Tokyo Marathon to increase the field

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The Independent Online

The organizers of the Tokyo Marathon have decided to increase the number of people able to take part, adding an extra 2,500 slots to the field to bring the total to 35,500.

Applications for a spot on the starting line will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis from July 15. In previous years, there have been so many applicants for the race, which takes place on February 26, that many people have been disappointed at not being able to run.

The race was only introduced six years ago and is not yet considered one of the five World Marathon Majors, although it has joined the slightly less elite list of 15 long-distance races that is included in the International Association of Athletics Federations' Gold Label Road Races.

And by increasing the number of runners and enlarging the charity section, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation hopes to significantly raise the profile of the event.

The race, which has traditionally been started by Tokyo Mayor Shintaro Ishihara, is scheduled to take place on February 26.

The route will take a circuitous course from the starting point, at City Hall in the Shinjuku district, that includes many of the most famous spots in the city, including the Imperial Palace and the Tokyo Tower, before ending at the Tokyo Big Sight convention centre in the Odaiba district.

The organizers are reducing the field in the 10-km race by 500 and allocating the extra spots to the full race, but it is also adding a competition for high school students and physically handicapped runners.

Another change this year is for charity runners - which make up a high proportion of the entrants in similar evens around the world, such as the London and New York races. Anyone who makes a Y100,000 (€868.53) donation will automatically be given a place on the starting line, with the organizers increasing the number of charity spots to 3,000 from 2,000 last year.

In addition, the foundation is considering extending invitations to 100 high school students from areas of north-east Japan that were affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami to take place in the race.