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Tokyo Marathon limited to elite runners over virus fears

TOKYO (AP) — Birhanu Legese of Ethiopia won Sunday's Tokyo Marathon, a race that was scaled back as part of Japan's efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Legese crossed the finish line with a time of 2 hours, 4 minutes and 15 seconds, 34 seconds ahead of Belgium's Bashir Abdi.

Sunday's race was expected to have 38,000 participants but was limited to elite runners due to concerns over the outbreak of the virus in Japan. The race, which doubles up as an Olympic trial for Japanese marathon runners, was limited to just over 200 participants.

The Tokyo marathon is one of the biggest sporting events to be affected by the coronavirus. Authorities in Japan have cancelled or postponed various other sporting events over concerns of spreading the virus.

Some spectators lined the streets of the Japanese capital but there were far fewer people watching than in past years. The government has asked people not to gather in large crowds. Japan's domestic soccer league has cancelled games through the first half of March while Japanese baseball teams are playing exhibition games ahead of the regular season at empty stadiums.

With Tokyo set to host the 2020 Olympics, Japan has taken extensive steps in a bid to halt the spread of the outbreak. Tokyo organizers and the IOC have repeatedly said the Tokyo Games will go ahead as scheduled and that they are following the advice of the World Health Organization.

The Olympics, which start on July 24, are set to gather 11,000 athletes in Tokyo, followed by the Paralympics beginning Aug. 25 with 4,000 athletes.

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