Friday, September 4, 2009

Japanese Marathoners Begin Lining Up for the Fall Season

by Brett Larner

Less than two weeks after a strong showing in the Berlin World Championships marathons, Japan's top marathoners have started lining up for the fall and winter marathon season. The first to be confirmed is World Championships men's marathon team alternate Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota). The young Takahashi has run only a handful of marathons and holds a PB of just 2:11:25 from this year's Tokyo Marathon, but this slow time hides the quality of his performance and the potential it showed. Running into a headwind which cost the leaders at least 3 minutes, Takahashi made a bold solo break at 30 km in Tokyo, initially gapping Kenyans Salim Kipsang and Sammy Korir along with the rest of the Japanese field. Eventually overtaken by Kipsang and Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), Takahashi managed to shake off Korir for 3rd. The performance demonstrated bravery, speed and talent. Having trained to be ready for the Berlin World Championships in the event of one of the five national team members withdrawing at the last minute Takahashi will attempt to carry his fitness over a month to the Sept. 20 Berlin Marathon. If he shows the same qualitities as in Tokyo Takahashi's overseas debut could be a memorable one.

On the women's side, Berlin World Championships women's marathon 7th place finisher Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) will make her American marathon debut in New York. Kano has run the New York City Half Marathon three times, placing 4th twice and 3rd in 2008. Having run London in the spring her New York appearance will make her three for three this year in overseas marathons, an unusual record among Japanese marathoners which points to one of the differences in emphasis between her team Second Wind and those in the jitsugyodan corporate league. Kano's coach Manabu Kawagoe has said he believes Kano capable of a 2:21, but thus far in her short marathon career she has shown a lack of closing ability which has kept her out of the winner's circle in all but the second-tier Hokkaido Marathon. Although she has not been having as strong a year as in 2008, her skills may play better on the typically more strategic New York course. If successful Kano would become the first Japanese New York winner male or female.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
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