Ome marathoners offer support to fellow runners bombed in Boston

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Organizers of Tokyo’s Ome Marathon expressed their condolences to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, stressing they intend to work “hand in hand” with the race’s host to help overcome the tragedy.

Since signing a sister-race agreement nearly 40 years ago, the Ome race organizers and the Boston Athletic Association have worked closely to promote the sport, including the exchange of runners between the two races each year.

“Two runners who competed in our race ran the Boston Marathon this year” and three of the Ome organizers traveled to the U.S. for the event, a spokesman for the Ome Marathon told The Japan Times on Thursday.

All five were unharmed by the two explosions near the finish line and are scheduled to return to Japan later in the day, he said.

The organizers expressed their sympathies toward the association in a statement posted on the Ome Marathon website.

“The Ome Marathon will continue to move forward hand in hand with the Boston Marathon, without caving to violence, in order to promote peaceful event such as the two races,” the statement said.

According to the spokesman, the Ome race organizers haven’t discussed yet whether to hold a special event to mourn the tragedy in Boston. He also said the need to beef up security in future Ome Marathons is a topic to must be addressed.

The Ome Marathon is held annually on the third Sunday of February. This year’s race took place Feb. 17.

While it is relatively new compared to the Boston Marathon, which began in 1897, the Ome race has a 47-year history and has grown from 337 runners in the inaugural event in 1967 to around 15,000 in recent years.

Local residents, amateur runners and professional athletes alike compete in the marathon, which has 30-km and 10-km circuits.

Past participants include Naoko Takahashi, a gold medalist in the 2000 Sydney Olympics marathon, and Mizuki Noguchi, who won the event at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Under the sister-race runner exchange agreement, Tomohiro Tanigawa of Team Konica Minolta and Yuka Yano of Canon AC Kyushu entered Monday’s marathon in Boston. Tanigawa finished 13th in the men’s race and Yano 16th in the women’s.

Meanwhile, reports said the Nagano Olympic Commemorative Marathon scheduled for Sunday, the first major road race approved by the International Association of Athletics Federations to take place since the Boston atrocity, will have tighter security restrictions and a stronger police presence in light of the bombing.