Skip to main content

2:07 Man Kunichika Headlines 40th Hofu Yomiuri Marathon

by Brett Larner

The last competitive marathon of the year takes place this Sunday, Dec. 20 in Hofu, Yamaguchi at the 40th anniversary Hofu Yomiuri Marathon. Long one of Japan's second-tier elite marathons, Hofu is a place where younger pros come to debut and older veterans go for one more win. The occasional first-rate race results, as in Ethiopian Hailu Negussie's course record 2:08:16 battle against future Olympic team member Satoshi Osaki (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) in 2002.

Like other elite marathons on the Japanese circuit Hofu has struggled to adapt to changes in the marathoning environment, particularly those brought on by the rise of the Tokyo Marathon. Where venerable races like the Biwako Mainichi Marathon and Beppu-Oita Marathon have redesigned their courses in the last year to improve their appeal as fast races and taken other steps to improve their image, Hofu has embraced the amateur. Beginning with this year's 40th anniversary race Hofu has relaxed its qualification standard and cutoff times to accept runners taking up to four hours. While the move takes Hofu out of strictly elite circles the higher numbers which should result will help it to continue to pull in the 2:10 to 2:20 men who make up its main core.

Headlining this year's race is Athens Olympian Tomoaki Kunichika (Team S&B). Kunichika, coached by the great Toshihiko Seko, won the 2003 Fukuoka International Marathon in 2:07:52. He is far beyond the rest of this year's elite field in quality, but at age 36 he is in the final moments of his career and has not raced well in years. Hofu may well be the end of the road, and if so he is hopefully going in with the intent to leave with the win.

Beyond Kunichika is a solid pack of eleven men in the 2:12-2:17 range, almost any of whom could step up if he falters. Among these contenders, defending champion Kentaro Ito (Team Kyowa Hakko Bio) is the most dangerous despite a weak run in September's Berlin Marathon. Overseas invitees Kachi-Tsu Chao (Taiwan), Yongjian Ou (China) and Serod Bat-Ochir (Mongolia) went 3-4-6 at last year's race and return this year, Bat-Ochir with 2009 World Championships marathon experience under his belt. The most intriguing contender is amateur Toyokazu Yoshimura (Osaka T&F Assoc.), last year's 5th placer. Since last year's race Yoshimura clocked a PB of 2:16:58 at March's Biwako Mainichi Marathon and then won May's Copenhagen Marathon in a course record of 2:18:04. Yoshimura told JRN he hopes to break 2:15 in Hofu, a time which would have won the last two years' races. Whether it's one of the six men above or another from the elite field, the winner will pick up an invitation to the 2010 Berlin Marathon as part of his prize.

2009 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon Elite Field
click here for complete elite field listing with photos

Tomoaki Kunichika (Team S&B) - 2:07:52 (Fukuoka '03)
Takehisa Okino (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:24 (Beijing '06)
Kentaro Ito (Team Kyowa Hakko Bio) - 2:13:44 (Hofu '01)
Akinori Shibutani (Team Yanagawa Seiki) - 2:13:51 (Beppu-Oita '00)
Serod Bat-Ochir (Mongolia) - 2:14:15 (Beijing Pre-Olympic '08)
Manabu Nishida (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:15:22 (Biwako '06)
Kiyotaka Shimamura (Team S&B) - 2:15:34 (Tokyo '08)
Yuji Iwakuma (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:15:46 (Beppu-Oita '05)
Tomohiro Minami (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:15:55 (Nobeoka '07)
Yongjian Ou (China) - 2:16:47 (Beijing '07)
Toyokazu Yoshimura (Osaka T&F Assoc.) - 2:16:58 (Biwako '09)
Kachi-Tsu Chao (Taiwan) - 2:17:12 (Hofu '08)
Nao Kazami (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:18:58 (Hokkaido '08)
Yoshihiro Yamamoto (Team Tokuyama) - 2:19:29 (Beppu-Oita '07)

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Paul Walsh said…
I was planning to run this, but some over zealous (ie unrealistic) training has left me injured ): Even at my best, I'd be a ways of getting in your blog post though (;
Brett Larner said…
Hi Paul. I forget to mention that Samuel is pacemaking this. Nice to see him make the transition to the jitsugyodan world.
Paul Walsh said…
That is great to hear. Looking forward to hearing the results. Looks like it'll be a cold one!

Most-Read This Week

Kipsang Talking Loud and Aga Mumbling Bold - Tokyo Marathon Preview

After stepping up to the big leagues last year with course records in the 2:03 and 2:19 range, the Tokyo Marathon hopes to go one better this year. Men's course record setter Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) is back, stepping up from a 2:03:50 prediction for Tokyo in January to a 2:02:50 world record prediction at Friday's pre-race press conference. In the unmentioned absence of women's course record breaker Sarah Chepchirchir the top-ranked woman is Ruti Aga (Ethiopia), coming in hot off a 1:06:39 win last month in Houston and turning heads at the press conference with a boldly mumbled 2:18:00 prediction.

Management for both Kipsang and Aga were skeptical to JRN of their athletes' predictions, people from each camp saying times two minutes slower would be more likely, one minute slower in a best-case scenario. But whatever the prediction, Kipsang was clear to fellow past champs Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) and Dickson Chumba (Kenya) about one thing: he wants a more conservative fi…

Kenyans Kabuu, Jemeli and Cheyech Lead Nagoya Women's Marathon Field

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, one with a long history as an elite race and adapting to the times with a mass-participation field of 20,000. The last few years it has seen a series of dynamic, high-level performances by top Japanese women, from Sairi Maeda's 2:22:48 in 2015 to the 2:23:19 to 2:23:20 sprint finish battle between Tomomi Tanaka and Rei Ohara in 2016 to Yuka Ando's stellar 2:21:36 debut and teammate Mao Kiyota's 2:23:47 breakthrough last year.

Maeda, Ohara and Kiyota all return this year to face the Kenyan trio of Lucy Kabuu, Valary Jemeli and Flomena Cheyech Daniel. Kabuu went to high school in Japan before moving on to the big leagues, but she hasn't finished a marathon since her 2:20:21 in Dubai 2015. Cheyech also used to be based in Japan as is a familiar face here, winning the last two Saitama International Marathons. Jemeli is making her Japanese debut, and with a 2:21:57 win in Prague and a 2:20:53 …

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …