Tokyo Marathon has an unusual new sponsor for 2012

Thirty six thousand people will run the Tokyo Marathon on February 26th next year, that’s an awful lot of hungry people.

A race on the size and scale of the Tokyo Marathon needs a lot of sponsorship and for 2012 one of Japan’s most popular fast food restaurants has stepped in to help foot the bill.

McDonalds may not be the first brand you think of when you hear the word “marathon” but McDonalds Japan CEO Eikoh Harada is hooked on running and is keen to encourage others to do the same: “Running requires no special tools or equipment, anyone can do it—and like McDonalds I think it is for everyone,” he said.

Tokyo McMarathon

Earlier this year an incredible two million spectators lined the streets from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office (Tocho) in Shinjuku where the race starts, through the halfway point in fashionable Ginza, to the finish line 26.2 miles away on the artificial island of Odaiba in Tokyo bay.

McDonalds Japan CEO Eikoh Harada

In 2012 race, McDonalds will support volunteer crews dubbed “Team Smile” will line the streets to cheer on runners and offer water and snacks (but no burgers).

Entry tickets to Asia’s largest and probably most iconic long distance run go quickly, in fact organizers say 283,988 people applied for the 2012 marathon on the first day. Eager runners still have a chance to enter the race by donating ¥100,000 or more to charity and have until November 30th to apply.

“The marathon is the day The marathon is the Day We Unite,” said Race Director Tad Hayano. “After 3/11 the values of connecting has become even more important…we hope lots of overseas people come to Japan to experience it.”

Both men love running and enthuse about the benefits of taking part. “When I was playing golf I used to be the only player who gave up half way around the course,” McDonalds’ Harada said.

“I decided then to take part and 2011 was my first race, it was very tough but I completed it in 4:16 minutes…since then I have been running ten kilometers every day.”

63 year old Harada is a recent convert and is keen to encourage others who may be considering taking part, “I regret starting so late. It is so simple, you only need your body.” He said.

“More than golf or baseball, running has a depth to it. It’s such a wonderful sport, I’m so grateful to take part.”

Tokyo McMarathon

Becoming CEO of a company the size of McDonalds requires determination and world-class business skills and Harada is not shy about his business goals:

“The Marathon is close to the people and is very popular in the world’s media. From a business perspective it is very cost effective promotion—millions of people will watch it.”

Tokyo Marathon is on February 26th.

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