Several events across Japan cater to your inner athlete


Staff Writer

Whether you’re into cycling, running or swimming — or if you’ve got the masochistic bent of the triathlete — then there is an event taking place this weekend that is sure to set your heart racing.

Not that you can still enter the marathon, cycling road race or triathalon that will take place this weekend in Hokkaido, Mie and Gunma prefectures respectively, but you can go along and watch and cheer. And with some of Japan’s best athletes in action, the three events will each be quite a spectacle.

The Hokkaido Marathon, which takes place on Sunday, Aug. 28, will see 9,200 runners wind their way through the city of Sapporo. Last year’s race was won by Kenyan-born Cyrus Gichobi Njui, who is a member of the Hitachi Cable team. Njui will compete again this year, and he has thrown down the gauntlet to all challengers this year by winning the Sapporo International Half Marathon last month.

Fans of cycling, meanwhile, will want to head to the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture. The track, made famous by the F1 Grand Prix and other car races, will on Saturday and Sunday this weekend welcome several thousand peddle-pushers, who will compete in the Shimano “Suzuka” Road race. Various team and individual races — with age groups ranging from elementary school students to adults — will be held. Entries for the event have closed, but spectators will be able to enjoy watching the races from various vantage points along the track — from the pit area to the terraced stands or the chicanes. Visitors will also be able to test out new, demonstration bikes and children will even be able to attend a workshop for learning how to ride.

And if you can’t choose between cycling and running, then you can choose both — and have swimming thrown in for good measure. Head to the Marunuma hot spring resort in Gunma Prefecture this weekend for the 2011 X Terra Japan Championship, which will see several hundred athletes compete in a host of events combining swims in Marunuma Lake and runs and mountain-bike rides along mountain trails. Entries for the Marunuma events are now closed, but the combination of picturesque mountain scenery with top athletes competing across three disciplines, will surely be a thrill.

For further details on the Hokkaido Marathon, visit www.hokkaido-marathon.com; for the Shimano “Suzuka” Road race, visit www.shimano-event.jp; and for the 2011 X Terra Japan Championship, visit www.xterrajapan.net.