Civic marathons for elite and general runners and civic ekidens for nonelite athletes have grown wildly popular in Japan during the past decade and attract huge television audiences. The history of distance racing in Japan is closely tied to the rise of commercial media, the growth of commodity capitalism since the 1970s, and the nationalist goals of the central government via subsidies for sports, especially to produce Olympic medalists. By contrast, most citizen-runners aim to achieve a personal best time in marathons. Running has become the quintessential athletic activity for nearly everyone, a status equalizer and mobilizer of social energies that has shattered nearly all the barriers of elitism that until recently sheltered the sport. Running is the ultimate egalitarian sport, the surprising source of a new citizenship based on a new civic culture and community identity for participants and spectators alike.
Keywords: Japan; marathon; ekiden; citizen runners; commercialization; media; government support; Olympics; civic culture; egalitarianism
Chapter. 2918 words.
Subjects: Society and Culture
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