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Tokyo residents outraged after marathon runners urinate in sacred park

The race pointed out that there were 1,100 portable toilets on the course for 40,000+ runners

As all runners know, when you gotta go, you gotta go, but a recent video posted to the social media app TikTok has the residents of Tokyo up in arms after a group of marathon runners were seen urinating in a public sacred garden at Shinjuku Chuo Park during the 2023 Tokyo Marathon on March 5.

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In the video, you can see race officials waving to the runners to tell them to stop urinating in the gardens, but it clearly did not work. Residents of Tokyo were bothered by the behaviour and condemned the runners on social media, also putting the race organizers in question. The Tokyo Marathon organizers commented that they had noticed the matter and pointed out that there were 1,114 portable toilets set up for this year’s event, distributed from start to finish (650 at the start, 397 on the course and 67 at the finish).

The race also issued an apology, saying they would try to prevent such things from happening in the future.

The incident occurred at the start line, in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where a group of 20+ runners were seen urinating on the hedges of Shinjuku Chuo Park and throwing their discarded clothing in the bushes.

Comments on the video range from “Why do many foreigners feel the need to urinate everywhere… where are the restrooms? Were there enough?” and “No matter how you look at it, the race management screwed up.”

Another user also pointed out that urinating in public places in Japan is listed as a minor crime, and those who do it should be reported or charged. 

The start of the Tokyo Marathon. Photo: W/C

The race organization, which annually stages a major marathon for over 40,000 runners said they had notices and information signs around the course on where marathon runners could find bathrooms. After the event, race organizers said they cleaned up all parks on the Tokyo Marathon course, but many suspect that the damage had already been done.

Many runners at the big marathons don’t want to stand in the porta-potty lineup for fear of missing the start, so they pull off to the side of the course after the start. 

At the 2019 NYC Marathon, Goodwill NYNJ, a partner to marathon host NYRR, was on hand to collect a whopping 122,760 pounds (55,683 kg) of clothing from the NYC startline in Staten Island, N.Y.–which works out to 2.26 pounds (just over 1 kg) per starter. Goodwill ended up distributing the clothing to a collection of its retail locations.

Implementing a collection of donation bins closer to the start line could be an approach the Tokyo Marathon could consider in 2024.

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