by Brett Larner
The Fukuoka International Marathon announced on Nov. 18 the elite field for this year's race, scheduled for Dec. 7. The first of the four domestic selection races for the 2009 Berlin World Championships men's marathon team, the domestic field features 2005 World Championships bronze medalist and 2008 Beijing Olympics marathoner Tsuyoshi Ogata (Team Chugoku Denryoku), 2004 Athens Olympics marathon 5th place finisher Shigeru Aburaya (Team Chugoku Denryoku), and 2008 Tokyo Marathon runner up and Beijing Olympic team alternate Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon), along with a variety of other sub-2:10 countrymen.
The competitive foreign field stars Beijing Olympics bronze medalist Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia), London, Chicago and Rotterdam winner Felix Limo (Kenya), and two-time Olympic 4th-place finisher Jon Brown (Canada). Kebede and Limo's appearances continue Fukuoka's re-emergence as a world-class race, the 2006, 2007 and 2008 races having featured the top four finishers from the Beijing Olympics, gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru (1st, 2007), silver medalist Jaouad Gharib (3rd, 2006), bronze medalist Kebede (to run 2008), and 4th place finisher Deriba Merga (2nd, 2007), along with two-time world record holder Haile Gebrselassie (1st, 2006) and previous world record holder Paul Tergat (withdrew at last moment, 2007).
As a World Championships selection race, the domestic Japanese component of Fukuoka promises to be extremely competitive. Of particular interest will be the performances of Ogata and Fujiwara. Ogata, an aging veteran nearing the end of his career, ran a thoroughly mediocre race in Beijing, afterwards promising that his next marathon would be fast from the start, a suicidal crash and burn speed race. It has been years since Ogata ran his best times and it is unlikely he could really follow through on his post-Olympic words, but the prospect of seeing such an established figure run a risky, dangerous race is exciting. Fujiwara had a stunning breakthrough in Tokyo this past February, running a memorable 2:08:40 performance but missing the Olympic team. He ran Chicago in October in an attempt to make a big international debut but shuffled in to a 2:26 finish. It's a surprise to see him turn around quickly and attempt Fukuoka, but the sting to his pride is no doubt still fresh and he will be one of the most aggressive runners in the field.
The Fukuoka International Marathon takes place Sunday, Dec. 7 at 12:10 p.m. The race will be broadcast nationwide on TV Asahi beginning at 12:00 noon. A complete listing of this year's field is available here.
2008 Fukuoka International Marathon
Felix Limo (Kenya) - 2:06:14 (2004)
Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:06:40 (2008)
Shigeru Aburaya (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:07:52 (2001)
Jose Manuel Martinez (Spain) - 2:08:09 (2003)
Tsuyoshi Ogata (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:08:37 (2003)
Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:08:40 (2008)
David Makori (Kenya) - 2:08:49 (2002)
Aleksey Sokolov (Russia) - 2:09:07 (2007)
Yuko Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:09:18 (2005)
Jon Brown (Canada) - 2:09:31 (2005)
Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) - 2:09:40 (2008)
Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:43 (2004)
Yuriy Hychun (Ukraine) - 2:10:59 (2008)
Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:11:02 (2008)
Dan Robinson (U.K.) - 2:13:10 (2008)
Daniel Mwangi (Kenya) - 2:14:28 (2008)
Martin Dent (Australia) - 2:15:12 (2004)
Mark Tucker (Australia) - 2:17:45 (2008)
(c) 2008 Brett Larner
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