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Introducing the most competitive marathon you’ve never heard of

The Marathon Grand Championship is the first-ever Japanese Olympic marathon trials. It boasts insanely deep fields and is running tomorrow evening

This Saturday is the Marathon Grand Championship, also known as the first-ever Japanese Olympic marathon trials. This race will be run on the Olympic course for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 games and will feature one of the deepest marathon fields seen in years.

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Runners could qualify for the trials one of two ways: on the men’s side, run sub-2:08:30 or average sub-2:11:00 for your two fastest marathon during the qualifying period. On the women’s side, they could either run one sub-2:24:00 or average two sub-2:28:00 marathons during that same qualifying period.

The qualifying period for the trials ran from August 1, 2017 through April 30, 2019.

Cam Levins breaks the tape at Canadian Marathon Championships, STWM 2018. Photo: Todd Fraser, Canada Running Series

RELATED: Rachel Cliff on the depth of the Japanese running scene

If this was the criteria for the Canadian Olympic trials, Canadian record holder Rachel Cliff would be the only person on the start line. Not even our men’s national record holder Cam Levins would make the cut. In fact, the Japanese running scene is so deep that earlier this year Cliff tried to get onto the elite start line of the Tokyo Marathon and was unsuccessful (however, this was before she ran her personal best and national record of 2:26:56).

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あさっての朝、来年のオリンピックマラソン代表(の一部⁉️)を決定するレースが開催される🏃‍♂️🏃‍♂️🏃‍♂️🏃‍♀️🏃‍♀️🏃‍♀️ 本番とほぼ同じコースということなので、選手にとっては事前準備になりとても有意義だろう😃 宮崎県民としては、、、エントリーリストの中に旭化成の選手が不在なのがとてもさみしい😥 そのかわり(と、いうわけではないだろうが😅💦)‥ マラソンランナーでもある宮崎出身の小渕健太郎氏が 国家独唱をすると知った‼️😆 選手同様、がんばってほしいと思う😉✨✨✨ #mgc #マラソングランドチャンピオンシップ #marathongrandchampionship #小渕健太郎 #国家独唱 #コブクロ #みんながんばれ 😃

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But despite these incredibly high standards, a total of 43 Japanese runners (12 women and 31 men) qualified for the trials. The first three men and women across the line will receive a spot on the 2020 team and get to run an Olympic marathon at home. While this marathon likely won’t see one of the fastest finishing times of the year, the depth on the start line is unlike most other marathons, and certainly comparable to the World Majors.

What’s even more impressive about this start list is that it excludes the Japanese runners who qualified for the Doha World Championships, as it would be impossible to do both.

Tokyo has faced scrutiny over their climate and ability to host an Olympic marathon during the summer months. Due to the expected heat and humidity, the Olympic races will start at 6:00 a.m. The women will race on August 2, and the men one week later on August 9, the final day of the Games. While tomorrow’s race takes place five weeks later than next year’s Olympic marathon, the results will be indicative of Olympic athletes will be able to perform in Tokyo’s climate in under one year’s time.

The details

The race starts at 7:50 p.m. ET (men) and 8:10 p.m. ET (women) on Saturday night.

Live results will be here.