10,000 Marathoners Run with Olympic Zeal to Help Tohoku

More than 10,000 registered participants—including some 50 entries in the wheelchair division—turned out for the 22nd Sendai International Half Marathon yesterday, reminding Japan and the world of sport's infinite capacity both to inspire passion and to bring people together.

A year after Sendai and the surrounding Tohoku region were devastated by the 3/11 earthquake, forcing the event to be cancelled, the Sendai International Half Marathon rose from the ashes to reenergise residents in the quake-affected area.

Kenyan Johana Maina won the men's division in 1:04:34, while local hero Asami Kato clinched the women's division with a winning time of 1:11:21. Other noted participants included guest runner Naoko Takahashi, the Sydney 2000 Games Marathon Champion, and Arata Fujiwara, who will be participating at the upcoming London 2012 Games.In an ongoing tradition, Sendai welcomed 16 runners from international sister and friendship cities in countries including Belarus, China, France, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan and the USA.

Tsunekazu Takeda, President of both the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) and Tokyo2020 said: "On behalf of the Japanese sports community, we sincerely appreciate the generous and heartfelt support that friends worldwide have provided to the people of Tohoku.
The Sendai International Half Marathon is a wonderful showcase of the invaluable role of sport in inspiring dreams, hopes and positive change. All members of the Japanese sports community feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to stand with the people of Tohoku and work toward a better future."

The Sendai International Half Marathon also included 5km and 2km courses for participants of all ages, from young school children to seniors. Roadside spectators and enthusiastic volunteers travelled from all around the country to encourage and support the runners.

The JOC also is sending athletes to host Olympic Day Festas and other events in quake-affected areas under the "Ganbare Nippon" (hang in there Japan) project, which it launched last year.
The effort includes providing funds, relief goods and medical teams.

In addition, the JOC is operating an ambitious five-year project to send Olympians and Paralympians to inspire youths in the quake-affected area. The Sports Kokoro Project (http://www.sports-kokoro.jp(Open in a new window)) is scheduled to visit 538 schools, aiming to put smiles on the faces of some 46,000 schoolchildren and fill their hearts (kokoro) with joy.
Image of the event

Sendai International Half Marathon Photo: SENDAI City Sports Promotion Foundation/Tokyo 2020