Long history of running, high awards, Olympic spirit helped Japan ranked 3rd in the world, behind Kenya and Ethiopia, on the ranking of 1,000 marathon runners.

On February 28, 2021, Kengo Suzuki, 25, became the first Japanese to run 42 km with a record of 2:04:56 (2 hours, 4 minutes, 56 seconds) and was crowned champion of Marathon Biwa Mainichi. Not stopping there, he, along with other Japanese runners, set an unprecedented record.

Of the 335 Japanese runners participating that day, 5 people reached 2:07, 15 reached 2:08, 28 reached 2:09, 42 reached 2:10, and there were 174 breaking point 2: 20.

Kengo Suzuki crossed the finish line with a Japanese record at the Marathon Lake Biwa Mainichi competition

Kengo Suzuki crossed the finish line at Marathon Lake Biwa Mainichi with a record of 2:04:56 on February 28. Image: Worldathletics.

To see how impressive this result can be compared to the number of 21 American athletes who hit the 2:10 mark in all marathons combined. In Vietnam, no one has reached the 2:20 mark. The national record for the full marathon until 2021 is 2:21:51, set by Nguyen Chi Dong, SEA Games 2003. The best results so far at the movement tournaments is 2:26:55, by Hoang. Nguyen Thanh holds.

Still know Japan is the sports powerhouse in Asia, but in terms of physical stats, the country of the rising sun has no advantage over Kenya or Ethiopia. So what brings the breakthrough in the marathon here?

Long history of marathon

Long distance running to Japan after 1912 Stockholm Olympics called Ekiden (long distance relay). The first prize was held in 1917 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Japan moving the capital to Tokyo. In 3 days, the athletes have to run relay from the ancient capital of Kyoto to Tokyo with a distance of 508 km. Three years later, the Ekiden Hakone Tournament was founded by Kanakuri with the aim of training Japanese running talent to compete in the international arena.

After World War II, the government reorganized the Ekiden races and marathons. Soon after, the marathon broke out. While Western countries have only really interested in running since the 1970s, in Africa it is the end of the year 80. In 1965, the first place in 10 of the top 11 marathons in the world was won by Japanese male athletes. occupy. A year later, this number is 15 out of 17 awards. This statistic is no different from the performance of current Kenyan runners.

Two athletes moved

The athlete transfers the “tasuki” – a blue flag (like a club in relay) to the next person at the 2018 Ekiden tournament in Gunma province. Image: Ekiden.

In general, baseball is still more interested, but in terms of a sporting event, the Hakone Ekiden (oldest race) is number one. Even for many Japanese athletes, being on the team that won the Hakone Ekiden Prize was happier than winning an Olympic medal.

By the Tokyo 2020 Marathon, although the tournament was canceled due to the epidemic, the competition between the elite athletes still took place and the fans flocked to the streets despite the order to limit exposure. Below the track, top athletes are greeted like screen stars.

Although the championship belongs to Ethiopian Birhane Legese (2:04:15), native runners are still in 4 out of 10 top spots. 19 Japanese athletes with a record below 2:10 and 29 with a record below 2:15. No international run has recorded the dominance of such native runners.

Heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Another lever that makes the Japanese marathon record even higher is the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. According to the old schedule, Olypic will take place in the summer, but Covid-19 has ruined everything. The plan to organize compensation in 2021 is also in danger of being canceled if the disease situation in Japan is not good.

However, the long-term vision from many years ago by the Athletics Federation as well as the Olympic Committee of this country is the dose of “doping”, to promote running legs to improve performance. Japan calculates that the marathon category will be a medal dispute, so there is a lot of pressure to shift the focus from the Ekiden tournaments to the marathon. Professional athletes who instead of training and competing for Ekiden at the request of their management company now have more free time to train 42 km.

The Tokyo Olympics is an opportunity for Japan to assert itself on the world marathon map.

The Tokyo Olympics is an opportunity for Japan to assert itself on the world marathon map.

Japan also aggressively spent money as soon as Tokyo won the right to host, most notably the program Exceed. This is a bonus program sponsored by the Federation, with amounts of nearly one million USD for each new national record, nearly 100,000 USD for the 2:06 mark and 50,000 USD for the 2:07 milestone. Female athletes have a similar bonus scheme.

As a result, companies that are not specialized in sports also invest heavily in their employees to join the Olympic team. Typically, the Asahi Kasei’s running team is repeating the world’s largest low-pressure, dilute oxygen gym at their home turf in Nobeoka.

So a wave of high-performing athletes was born. First, Yuta Shitara broke the national record 2:06:11 in Tokyo 2018; Suguru Osako went on to break this record with 2:05:50 in Chicago that same year. Of the six prestigious Abbott World Marathon Majors 2018 marathons, four will feature Japanese athletes. Final achievements include: silver in Tokyo, silver in Boston, 4th in Berlin (in the race to set a world record) and bronze medal in Chicago.

Jogging profession

Jogging is very popular in Japan, so top athletes often prefer to attend domestic tournaments over international. Not only the Tokyo Prize, but also the Fukuoka, Lake Biwa, and Osaka awards … with world-class scale and quality. A special feature is that the athletes are running professionally for a certain company. Japanese businesses also set up running teams for employees to win prizes and bring pride.

Japan currently has about 60 professional running teams belonging to companies, 30 men’s and 30 women’s teams. Each team has about 20 athletes, paid full time. That means Japan has about 1,200 athletes living off of running. When their running career ends, they can continue to work at the company with office work if they want with a decent income.

Yuki Kawauchi before returning home to Boston 2018 in the rain and wind was an office worker.

Yuki Kawauchi who finished the Boston Marathon 2018 is an office worker and runner.

There is even a company that rotates these athletes through many different departments so that all employees have a chance to meet them. This creates a culture of “pride”, a feeling of attachment between the staff and the running team.

Professional runners in Japan receive about $ 35,000 or more a year, depending on performance. Particularly, the elite group receives the salary up to 6 digits. In addition, Japan also has a separate award system for athletes in this country, and is often many times larger than the award for foreign athletes.

Typically, at the Tokyo Marathon 2020, Suguru Osako set a new national record and won a million USD, even if it was only 4th place. If including the minor prize and the kind, Suguru Osako earned 1.7 million USD. While the best winner in the Boston Marathon – the most prestigious and prestigious award in the world also only spent $ 150,000.

The country loves to run

Not only the champions of athletes, but Japanese people also jog as a daily routine. This sport since World War II is seen as an activity bearing the spirit of Japanese discipline as well as a reflection of the efforts of the entire people in the process of national construction. Amateurs have seen a dizzying increase in the number of amateurs in recent decades.

From 2005 to 2010, the number of running Japanese legs increased from 100,000 to 600,000. There are about 322,000 people registered for the Tokyo Marathon 2019 while only 35,000 official places. The need for a run soared, leading to more and more tournaments being organized at a bulge scale.

The number of female athletes is therefore increasing. But this is not surprising given that Japan has consistently won the women’s marathon gold medals in Sydney and the Athens Olympics.

Tokyo Marathon 2019 with 38,000 runs.  Image:

Tokyo Marathon 2019 with 35,000 runs. Image: Kyodo News.

Tokyo capital is considered “paradise of runners” with the heart of Yoyogi Park. To reach the park, the runner has to run about 1.6 km through a crowded residential area with many red lights and pedestrians. The park has three main runs, each 1.2 km long between the park, a larger ring about 2.5 km long, and a semi-trail with porous terrain at the edge of the park 3 km long.

Another community favorite here is the 5-kilometer run that surrounds the imperial capital of Tokyo. Not only are there many convenient paths to practice, if you want to improve runner performance, you can practice with countless elite athletes here.

Thanh Duong (synthetic)

In Vietnam, jogging lovers can choose to join the tournaments organized by VnExpress.

VnExpress Quy Nhon Marathon took place on 6/6, the peak season of Quy Nhon – Phu Yen tourism. Athletes can combine the tournament with jogging and travel with family and relatives. Tens of thousands of people came to this central coastal city during the tournament.

VnExpress Marathon Amazing Halong took place on August 12, in the tourist city of Ha Long, Quang Ninh. Held in the coastal city for the first time, the tournament promises to bring new experiences to athletes across the country.

VnExpress Marvelous Nha Trang will take place on September 19 in Nha Trang, the biggest marathon event in the city ever. The tournament aims to attract from 6,000 athletes, bringing together runners and clubs across the country.

VnExpress Marathon Hanoi Midnight kicked off at midnight on November 20, in the typical winter cold of the capital. Historic landmarks and famous trails will appear under the athlete’s footsteps.


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