Fears of coronavirus limited participation by competitors and bystanders in the 2020 Tokyo Marathon.
Israeli runner Lonah Chemtai Salpeter won the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday. She was the first woman to cross the finish line, setting a new women’s record at the Tokyo Marathon and breaking Israel’s national record.
Salpeter finished the course in 2 hours 17 minutes and 45 seconds, a whopping 50 seconds ahead of the second place finisher Birhane Dibaba. Her time secures Salpeter’s place as a strong medal contender for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics starting July 24.
The Kenyan-born runner’s time is the eighth best of all time in a women’s marathon and beats her own Israeli national record by two minutes.
She already holds Israeli records for 1,500, 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 meters, as well as the half marathon.
Salpeter was raised in a small village in Kenya without electricity or running water. In 2008, she came to Israel as a nanny for the children of Kenya’s Ambassador to Israel.
In 2011, she met Israeli running coach Dan Salpeter. They married in 2014. She was granted Israeli citizenship in March 2016, the same year she won the Tel Aviv Marathon’s women’s track.
Fears of Coronvirus Stop Runners in Their Tracks
About 38,000 runners were expected to compete in the race, including Japanese marathon runners who use the competition to qualify for the Olympics. However, due to fears of coronavirus, the race was limited to 200 elite runners only.
Additionally, spectators who normally line the streets to cheer on runners in Tokyo’s biggest sporting event were told to stay home to limit the spread of the virus.
With the decreased number of participants, the small number of volunteers who worked the event were given surgical masks and hand sanitizes.
With Tokyo hosting this year’s summer Olympics, the country is taking extensive steps to halt the spread of the potentially deadly virus.
About 11,000 athletes are expecting to converge on Tokyo for the Olympics and another 4,000 will participate in the Paralympics starting August 25. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday there are no changes expected for the planned Olympics. The country says it is following the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO).