KUMAMOTO--Organizers of marathons planned here, in Kita-Kyushu and Kyoto have requested that runners from China stay away from the events to be held Feb. 16 because of the coronavirus epidemic.

For the Kumamoto Castle Marathon, officials said they e-mailed the request to 10 runners, promising that in exchange for not showing up they would be guaranteed berths in next year's marathon.

Organizers are also taking other precautions because of the health scare and rethinking the setup of popular activities that precede the marathon as well as on race day.

Kumamon, Kumamoto's lovable prefectural mascot, normally would exchange high-fives with runners as they set off from the starting line. But this year, Kumamon will be placed farther away.

Those who formally apply to run by Feb. 15 will be questioned by event staff about the state of their health. All participants will be given face masks. Fliers written in Japanese, English and Chinese will outline what runners should be aware of during the race.

Another high-five occasion will also be changed for this year’s race. Initially, race organizers had planned to set aside space at the goal line for those running the 3-kilometer course to exchange high-fives with spectators.

But, rather than the high-fives, bystanders will be asked to wave the national flags of participating runners.

Last year’s Kumamoto Castle Marathon drew about 14,000 runners. This year, about 16,000 people from 13 nations and regions are expected to take part.

Organizers said they would go ahead with the marathon even if the coronavirus is confirmed to have reached Kumamoto city.

Seven Chinese planning to compete in a marathon in Kita-Kyushu were also asked to refrain from participating as was the case with 386 Chinese planning to take part in the Kyoto city marathon.

In return for their understanding, organizers guaranteed the spots in next year’s event.