The mass participation race at the Tokyo marathon, which was due to have 38,000 people taking part, has become the latest sporting casualty of the coronavirus.
In a statement, organizers confirmed that the event on 1 March will now be limited to the elite field of 176 athletes and 30 wheelchair athletes.
“We have been preparing for the Tokyo marathon 2020 while implementing preventive safety measures, however, now that a case of COVID-19 (coronavirus) has been confirmed within Tokyo, we cannot continue to launch the event within the scale we originally anticipated,” they added.
Organizers said that all registered runners would be allowed to defer their entry until next year – however, they would have to pay again and would also not get their money back from this year’s race.
One British runner who had entered the race said that she understood the decision but from a personal and financial perspective it was hard to take just 13 days before the race.
“My husband Max and I had been planning to run the Tokyo marathon over for two years so to hear this news is gutting,” said Sarah Dudgeon, who had been hoping to run the race in under three hours.
“Of course we understand and respect the decision but you can’t help feeling the personal ramifications,” she added. “We had trained hard through the winter and were hoping this would be the running holiday of a lifetime.
As things stand we don’t know whether the £3,000 we have paid for flights and hotels will be refunded if we decide to run the race next year.”
Last week organizers had sounded confident that the event would go ahead, announcing plans to distribute surgical masks to runners and volunteers as part of preventive safety measures against the virus. They had also told the 1,800 runners from China registered to race that they could defer their entry until 2021 without any penalty.
However, the continuing spread of the virus meant on Monday they had little choice but to take the drastic step of limiting the race – which doubles up as an Olympic trial for Japanese marathon runners – to just over 200 participants.