On Thursday, March 2, 2023, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation opened the doors on Japan's largest running trade show, Tokyo Marathon EXPO 2023, which is being held at Tokyo Big Sight just prior to the running of Tokyo Marathon 2023, which will be held on Sunday, March 5.
The Tokyo Marathon EXPO 2023 opening ceremony was attended by Mr. Tetsuya Nishikura, Managing Director of Tokyo Metro Co., Ltd., who represented all the official partners, Ms. Yuko Arimori, Director of the Tokyo Marathon Foundation and Vice President of the JAAF, and Ms. Wakana Fukushima, official supporter of ONE TOKYO, the official club of the Tokyo Marathon Foundation, who will also be competing as a runner in the event. Tokyo Marathon Foundation Chairman Shizuo Ito, speaking on behalf of the organizers, said, "Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the past three years the Tokyo Marathon has had to be greatly scaled back or even postponed. However this year we were thankfully able to return the Tokyo Marathon to its original form. For the first time in four years, fully 38,000 runners--the previous capacity of the Tokyo Marathon--will be at the starting line. I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to all the participating runners and to the many people who have supported us on a daily basis." Then, Mr. Ito, Ms. Arimori, and the others officially opened the EXPO gates. When the gates opened at 10:00 a.m., the many runners from both Japan and abroad who had gathered since early in the morning were welcomed with applause by the volunteers and staff as they checked in for the event.
Following the opening ceremony, Ms. Arimori said, "Tokyo Marathon 2023 is finally here. Together with all the runners and volunteers, and the many people cheering along the roadsides and watching on TV, let's all join together to make the Tokyo Marathon a stupendous success!" Ms. Arimori also offered up this message: "Let's work together to make Tokyo Marathon 2023 the most exciting marathon ever!"
As noted in Chairman Ito's greeting, this year's event will be held in the traditional Tokyo Marathon format, as runners visiting from overseas are welcomed for the first time in four years. These overseas runners also represent a significant portion of the marathon's maximum capacity of 38,000 runners. For this reason, numerous runners have been gathering at the EXPO site since Thursday morning. Especially visible on the first day, the EXPO site has enjoyed a colorful international atmosphere as runners and their families have come to Japan from countries all over the world.
Tokyo Marathon EXPO 2023 features 75 booths arranged throughout the Official Partner Zone, including Tokyo Metro Corporation, the premier partner of the event, and Tokyo Community Zone exhibits by such major partners as Starts Corporation, ASICS Japan Corporation, and Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., etc., which will be providing visitors with a wide variety of materials to enjoy. At the Tokyo Metro booth, where the official trophy is proudly on display, the photo spot features a real Finish Line gate that was crowded with visitors from the start. The Tokyo Metro booth also features real uniformed "station masters" to help promote the event, which has made them especially popular among the foreign runners and their families, who rarely see station masters in full uniform, and frequently ask to take commemorative photos.
At the ASICS Japan booth, new shoes and limited edition T-shirts are both on display and for sale. This booth also features a small course where runners can actually try out the various shoes, which has been so popular that there's a long line of people waiting to try them on. When we asked Mr. Muraoka, a runner participating in the event who was "test-running" the elite runners' shoes, he replied, "I've been really interested in these shoes for a long time, so it was a great opportunity for me to actually try them on and run. It's not easy to test-run shoes in a regular store. The shoes themselves were also very good; I've never felt so comfortable running in new shoes before. In fact, I'm seriously considering using them in the future," he said with a smile. Ms. Muraoka, who happens to be visually impaired, entered the 10.7km category with her husband, who will be running alongside her on the 5th. "This will be my third time running in the Tokyo Marathon. At first I was looking forward to the always unique atmosphere at the start, but now I'm really looking forward to the EXPO (laughs). I've always been encouraged by the cheers I receive along the Tokyo Marathon route, from start to finish, so I hope to enjoy doing my best again this year," she said excitedly about the race.
Meanwhile, over at the Seiko booth, which has been responsible for providing the official timer since the very first Tokyo Marathon, a spot was set up for taking commemorative photos with the timer set to display each runner's target time. Mr. Baba, a resident of Nagano Prefecture, was smiling and posing for photos with his hoped for goal time, saying, "The most attractive thing about the Tokyo Marathon is that I can run right through the middle of central Tokyo. I'm especially looking forward to reaching the finish line at Tokyo Station." Baba's running companion, Ms. Kaizawa, who lives in Tokyo, said, "This is my first time running in the Tokyo Marathon. I'm looking forward to seeing all the famous places that I can't normally run near. I've heard that the Tokyo Marathon has great support along the race route, so I'm sure I'll be able to run without getting tired right to the very end (laughs)."
The Tokyo Marathon is also one of the races featured in the Abbott World Marathon Majors (AbbottWMM), the six most prestigious marathons in the world, along with Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City. Runners who complete all six events within a certain time limit are called Six Star Finishers*1 and are awarded a commemorative Six Star medal. At Tokyo Marathon 2023, there will be more than 3,000 runners who have already run the other five marathons, and whose goal it is to become Six Star Finishers. One more challenge is to set a Guinness World Record for the most Six Star medals won in a single marathon event. The most Six Star Finishers in a single event to date is 732 at Tokyo Marathon 2019. Will a Guinness World Record be set at this year's event? The AbbottWMM booth set up at the EXPO venue was crowded with participants, mainly international runners, from the first day of the event, and was filled with enthusiasm for setting a new record.
*1 Runners who complete all six of the Abbot Marathon Major events in Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York, and Tokyo within the time limit of each event.
In addition to registering runners for the race, Tokyo Marathon EXPO 2023 also has a volunteer registration desk, which has attracted numerous volunteers from the very first day of the event. Many of the EXPO visitors were volunteers who were experiencing the volunteer spirit for the first time at this year's event. Senior volunteers were busy carefully explaining where to meet up on the day of the event, the flow of activities, and other information to support the volunteers. The venue was filled with great enthusiasm and motivation among the volunteers, certainly as much as that of the runners, to make this year's event a resounding success.
Tokyo Marathon EXPO 2023, which can be enjoyed by people from all walks of life, not just running enthusiasts, will be held until Saturday, March 4. Gates will close on the last day at 17:30, so please be sure to come with plenty of time to spare!