A wave of Japanese marathoners taking part in Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend

OTTAWA, ON, May 23, 2023—Japan is cultivating some of the best marathoners in the world. Despite this, Japanese runners often don’t get the same attention as those coming from countries like Kenya and Ethiopia. This is partly due to the fact that marathon running is so popular in Japan, some of their top runners only race in that country. 

But at this year’s Tartan Ottawa International Marathon, spectators will see a lot of bibs that say “Japan.” 

“At one point there were 14 Japanese men coming, but we’ve had a couple of injuries. So, it’s looking like there will be 11 athletes,” says Brett Larner, the agent representing most of the Japanese athletes appearing in Ottawa. “The reason they’re all coming is that Japan has its Olympic marathon trials on October 15th, and the qualification window ends on May 31st. The Tartan Ottawa International Marathon is the last race on the global calendar where they could qualify.”

Larner adds that it’s only male runners coming because there just happens to be more Japanese men needing to qualify than female runners. 

Using Ottawa as a stepping stone to the Olympic trials

According to Larner, having almost a dozen Japanese marathoners compete in the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is definitely unusual. Back in 2010, Larner was the agent responsible for bringing Arata Fujiwara to Ottawa, the first and only Japanese runner to win the Tartan Ottawa International Marathon. Last year, three Japanese runners competed—two men and one woman—with Yuta Shimoda finishing third. 

“I am so excited to see 11 Japanese elite runners participate in this year’s Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend,” says Kanji Yamanouchi, Ambassador of Japan to Canada. “The Embassy of Japan will be cheering them and all the other runners on!”

Marathoning—and running in general—is a national passion in Japan. Every year, there are some 30 marathons across the country, with the most famous being the prestigious Tokyo Marathon. In fact, marathon running is so popular in Japan that most races have a lottery entry system.

Expecting some competitive times

None of the 11 Japanese athletes coming to Ottawa have ever participated in Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. But they’re hoping it will be the perfect race to secure a coveted spot in Japan’s Olympic trials—one of the hardest marathons in the world to get into.  

“If you look at the standards for getting in, there’s no race that even comes close,” explains Larner. “The criteria for qualifying are fairly complicated. But in terms of Ottawa, they have to run either 2:08:00 or have two marathons that average 2:10:00 or better.”

That means that any of the Japanese runners who haven’t yet finished under 2:12:00 this season will need to run in a time of 2:08:00 or better. And those who’ve already run under 2:12:00 need their previous best showing, combined with their Ottawa performance, to average 2:10:00 or better. 

“I think they’re all going to give serious performances,” says Larner. “It’s a pretty long shot, but on a really perfect day we might see five qualify. Even one person qualifying for the Olympic trials out of this would make the whole thing worthwhile.”

The World Athletics Elite label Tartan Ottawa International Marathon takes place on May 28, at 7 am ET and will be broadcast live on Rogers-22 and YouTube. 

Japanese start list

Tatsunori Hamasaki, 34, 2:12:02 (2021)

Mizuki Higashi, 28, 2:11:04 (2023)

Hironori Kanamori, 29, 2:10:16 (2022)

Akihiro Kaneko, 29, 2:11:39 (2022)

Junnosuke Matsuo, 26, 2:10:34 (2023)

Chihiro Ono, 23, 2:10:15 (2023)

Ryo Osaki, 28, 2:08:30 (2023)

Kento Otsu, 31 2:10:13 (2023)

Taiki Suzuki, 28, 1:05:17 (half marathon, 2022)

Ryoma Takeuchi, 30, 2:08:57 (2023)

Keisuke Yokota, 26, 2:11:43 (2023)

See the complete Men’s Tartan Ottawa International Marathon start list here.

Media relations contact:

Lisa Georges

About Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend

Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is Canada’s largest running and walking festival with six races, including the Tartan Ottawa International Marathon, Ottawa Half Marathon presented by Desjardins, Ottawa 10K presented by Otto’s Ottawa, Ottawa 5K & Ottawa 2K presented by Runkeeper, and Ottawa Kids Marathon, as well as three multi-event challenges. In 2022, runners and walkers in the event raised a record-breaking $1,067,612.00 for local and national charities through the Desjardins Charity Challenge. The 2023 edition of Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend will take place May 27-28.

Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is the only running event in Canada to host a World Athletics Elite label marathon, and is host to Athletics Canada’s Canadian 10K Championships. The weekend was named Event of the Year at the 2019 Canadian Tourism Awards, and in 2020, its title sponsor Tamarack Homes won Sport Tourism Canada’s Canadian Sport Event Sponsorship Initiative of the Year Award.

For more information or to register: www.runottawa.ca.