Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Kawauchi vs. Adachi at Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon

by Brett Larner

The Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon organizers have announced the field for their 53rd running on Feb. 8.  Run on the home ground of the Takeshi Soh-led Asahi Kasei corporate team, Nobeoka is primarily a developmental race focusing on first-timers and young athletes trying to get the marathon right and typically sees winning times in the 2:12~2:13 range.  It's noteworthy outside Japan mainly in that every year the people who run around that level in Nobeoka make up a major part of the runners included on their coaches' annual junket to the Chicago Marathon, where some go on to take a step toward bigger things.

Recently things have been getting a little faster in Nobeoka, with 2:11 winning times in two of the last three years.  This year the organizers have taken a slightly different tack, invited three experienced men who should be able to work together to take down the 2:11:05 course record.  Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) is the strongest by far with a 2:08:14 best, but after losing a month's training to an ankle sprain in late December he will get a solid challenge from Asahi Kasei's Tomoya Adachi, who became the tenth Japanese man of 2014 to go sub-2:10, just, when he ran a 2:09:59 PB in Fukuoka in December.  Kazuya Ishida (Team Nishitetsu) won Nobeoka in 2:11:57 in 2012 and should be the other major contender.

Noteworthy names trying to run quality times after failed marathon debuts include pre-course change Hakone Ekiden Sixth Stage record holder Kenta Chiba (Fujitsu) and sub-62 half marathoner Shuji Yoshikawa (Kyudenko), a training partner of 2:08:00 marathoner Kazuhiro Maeda and 2:09:10 man Masanori Sakai.  First-timers make up over half the invited athlete field, with sub-63 half marathoners Yuya Ito (Team Toyota), Sho Matsueda (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki), Masanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa Denki) and Hiroki Yamagishi (Hitachi Butsuryu) topping the list.

53rd Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon Elite Field
Nobeoka, Miyazaki, 2/8/15
click here for complete field listing

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:08:14 (Seoul 2013)
Tomoya Adachi (Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:59 (Fukuoka 2014)
Kazuya Ishida (Nishitetsu) - 2:11:57 (Nobeoka 2012)
Norimasa Nishina (Fujitsu) - 2:13:12 (Hofu 2014)
Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business) - 2:13:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Yasushi Yamamoto (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:15 (Biwako 2013)
Takuya Suzuki (Aisan Kogyo) - 2:15:40 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Yasunori Onuma (Toenec) - 2:18:00 (Nobeoka 2014)
Kenta Chiba (Fujitsu) - 2:18:07 (Nobeoka 2014)

Do-Over
Shuji Yoshikawa (Kyudenko) - 1:01:58 (Marugame Half 2012)
Ryota Matoba (Komori Corp.) - 1:03:15 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)
Ryota Nakamura (Chudenko) - 1:03:16 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2010)

Debut
Yuya Ito (Toyota) - 1:02:21 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Sho Matsueda (Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 1:02:41 (Marugame Half 2013)
Masanori Kitajima (Yasukawa Denki) - 1:02:50 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2010)
Hiroki Yamagishi (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:02:51 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2013)
Takamitsu Hashimoto (Komori Corp.) - 1:03:13 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Masahito Sumimoto (Mazda) - 1:03:13 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Tatsuya Oshinomi (Nishitetsu) - 1:03:17 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2012)
Norikazu Kato (Yakult) - 1:03:18 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Shogo Kanezane (Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:03:19 (Marugame Half 2012)
Tsukasa Koyam (Subaru) - 1:03:28 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2012)
Atsushi Yamazaki (Subaru) - 1:03:34 (Kyoto Half 2009)
Daiki Kubota (Yasukawa Denki) - 1:03:38 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)
Yuma Morii (SG Holdings) - 1:03:57 (Marugame Half 2014)
Hajime Koizumi (Iwaki T&F Assoc.) - 1:04:01 (Ageo Half 2007)
Takashi Maie (Konica Minolta) - 1:04:16 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2009)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Nakamoto Withdraws from Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon

http://www.jiji.com/jc/zc?k=201501/2015012600546&g=spo

translated by Brett Larner

On Jan. 26 the organizers of the Feb. 1 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon announced that elite athlete Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) has withdrawn from the race with pain and nerve problems in the gluteus and quadraceps of his left leg.  Nakamoto was 6th in the men's marathon at the 2012 London Olympics and 5th in the 2013 Moscow World Championships marathon.  In December he ran the Fukuoka International Marathon to make the 2015 Beijing World Championships marathon team but finished only 12th in 2:11:58.

Chida and Kamitanida Win Katsuta Marathon

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/local/ibaraki/news/20150125-OYTNT50223.html

translated by Brett Larner

The 63rd running of the Katsuta National Marathon took place Jan. 25 in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki.  A total of 20,280 runners took part in the combined men's and women's marathon and 10 km divisions.  In the men's marathon, Yosuke Chida (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) claimed his first win in 2:18:15, while 2013 women's winner Manami Kamitanida (Team Hitachi) returned to the top in 2:38:29.

Conditions at the 10:30 start were excellent, with blue skies, 12.0 degree temperatures, 33.2% humidity and a gentle 1.7 m/s northerly wind.  Starting on Omotemachi Mall, the marathon course passed in front of Katsuta Station before heading north on Route 245 to Tokaimura where it returned to Ishikawa Exercise Plaza.

In the men's race, Tatsuya Itagaki (Team JP Post) took the lead at 15 km, but near 32.7 km a chase group of three caught him.  Chida surged on the hills around 34 km, and when the rest of the group was unable to follow he pushed on to the win alone.  In the women's race, Kamitanida ran a stable race to beat 2nd by over five minutes.  Upper-placing finishers in both races will receive invitations to run April's Boston Marathon.

Translator's note: Elsewhere, Subaru corporate team manager Shingo Igarashi ran 2:14:29 to win the 15th Asian Marathon Championships held as part of Sunday's Hong Kong Marathon.  Ethiopian Ejigu Sentayehu Merga won the actual Hong Kong Marathon in 2:13:00 with Igarashi placing 13th. Photo hosted by Athleticsasia.org

Kawauchi Sits Ekiden Out With Lingering Left Ankle Sprain

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2015/01/26/kiji/K20150126009696350.html

translated by Brett Larner

With lingering effects from a sprained ankle, civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (27, Saitama Pref. Gov't) sat out the Jan. 25 Okumusasahi Ekiden where he had won the Fourth through Sixth Stages over the last three years.  Kawauchi was scheduled to run the Second Stage this year, but he is still experiencing pain from spraining his left ankle in late December.  "I haven't done real training in almost a month," he said.  "This is the first time I've had an injury last this long since I started working."

Despite not running Kawauchi was busy behind the scenes, carrying a Saitama Prefectural Government banner and cheering on runners from his high school, Kasukabe Higashi H.S., from the side of the road with a loud and enthusiastic voice.  He indicated that he still plans to run the Feb. 1 Saitama Ekiden next week, saying, "I want to be out there somehow."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gamera 2:22:09 Ukrainian NR for 3rd-Straight Osaka Women's Win - Chepyego Sets Osaka Half Marathon CR

by Brett Larner

Two-time defending champion Tetiana Gamera ran a 2:22:09 Ukrainian national record to win a third-straight Osaka International Women's Marathon in the race's 34-year history.  Gamera went to the front heading out of the park around Osaka's Nagai Stadium and onto the roads before 5 km, challenged only by the last woman to win Osaka before her, 2012 champ Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya).  In that race Shigetomo ran 2:23:23, more than 30 seconds up on Gamera's 2:23:58 best from her 2013 win, but without a sub-2:30 from Shigetomo since then the odds did not look to be in her favor.

Shigetomo and Gamera pushed the pace to near 2:22-flat while a chase pack of eight led by 38-year-old Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) and 39-year-old Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) ran closer to 2:24-25 pace.  With a sub-2:22:30 requirement for auto selection to the 2015 Beijing World Championships team Shigetomo and Gamera hit the half in 1:11:15, but at the 180' turn just after halfway Gamera threw in a 3:16 km that dropped Shigetomo for good.

In her three previous runs at Osaka Gamera dropped negative splits with the fastest second half and final 2.195 km in the field.  Despite running the first half 25 seconds faster than her half marathon PB this time she somehow found the drive to do it again, covering the back half in 1:10:54 and the last 2.195 km in 7:18, both the best in the field, for the win. Only Japanese national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) had ever run faster to win Osaka, with a 2:21:18 on the tougher old version of the course back in 2003.

Shigetomo didn't initially slow, simply unable to follow Gamera's sheer power.  Behind her, Prokopcuka and Japan's Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu), a training partner of 2014 100 km World Championships silver medalist Chiyuki Mochizuki making her marathon debut as part of Osaka's new Next Heroine development program, worked together to close the gap to Shigetomo.  When they pulled within 40 seconds Prokopcuka threw in a surge that got rid of Kido and put her ahead of Shigetomo into 2nd just after 30 km.

Shigetomo, in obvious discomfort, slowed, but Kido stalled as she was hit with the last 10 km of a marathon for the first time and stopped advancing.  Prokopcuka pushed on for 2nd in 2:24:07, on at least one list the fastest time ever by a 38-year-old woman, while behind her Shigetomo bit down and hung on to 3rd, her 2:26:39 time not a good marker of how gritty her run really was.  Not surprisingly far off the Federation's Beijing standard, Shigetomo was still faster than the 2:26:57 winning time run by Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) at the Yokohama International Women's Marathon selection race in November. Barring a spectacular Nagoya Women's Marathon in March the Federation's selection procedure will likely happen inside a black box, but considering that Shigetomo's coach Yutaka Taketomi is in charge of the Federation's women's marathoning program you have to figure she has a leg up in the process.

Kido looked set for 4th but was overtaken late in the game by Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion), a promising first-timer two years ago in Osaka who has struggled since then.  Like Shigetomo's run, Watanabe's 2:28:36 was a semi-comeback.  Kido came through in 5th in 2:29:08, the top first-timer and as expected leading the Next Heroine contingent.  Ozaki took 7th in 2:29:56, missing the Japanese age 39 record by seconds but happy with a return to sub-2:30 territory.

In the accompanying Osaka Half Marathon, 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon bronze medalist Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) ran together with teammate Misaki Kato, both breaking the course record with Chepyego getting the win over Kato by 6 seconds in 1:09:43.  For Chepyego it was a solid tune-up for her marathon debut next month in Tokyo.  For Kato it was her first time under 70 minutes after a promising 1:10:44 debut at the 2013 Great North Run with support from JRN.  The men's race in the half marathon was also between teammates as 2012 winner Takaaki Koda (Team Asahi Kasei) returned to the top with a 1:04:02 win by 4 seconds over Kenichi Shirashi.  Like Chepyego, Shiraishi is also scheduled to run Tokyo.

34th Osaka International Women's Marathon
Osaka, 1/25/15
click here for complete results

1. Tetiana Gamera (Ukraine) - 2:22:09 - NR
2. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:24:07
3. Risa Shigetomo (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:26:39
4. Yuko Watanabe (Japan/Edion) - 2:28:36
5. Chieko Kido (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:29:08 - debut
6. Rika Shintaku (Japan/Shimamura) - 2:29:27 - PB
7. Mari Ozaki (Japan/Noritz) - 2:29:56
8. Yukiko Okuno (Japan/Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) 2:32:41 - debut
9. Shoko Mori (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:34:28 - PB
10. Kanae Shimoyama (Japan/Noritz) - 2:35:26 - debut
11. Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/YWC) - 2:36:29
12. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Japan/Shunan City Hall) - 2:39:48
13. Eri Tayama (Japan/Daito Bunka Univ.) - 2:39:53 - debut
14. Hiroko Miyauchi (Japan/Hokuren) - 2:41:29
15. Bornes Jepkirui (Kenya) - 2:41:47
16. Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:42:16
17. Sakiko Matsumi (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 2:43:01
-----
DNF - Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC)
DNF - Melkam Gizaw (Ethiopia)

18th Osaka Half Marathon
Osaka, 1/25/15
click here for complete results

Women
1. Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) - 1:09:43 - CR
2. Misaki Kato (Japan/Kyudenko) - 1:09:49 - PB
3. Ai Inoue (Japan/Noritz) - 1:12:26
4. Saki Tabata (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:12:39
5. Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 1:12:49

Men
1. Takaaki Koda (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:02
2. Kenichi Shirashi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:06
3. Shusei Ohashi (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:04:16
4. Naoto Miyagawa (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 1:04:20
5. Shota Atsuchi (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 1:04:35

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, January 23, 2015

Time for the Next Generation? Osaka International Women's Marathon and Osaka Half Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

The Osaka International Women's Marathon holds its 34th running Sunday, with two-time winner Tetiana Gamera (Ukraine) going for a third-straight win and Japanese women going for places on the 2015 Beijing World Championships team.  Gamera's best of 2:23:58 came in Osaka two years ago, and with the withdrawal of Kenyan Margaret Agai it means that if Gamera is anywhere near the same shape this time then her main competition is likely to be 38-year-old Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) whose best of 2:22:56 also came in Osaka a decade ago but is still running strong with a 2:24:07 in Nagoya last spring.

Japanese women are facing a sub-2:22:30 requirement for Beijing representation, more realistic than the laughable sub-2:06:30 requirement for men but still a time no Japanese woman has run since 2007.  Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) has the fastest time since then with a 2:23:23 in Osaka three years ago, but with nothing under 2:30 since then there's not much reason to think she's ready for a 1-minute PB.  39-year-old Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) is yet another runner whose best came in Osaka, a 2:23:30 back in the golden years in 2003, and while she is reportedly in excellent condition her 2:31:17 in Osaka last year doesn't inspire much confidence.  Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) ran her best of 2:24:57 in Osaka three years ago behind Shigetomo but since leaving the corporate system to go independent she has been more at the 2:28+ level, and after finishing 44th of 47 on her stage at the National Women's Ekiden two weeks ago it's a good question whether she is fit.

Which means it will be time for some new blood to step up.  Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion), Rika Shintaku (Team Shimamura), Shoko Mori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and in particular Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei), a Sachiko Yamashita-coached training partner of 2014 Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Tomomi Tanaka, are all promising athletes looking to improve on their debuts from the last year or two.  Osaka has made its want for future talent to step up clear this year with its new "Next Heroine" development program featuring university and young corporate runners taking a shot at the marathon.  2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon team member Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu) leads this group with a 1:10:11 half marathon best, followed by collegiate rivals Yukiko Okuno (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) and Eri Tayama (Daito Bunka Univ.).  There's not much chance any of them will break 2:22:30, but considering that Tanaka only needed to run 2:26:57 to win Yokohama and that the fastest Japanese women's time last year was just 2:25:26 anything under 2:30 would put them in a good position near the top of the current generation of Japanese women.

If anything the Osaka Half Marathon accompanying the main race looks at least as exciting.  2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon bronze medalist Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) is running in a tune-up for her marathon debut next month in Tokyo, with her teammate Misaki Kato, sporting a solid 1:10:44 debut at the 2013 Great North Run, the likeliest contender for runner-up.  Defending champion Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) and 2013 winner Saki Tabata (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) are also in the field.  With a 1:07:51 best it shouldn't take much for Chepyego to take down the 1:09:55 course record.

The men's half marathon field is also good, with last year's winner Noriyuki Nabetani (Osaka Police Dep't) and 2012 champ Takaaki Koda (Team Asahi Kasei) both returning to face probable favorite Shusei Ohashi (Team JR Higashi Nihon) and, in training for the Tokyo Marathon, Kenichi Shiraishi (Team Asahi Kasei).

Follow @JRNLive for live coverage of the 2015 Osaka International Women's Marathon starting at noon Japan time on Sunday, Jan. 25.

34th Osaka International Women's Marathon
Elite Field Highlights
Osaka, 1/25/15
click here for complete listing

Marathon
Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:22:56 (Osaka Women's 2005)
Risa Shigetomo (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:23:23 (Osaka Women's 2012)
Mari Ozaki (Japan/Noritz) - 2:23:30 (Osaka Women's 2003)
Tetiana Gamera (Ukraine) - 2:23:58 (Osaka Women's 2013)
Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:24:57 (Osaka Women's 2012)
Yuko Watanabe (Japan/Edion) - 2:25:56 (Osaka Women's 2013)
Melkam Gizaw (Ethiopia) - 2:26:24 (Dusseldorf 2013)
Kaoru Nagao (Japan/Univ. Ent.) - 2:26:58 (Yokohama Women's 2011)
Hisae Yoshimatsu (Japan/Shunan City Hall) - 2:28:49 (Hokkaido 2002)
Rika Shintaku (Japan/Shimamura) - 2:30:37 (Gold Coast 2014)
Hiroko Miyauchi (Japan/Hokuren) - 2:32:20 (Yokohama Women's 2009)
Bornes Jepkirui (Kenya) - 2:33:50 (Hannover 2014)
Shoko Mori (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:35:10 (Hokkaido 2014)
Sakiko Matsumi (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 2:36:45 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Yuri Yoshizumi (Japan/Osaka T&F Assoc.) - 2:37:56 (Hokkaido 2013)

Debut
Chieko Kido (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:10:11 (Sanyo Women's 2013)
Yukiko Okuno (Japan/Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 1:12:44 (Matsue Women's 2014)
Eri Tayama (Japan/Daito Bunka Univ.) - 1:12:44 (Matsue Women's 2014)
Kanae Shimoyama (Japan/Noritz) - 1:14:28 (Matsue Women's 2014)

Half Marathon - Women
Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) -  1:07:51 (World Half 2014)
Noriko Higuchi (Japan/Wacoal) - 1:10:51 (Marugame 2010)
Yuka Hakoyama (Japan/Wacoal) - 1:11:32 (Sanyo Women's 2012)
Misaki Kato (Japan/Kyudenko) - 1:11:57 (Corporate Half 2014) - 1:10:44a (Great North Run 2013)
Saki Tabata (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:13:01 (Osaka 2013)
Ai Migita (Japan/Wacoal) - 1:14:05 (Inuyama 2014)
Mika Sawa (Japan/Noritz) - 1:14:09 (Sanyo Women's 2011)

Half Marathon - Men
Takanobu Otsubo (Japan/Osaka Police Dep't) - 1:01:55 (Corporate Half 2005)
Kenichi Shiraishi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:23 (Corporate Half 2007)
Noritaka Fujiyama (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 1:02:26 (Corporate Half 2009)
Shusei Ohashi (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:39 (Marugame 2014)
Tsukasa Morita (Japan/Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 1:02:42 (Sendai 2008)
Takaaki Koda (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:52 (Corporate Half 2008)
Koji Kageyama (Japan/Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 1:03:28 (Ageo 2002)
Daisuke Kumon (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:03:31 (Corporate Half 2014)
Noriyuki Nabetani (Japan/Osaka Police Dep't) - 1:03:55 (Osaka 2014)
Mahoro Ikeda (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 1:03:56 (Gifu Seiryu 2012)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2015 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

Last year the Tokyo Marathon expanded on its claim to legitimacy as a World Marathon Major with new course records of 2:05:42 and 2:22:23, alongside the London Marathon one of only two races in the world all year to have 9 men sub-2:09 and its grand total of 14 men sub-2:10 making it far and away the deepest race in the world in 2014.  But the absence of much big-name talent and Tokyo's lack of genuine international orientation meant not many people noticed or cared.

Continuing to expand on its legitimacy, the Tokyo Marathon has partially remedied that by pulling in both quantity and some quality names for this year's race, especially on the men's side.  All told Tokyo features 21 men with bests from 2:03:02 to 2:09:30, the other spring World Marathon Majors Boston having 15 men from 2:03:38 to 2:09:37 and London 13 from 2:02:57 to 2:09:54.  Alongside last year's Tokyo course record-setting winner Dickson Chumba (Kenya) are Boston and New York City Marathon course record holder Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya), former Chicago Marathon course record holder Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia), London Olympics and Moscow World Championships marathon gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda), the debut of London Olympics 10000 m bronze medalist Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia) and a total of six men with bests under 2:06.

Last year's Tokyo was arguably the second-greatest marathon in Japanese men's history, with five Japanese men under 2:10 led by future Asian Games silver medalist Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) in 2:08:09.  Four of those five including Matsumura are back along with the man who pulled them there, the fastest Japanese ever on the Tokyo course, Arata Fujiwara (Miki House), his London Olympics teammate Ryo Yamamoto (Team SGH Group), 2:09 men Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo) and Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), and six more Japanese men with recent 2:10 bests.

The most exciting names to watch are Takehiro Deki (Team Chugoku Denryoku), who ran a 2:10:02 debut his junior year at Aoyama Gakuin University and makes a return to the marathon for the first time since then fresh off a superb anchor stage win at the National Men's Ekiden last weekend, and 30 km collegiate national record holder Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) who like Deki is making his marathon debut as a university third-year and likewise comes in off a big ekiden performance, a win on the Hakone Ekiden's most competitive stage earlier this month.  It's safe to say that none of the Japanese men will hit the Federation's ultra-realistic sub-2:06:30 requirement for automatic selection to the Beijing World Championships team, but the day could surpass the legendary 2003 Fukuoka International Marathon where six Japanese men broke 2:10 including three sub-2:08.

Belying Tokyo's roots as a men-only race, the women's field is significantly smaller, especially on the home front.  Course record holder Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia) is absent, leaving London Olympics gold medalist Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) and last year's runner-up Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) at the top of the list.  Like Gelana a former Japan resident, Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) is another top contender after a solid 2:22:44 win in Paris last spring.  The most exciting part of the women's race looks to be the debut of another Japan-based Kenyan, 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon bronze medalist Sally Chepyego (Team Kyudenko), who comes in off a long string of wins inside Japan.

The structure of the Tokyo Marathon, counted in World Championships and Olympic team selection for men but not for women, prevents the best Japanese women from running against the best international women's field on Japanese soil every year, something that seems counter to what a World Marathon Major should stand for but which the others seem to have signed off on.  The top Japanese women are not what they used to be, but even so there is not a single top-level Japanese woman, not even one from 2014's ten fastest, in the Tokyo field.  The best is Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease), a former pro who quit the corporate leagues to go her own way with a private sponsor in the footsteps of Fujiwara.  Since then she has just dipped into the 2:28 range on her good days, but given the tiny size of the women's field even that could be enough to get her into a decent position.  If she actually runs Tokyo, that is.  Nojiri is also entered for the Jan. 25 Osaka International Women's Marathon, and after finishing third-to-last on her stage at the National Women's Ekiden this month there has to be a question mark after her name.

2015 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Tokyo, Feb. 22, 2015
click here for complete field listing

Men
Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) - 2:04:15 (Berlin 2012) - 2:03:02a (Boston 2012)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:04:32 (Chicago 2014)
Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:04:38 (Chicago 2012)
Endeshaw Negesse (Ethiopia) - 2:04:52 (Dubai 2013)
Markos Geneti (Ethiopia) - 2:04:54 (Dubai 2012)
Peter Some (Kenya) - 2:05:38 (Paris 2013)
Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain) - 2:06:43 (Hamburg 2014)
Michael Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:48 (Eindhoven 2011)
Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 2:06:58 (Fukuoka 2012)
Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:07:20 (Enschede 2011)
Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) - 2:07:27 (Chuncheon 2011)
Adil Annani (Morocco) - 2:07:43 (London 2012)
Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:07:48 (Tokyo 2012)
Kohei Matsumura (Japan/Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:08:09 (Tokyo 2014)
Ryo Yamamoto (Japan/Sagawa Express) - 2:08:44 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Koji Kobayashi (Japan/Subaru) - 2:08:51 (Tokyo 2014)
Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:09:07 (Tokyo 2014)
Masanori Sakai (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo 2014)
Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Arata Project) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo 2011)
Tomoyuki Morita (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:09:12 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:09:30 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Takehiro Deki (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:10:02 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (Fukuoka 2014)
Takeshi Kumamoto (Japan/Toyota) - 2:10:13 (Tokyo 2012)
Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:10:29 (Chicago 2013)
Kenichi Shiraishi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:36 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Hideaki Tamura (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:54 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Atsushi Ikawa (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:11:04 (Beppu-Oita 2010)
Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:11:43 (Frankfurt 2014)
Josphat Boit (U.S.A.) - 2:13:14 (Twin Cities 2013) - 2:12:52a (Boston 2014)
Yuki Sato (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:16:31 (Tokyo 2013)

Debut
Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyo University) - 1:28:52 for 30 km (Kumanichi 2014)
Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia) - 1:02:11 half-marathon (Chicago 2014) - 1:01:39a (GNR 2014)

Women
Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) - 2:18:58 (Rotterdam 2012)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30 (Tokyo 2014)
Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) - 2:22:44 (Paris 2014)
Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:23:52 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
Yeshi Esayias (Ethiopia) - 2:24:06 (Frankfurt 2013)
Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:24:57 (Osaka Women's 2012)
Yoshiko Fujinaga (Japan/Isahaya T&F Assoc.) - 2:25:40 (London 2011)
Madoka Ogi (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 2:26:55 (Osaka Women's 2008) 
Helah Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:27:14 (Frankfurt 2014)
Kaori Oyama (Japan/Noritz) - 2:32:51 (Tokyo 2012)
Maki Inami (Japan/AC Kita) - 2:37:34 (Tokyo 2011)
Noriko Sato (Japan/First Dream AC) - 2:38:50 (Tokyo 2013)
Lauren Kleppin (U.S.A.) 2:39:13 (New York 2014) - 2:28:48a (Los Angeles 2014)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/Second Wind AC) - 2:39:38 (Nagano 2014)

Debut
Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) - 1:07:52 half-marathon (World Half 2014)
Yukari Abe (Japan/Panasonic) - 1:13:19 half-marathon (Marugame 2011)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved