Restrictions Placed on the Tokyo Marathon Over COVID-19 Fears


Kylie Ha, Staff Writer

Due to the novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, the Tokyo Marathon that took place on Mar. 1 was only open to elite athletes. The Tokyo Marathon is one of the biggest marathon events in the world—with approximately 37,000 people participating last year. While registered runners can defer their entry to the 2021 event, entrance fees will not be refunded.

Although the race was expected to see approximately 38,000 runners run through the streets of Japan’s capital, organizers reduced the entries to elite athletes and wheelchair athletes. With a number of 200 people running, little fanfare and a large absence of spectators made the 14th running of the Tokyo Marathon seem absent. 

Volunteer numbers were also reduced, and spectators were discouraged from gathering along the course in a series of multiple attempts to reduce the potential spread of infection. On the other hand, the Olympics, also due to be held in Tokyo from July 24 to Aug. 9 will similarly be scaled down or cancelled. 

In Asia, a number of sporting events have already been cancelled or postponed, one of which includes the Chinese Grand Prix, which was originally scheduled for Apr. 19, and the Hong Kong and Singapore Sevens tournaments which have been pushed back to October. 

Other precautionary measures include schools across the country shutting down for two weeks, and Japan’s football league remains postponed. The Olympic torch relay, which was expected to start, now remains cancelled. 

In the UK, new fears such as the London Marathon in April having to take similar action to the Tokyo Marathon have raised up a slew of worry. Race director Hugh Brasher stated that they were “closely monitoring the spread of the disease and advice [is being given] by the UK government and World Health Organization.” As of Mar. 13, the London Marathon has been postponed until Oct. 4. 

Some organizing bodies such as Athletics Kenya have restricted their athletes from traveling to international events. Assuming that athletes are restricted from traveling for numerous marathons, elite runners like Eliud Kipchoge are held back from competing in the 2020 London Marathon. 

The Coronavirus has impacted running events all across the world, including countless marathons and elite races, and cancelled or postponed prominent races. Along with the London Marathon, the Paris marathon remains postponed while the Rome Marathon is cancelled. With the global crisis becoming more significant, race organizers have proactively started to reschedule or altogether cancel races that were set to take place in the upcoming weeks.