February in Tokyo is the season for running as thousands prepare for one of the major events in the global sport calendar: the Tokyo Marathon. At the recent race on Sun 28 Feb 2016, the Tokyo Marathon celebrates its 10th anniversary with a record of 37,000 runners.

Tadaaki Hayano, race director of the Marathon Foundation organizing team, said the Tokyo Marathon has always been popular with amateur runners. However, it took time before the it became recognized as a world-class event.

In 2013, the Tokyo Marathon was approved as a member of Abbot World Marathon Majors, a marathon grand slam series where participants compete in six cities, starting in Tokyo, followed by Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York. The organizers were required to step up security after a bomb attack near the finish line of the Boston Marathon the same year, which killed three people and wounded about 260. They have introduced squads of police, medical doctors and relief teams of runners with first aid and portable AED equipment in case of heart attacks. This has added up to Tokyo race's reputation as a well-organized and presumably the safest such event, which now draws attention and new participants from overseas.

Organizers are committed to ensuring that participants keep to the route, with signs in English, Korean and Chinese and multilingual volunteers on hand. Supporters cheering from the roadside can see the race pass sightseeing spots such as the renowned Kaminarimon gate of Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo Tower in Shibakoen and the Kabukiza Theater in Ginza. At 28 points along the route runners are entertained by dance or musical groups approved by the metropolitan governmen, the co-organizer of the event. Roadside supporters encourage runners by holding up banners. 

"I remember I felt so moved when I saw a sign near the finish line that read 'Your feet don't really hurt!' I felt cheered on by people who don't even know me," said runner Kim Seoyeong, a 25-year-old public relations who took part in the 2012 race. In fact, 62.6 percent of the participants in 2015 event said the festive atmosphere was the reason why they applied. 

For Hayano, the best prize would be if the Tokyo Marathon becomes known as the world's best a decade from now. "To achieve that we have set specific goals - we want to make this race the most exciting, the safest and the most enjoyable event in the world." ~ The Japan Times