Because of Coronavirus, Only 200 People Will Run the Tokyo Marathon This Year

Japanese authorities had to cancel the event for non-elite runners, due to the coronavirus outbreak

Tokyo Marathon
aha Entertainment/Getty

Japanese authorities announced earlier this week that in light of the coronavirus outbreak, the Tokyo Marathon will be effectively canceled for the 37,000+ runners who fall into the semi-elite, general, and charity categories. Only 200 athletes (a mix of marathon and wheelchair elites) will still participate in the massively scaled-back event, which will take place on Sunday, March 1st. It’s the first time a marathon has been “canceled” since Hurricane Sandy rumbled through New York in October 2012.

While there’s only been one confirmed death from coronavirus in Japan, and just 500 reported cases (compared to 70,000 in China), race organizers decided ushering in tens of thousands of people, plus tens of thousands of family members, simply wasn’t worth the risk. Most coronavirus infections are mild, and many are invisible, which means the infection can be transmitted by people who don’t even know they have it; when that spread happens during an event as international as one of the six World Marathon Major, it could lead to infections deaths in nations that have thus far avoided the virus.

Unfortunately for those who’ve been training for months, runners will not be refunded their entry fees. And if they choose to accept a deferral to 2021 (which race organizers are offering all runners), they’ll have to pay the same fees next year. That said, everyone will still receive their official 2020 Tokyo Marathon tee, which will probably be worth something on eBay one day.

For Japan, there has to be some concern looking forward to this summer’s Olympic Games. They begin exactly five months from this week, and Tokyo will need the virus to calm down, both literally (a in-production vaccine should help) and in the media (coronavirus coverage fatigue will definitely help) to ensure tourists still come to watch and support their country’s athletes in late July.

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