Health, fashion draw female joggers

by Yoshifumi Fujimoto

Kyodo News

Female runners in colorful clothing are increasingly conspicuous in major cities.

The boom was evident last year, with 30,000 women participating in the Tokyo marathon.

Sporting goods manufacturers are developing fashionable goods and planning promotional events, taking advantage of the heightened interest during the just-ended Beijing Olympics.

The number of participants in marathons is increasing across the country. According to a survey by Runners magazine, 114,000 people ran full marathons last year, up nearly 50 percent from four years earlier.

“The number of women in their late 20s to 30s who are running is increasing in particular. Their attempts to make their lives more enjoyable and exciting are diverse and directed at health, comfortable living and fashion,” said Shinji Takase, deputy editor of the magazine.

The media, including women’s and fashion magazines, are covering the boom.

Etsuko Kurokawa, 32, a company employee living in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, who was out running in Osaka Castle Park in early July, said: “I started running on my colleague’s advice to make myself beautiful. I often see runners wearing lovely fashions. There are more people of the same generation as myself running than I thought.”

Major sporting goods company Mizuno Corp. is marketing colorful clothing and shoes for women at its stores in Tokyo’s Harajuku and Osaka’s Namba districts. It is also holding events on how to prevent sunburn and to dress well.

In a tieup with public bathhouses near the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo, Mizuno has been buying bathhouse tickets since March 2007 and distributing them to runners at events and lectures.

Female office workers and others who run around the palace after work can leave their bags at the bathhouses and have a bath before returning home. Mizuno promotes its products at the bathhouses and provides information about events.

Asics Co. and Descente Co. are also developing fashionable clothes for women that disguise their body shape. Colorful jackets as light as paper and adjustable for length, and running skirts with integrated tights, are being developed for next spring and summer.

Seeing the success of the Tokyo marathon, local governments have started to organize their own runs. In April, the Tokushima Prefectural and Municipal governments held the first Tokushima marathon, drawing around 4,000 participants.

Toru Hashimoto has expressed interest in sponsoring a large-scale marathon in his prefecture.

“The increase in regional marathons will expand the market for related goods,” an Asics official said.