Miyakojima Strongman Triathlon:

Cancelled for Third Consecutive Year

* Views, opinions, and assumptions expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Samurai Sports

Triathletes based in Japan know that the domestic triathlon season traditional kicks off each year from mid-April in the southernmost islands of Okinawa. Eager to race, men and women of diverse multi-sport experience flock to the Ishigaki Triathlon and/or with a little bit of luck, the lottery-based Miyakojima Triathlon.

Unfortunately, the Miyakojima Triathlon will be cancelled for the third consecutive year. The race had already been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID. Based on a general committee meeting held on October 8, it was unanimously decided to cancel the Miyakojima Triathlon for a third consecutive year. An official announcement is expected following the executive committee meeting scheduled on October 15.

In short, there were no positive opinions about hosting the race.

The unanimous decision to postpone the race to 2023 was a sharp turn from the general committee meeting held in August. At the time, it was determined that the race would be held on April 24, 2022 albeit with shortened distances and an abbreviated race day, including the cancellation of the opening and closing ceremonies. Only domestic athletes residing in Japan would be permitted to participate.

Fast Facts

credit: JNTO
  • Date

    Mid to late April

  • Location

    Miyako Island, Okinawa (about 3 hours from Haneda Airport)

  • Distance

    3km swim | 157km bike | 42.195km run

  • Good to Know

    Entries are by ballot (random drawing)

Background

The All Japan Triathlon Miyakojima Strongman (or some iteration of this) began in 1985 and boasts one of Japan’s longest histories as a long course triathlon. 

Just over 200km, the swim and bike distances come a little short of the full Ironman – but finishes with a full marathon run. Starting at Yonaha Maehama beach on the southwest end of the island, athletes are given 13.5 hours to complete the race. While the island is mostly flat, the bridge crossings are windy and the weather can change rapidly.

Among the islands of Okinawa, Miyako Island is particularly well-known for its natural beauty, including clear blue waters and white sand beaches. A popular tourist destination for domestic and international travelers, Miyakojima offers a wide range of marine activities, including scuba diving, wakeboarding, deep sea fishing and wakeboarding. 

Due to its location, the climate in Miyakojima is subtropical – hot, humid, and relatively warm even in the winter. 

What happened between August and October?

In May and June, a survey was conducted among middle school students, high school students, and parents of students regarding the feasibility of the Miyakojima Triathlon. This is significant because the race relies on 800 to 1,000 middle and high school volunteers to support the race. It appears the results of the questionnaire were not compiled in time for the August meeting, and only came to light during the most recent meeting in October. Overall, the survey responses were negative, including 60% of respondents opining that it would be “Impossible” to hold the race in April 2022 – compared to 38% stating “Possible”.

Additionally, various representatives from the Miyako Hospital presented their critical opinions at the October meeting. Medical professionals provided a dim outlook regarding COVID-19, citing sources stating that a sixth wave was expected in January, followed by a seventh wave after May. Strict requirements were suggested, including mandating athletes to be fully vaccinated with negative PCR test results, ending the race by 1500, and advising infection control measures on par with the Olympics.

One long-time triathlete and medical professional based in Miyakojima urged a fundamental reflection on the island’s priorities, the meaning of triathlon to its residents, and the potential consequences to the island’s healthcare resources.

Source: Miyako Mainichi Shimbun (October 9, 2021) 

What now?

One wonders the relevance of ending a race early, e.g. at 1500, as a COVID preventive measure. In addition, the mentioned survey is curious (to say the least). The author has taken enough survey design courses to be suspicious of a questionnaire completed – at least in part – by teenagers. Also, why were results unable to be compiled and presented in time for the August meeting? Of course, the transparency demonstrated by the committee is appreciated and insightful, but the Miyako Mainichi Shimbun does not delve into details.

At the same time, it’s all understandable. Miyako is a small island with very limited resources. The committee has done the research and the people have spoken. We just hope Miyakojima isn’t a harbinger of races in 2022 – or that we’re witnessing the beginning of the end to one of Japan’s most well-known triathlons.

Here’s to racing in 2022 and a new normal *fingers crossed*.

Start:

Yonaha Maehama Beach

Finish:

Miyakojima Track Stadium