Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Japanese Standard

I was reading an entry on Optimal Training that included this interesting passage:
Every town in Japan has a road race, but Japanese road races aren't like road races in the States. Japanese people don't subscribe to the notion of a "fun run". Whereas local road races in the US often have hundreds (if not thousands) of people jogging them, people in Japan either race it or cheer from the side.
No doubt such a cultural mindset has both advantages and drawbacks. It clearly has an impact on the quality of distance running, particularly in the marathon, that Japan has exhibited on the international level. I would estimate that the environment surrounding the sport of distance running in the U.S. during the first running boom of the '70s and '80s was significantly closer to that of Japan than today's culture of (excessive) inclusion. While far from the only factor, this is likely something that influences the gap that continues to exist in terms of competitive depth between Japan and the U.S.A in the marathon.

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