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Race previews Hokkaido Marathon

27 March 2024, 2pm

Run on the Tokyo 2020 legacy course

In the footsteps of Olympians

by Ryo Takano

Hokkaido Marathon
Sun 25 August 2024

23 106 380

Hokkaido Marathon is the only full marathon event held in Japan during the summer months.

It started in 1987 with only 439 entries. This year marks its 36th anniversary and it has grown to a capacity of 20,000 runners for the full marathon only. Many Japanese elite athletes participate in Hokkaido Marathon to prepare for championship races often held in hot weather, such as the Olympics and the World Championships. This makes it a stage where citizen runners can aspire to run with top-class athletes.

The Hokkaido Marathon course was partially adopted from the marathon course of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and the finish lanes were fully re-created. With the time limit being extended by one hour to six hours more runners are able to experience the Olympic legacy course.

The main venue is Odori Park, located in the centre of Sapporo city. It is a famous tourist spot also known as the venue for Sapporo Snow Festival. Start and finish lines are at the same location which is an unusual thing in big marathons but which makes it easy to access from hotels.

The race starts with the countdown signalled by the digital clock on the Sapporo TV Tower. Runners pass through Susukino, one of the most popular entertainment areas in Japan, and run the course where the world’s top athletes competed in the 2020 Olympics. After 14.2km, it becomes the original course for the Hokkaido Marathon.

At 20km (33 km point on the return trip), the ‘dance and play’ (instrumental performance) by students from famous high schools cheer you up along the course. While water and food stations are available throughout the course the large aid station at 24.8km point is a popular spot where a half of the runners stop by. They provide many services such as snowballs (stored in winter), carbonated beverages, dorayaki, etc.

After 37.8 km, the course becomes the same as for the Olympics. It takes you through the lush green campus of Hokkaido University and in front of the red-brick former Hokkaido Government Office Building, which still has the Olympic finish line painted on the street. The last 400m is a “Victory Road”. Finishing the race and feeling the afterglow is a special experience.

Apart from the race itself Hokkaido has many attractions in gastronomy and for sightseeing. Hokkaido offers a wide variety of fresh seafood, meat, vegetables, and other foods for visitors to enjoy. Beautiful natural scenery and hot springs can be accessed very easily from the city of Sapporo. Summer is the best season to see Hokkaido’s typical scenery. Hokkaido’s humidity-free summer is very refreshing. Plants are lively and beautiful, and everywhere shines brightly with the contrast of colourful flowers and green trees against the blue sky.

Registration for the 2024 race starts from 31 March. Entries will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis – we look forward to receiving your application.

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