permits and was largely responsible for the demise of the 1990s-era Saitama Marathon along with other races in the prefecture after it began stopping runners on the course to let cars pass.  In that regard the move to Saitama could spell trouble for another long-standing mixed elite and mass-participation event, the Ageo City Half Marathon, traditionally held the same day as Yokohama/Tokyo International in the town of Ageo, Saitama neighboring the Saitama metropolitan area.


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