Coronavirus: Tokyo Marathon organisers restrict event to elite runners only

Runners in the 2019 Tokyo Marathon
Only around 200 athletes will now compete in the Tokyo Marathon

Organisers of the Tokyo Marathon have announced it will no longer be a mass participation event due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Only elite runners and wheelchair athletes will compete in the event in Japan, which takes place on 1 March.

Around 38,000 runners were expected to take part in the marathon, which is one of the largest in the world.

"We cannot continue to launch the event within the scale we originally anticipated," said organisers.

The Tokyo Marathon is one of six marathons which make up the World Marathon Majors series, along with London, Berlin, Chicago, New York and Boston.

All registered runners will be able to defer their entry until 2021.

Former Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman Steve Denison and Jemima Bird, a couple who have run 17 marathons between them, were due to complete the series in Tokyo.

"We are disappointed that the decision has been taken, but not surprised," Bird told BBC Sport.

"It's not the correct decision. There is a lot of talk about the virus and you can understand why the organisers felt they had to go down this route. Is it a sensible decision, or a hysteria decision?"

They told BBC Sport they had received no official communication from marathon organisers and found out through social media, but still intend on flying to Japan.

"We had no qualms about going to Tokyo. We are fit and well and we would take sensible precautions out there," said Denison, who resigned as Yorkshire chairman in 2018.

"We would have liked to have had the choice ourselves, that's what it boils down to.

"Tokyo is just about the hardest marathon to get into, and it's a long way away. The flights we booked months ago, and hotels, they're all non-refundable, so we'll be going anyway.

"We will definitely be going, and we're going to run the marathon anyway. We can find out what the course is, we just won't be recording an official time."

Bird added: "If it's on Strava, it counts."

More than 70,500 people across China have been infected by coronavirus, with 1,770 people having died.

More than 400 cases have been confirmed in Japan.

Last week, Tokyo Olympics chief Toshiro Muto said cancelling or postponing the Games - due to take place from 24 July-9 August - because of the coronavirus outbreak "has not been considered".

Top Stories