Eh, just run wherever you want, whenever you want. It’s all good.

The Sapporo Marathon is an annual long-distance running event, held in the cool month of October. Due to Hokkaido’s favorable climate and wonderful autumn scenery it’s a popular race, drawing hundreds of runners and thousands of spectators.

▼ A promotional video for last year’s marathon

Of course, these days drawing hundreds and thousands of anyone is bad news, so organizers were faced with a dilemma of what to do this year. After careful consideration, they decided to join the growing trend of online marathons in which runners can cover the designated distance on any route they like using a GPS enabled smartphone app.

The Nagoya Women’s Marathon was the first in Japan to hold such an event last March after restricting the actual marathon to elite runners only. Although many took part, some reported that it wasn’t quite the same and had trouble getting the GPS to accurately record their real distance covered. Also, the cheering spectators were very much missed and frequent traffic lights made it incredibly hard to keep a steady pace without having to run dozens of laps around the same park.

▼ One example of a Nagoya Women’s Online Marathon course

Sapporo is a bit more spacious of a city, however, and might offer better opportunities for people to plot a clear and diverse route to run along. As long as they run the mandatory distances between 7 and 13 October, participants will receive a participation award, the form of which has yet to be announced. Considering the 2,500 yen (US$23) entry fee and limit of 4,000 runners is still in place, it might be decent.

▼ Could banana trophies be on the horizon? One can only hope…

It’ll never replace the actual magic of taking part in a marathon, but at least it gives runners something to strive for while navigating these difficult times. This event will be divided into a one-time half-marathon of 21.0975 kilometers (13 miles) and a “Fun Pair” run in which teams of two can work together to cover a cumulative 10 kilometers (6 miles) each over the course of as many separate runs as they want.

Readers of the news online were intrigued by the idea and some thought it could be used elsewhere too.

“Just do the whole Olympics like this!”
“Now that:s what I call ‘e-sports!'”
“You just know some people are going to cheat and use a bike.”
“If everyone’s not running on the same course then it’s not fair as a competition. On the other hand, since there’s no schedule you don’t have to worry about the weather.”
“Would marathon people really enjoy this?”
“They just copied Comiket.”
“You can do lots of sports online like this. More online races and online weightlifting!”
“I feel it’s kind of stupid, but I kind of want to take part in it.”
“I like the spirit of it. It’s better than just cancelling everything.”

Online marathons are clearly not a perfect solution, but echoing the last comment, it’s the spirit of trying new and inventive ways of overcoming our current obstacles that’s worth maintaining. Along the way there will be hits, such as improvements in Japan’s working culture, and misses, like creepy robot shows, but with a little luck we might just come out on the other side of this better off in some ways then when we went in.

Source: Sapporo Marathon, NHK News Web, Asahi Shimbun, My Game News Flash
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24)
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