Tokyo Marathon 2009, the largest marathon event in Japan, was held on March 22nd. It felt like everyone in Tokyo knew someone who was competing or had wanted to, and with 226,378 applicants for 30,000 spots, that might not have been too far from the truth. Tokyo Marathon's official website reported that this was a 68% increase in applicants from last year.
Personal trainer Masatoshi Sunakawa said:
Tokyo Marathon has played a big part in what's said to be a major running boom in Japan. There are no hard statistics on this but the number of people jogging around the Imperial Palace and the present running shoes lineup from sportswear manufacturers does seem to indicate a major increase of interest in running.
It's definitely inspiring many people to take up running… or rather, inspiring many people to consider taking up running. Blogger
Many bloggers commented on the large number of celebrities, comedians, and ex-athletes who participated in the marathon for various TV stations. A lot of the entertainers turned in surprisingly respectable times, but some, most notably ex-sumo wrestler Akebono, dropped out a few days prior to the marathon while comic Kunihiro Matsumura regrettably suffered a heart attack.
General opinion is that while celebrity participation is a good way to generate public interest, going too far will have a negative impact on the credibility of the Tokyo Marathon as a serious sports event. Fuji Television, which aired the marathon live has come under attack for turning the marathon into some sort of a variety show.
Jijineta.hamazo.tv commented on their approach:
Why doesn't Fuji understand the feelings of the viewers and runners? Or is there such a large gap between us and them now that they have lost touch with what the public wants?
Elsewhere on the web: Watch a slow motion video of Nobuaki Takata, the wig-wearing runner who caused a sensation as he crossed the finish line at the same time as Mizuho Nasukawa, winner of the women's race. The official website provides a Google Earth map file of the course, while sponsor Otsuka Pharmaceutical offers Virtual Tokyo Marathon, a social network/game for supporters (in Japanese only). Cutie-kunipon has a flickr set full of interesting characters who ran the marathon. Joseph Tame provides a live-stream of his run with an iPhone strapped to his head. And last but not least, follow Brett Larner on Japan Running News for comprehensive information on the marathon.