2020 Summer Olympics Marathons

Is Moving the 2020 Summer Olympics Marathon Really Good for the Athletes?

a city with a mountain in the background
Written by Charlie

With the recent decision to move the 2020 Summer Olympics marathon, here are some reasons it would NOT be the best for the athletes to move it.

The other day, I posted about the announcement the IOC made that it was going to have the marathon course moved for the 2020 Summer Olympics – not just down the street but 500 miles away to the city of Sapporo. Here are some reasons that it may not be good for the athletes to move the 2020 Summer Olympics marathon.

Moving the 2020 Summer Olympics Marathon – Good Idea or Not?

At the time, I had written that I thought it was a great move to protect the marathoners (and the 50km race walkers are moving as well) from the expected high heat of Tokyo. This was partially with the recent World Championships in Doha on my mind where so many marathoners talked about the extreme heat being a detriment.

However, after reading and hearing what some of these Olympics think about this decision, I am now wondering if moving the 2020 Summer Olympics marathon is really good for the athletes. Let’s break it down a bit.

Reason to Move the 2020 Summer Olympics Marathon

Obviously, the reason is for the safety of the athletes so that they are not having to deal with what could be some very hot weather. That is (and should be) the only reason that the marathon would be moved.

Reasons NOT to Move the 2020 Summer Olympics Marathon

As reader and marathoner Joey pointed out in the previous post, Deena Kastor took bronze in the 2004 Athens Olympics. That could have been partially related to the weather since she went out and ran her own race.

The Athletes Train for It

As many of the potential Olympians have stated – they train for the conditions. If it is hot, they will train for the heat. There is not going to be any runner that will try to set a world record in Tokyo for the marathon. That is not something on their minds as the goal is to medal, not to set a record. So, they run their race without really pushing the pace to an excessive speed during the marathon.

So, they should be ready for the conditions. Hey, anyone can run in heat but it just won’t be that enjoyable in intense heat is all! Plus, these runners will be on the course for just a little more than 2 hours (for men) and around 2.5 hours (for women). That is a much shorter time than most of us are on a marathon course!

The Athletes Deserve a Stadium Finish

But, there is another factor in favor of the athletes running the marathon in Tokyo. I have heard from Olympians about how amazing it is to enter the Olympic stadium for that last few hundred meters. It is a huge boost and a celebration for them to enter to the cheer of thousands of people and fellow countryman. In fact, for some, it is the best part of the day if they aren’t going to medal. They still get to enter the stadium as an Olympic finisher.

They also get to have their family members there. Some who will participate in one of these events already have family members that bought tickets for Tokyo. As one asked, is the IOC going to pay for the flights and accommodations for those family members to go to Sapporo? I highly doubt that!

The Athletes Should Have the Opportunity to Run Through the Fantastic Tokyo Streets

Finally, it is a big morale booster to be in the same city as all the Olympic events. Imagine having to head up to a village 500 miles away from all the action instead of running the streets that are going to be packed with millions of cheering fans. Remember the Sydney Olympics in 2000? I remember hearing that the equestrian events actually took place in Sweden due to quarantine laws in Australia! Talk about being far from the action! That had to be a tough thing indeed!

This doesn’t have to do with the runners, but imagine all the fans too that have paid a lot of money – some even thousands – to be in the stadium for that finish. It will be a huge letdown to watch it on a big screen. Hey, will be doing that in my living room and I didn’t need to pay for a ticket to do that! For sure, the IOC should be responsible to refund these tickets or to do something to make it up to these fans, if they plans to move the marathon go through.


Another commenter on the recent post wrote that the Tokyo Olympic Committee “lied” about the weather in spite about the heat that summer being quite intense. I would hope that the IOC wouldn’t just take the committee’s word for the weather for the Olympians but who knows?

I guess I have moved into the camp that it would be better for the athletes if the 2020 Summer Olympic marathon took place in Tokyo. I would bet that there are a lot of potential participants in these events that agree with that.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.