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Shibutani Wins 40th Hofu Yomiuri Marathon

by Brett Larner

Veteran Akinori Shibutani (Team Yanagawa Seiki) came within steps of breaking his nearly 10 year-old PB on Dec. 20 as he scored his first-ever win at the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, taking the 40th anniversary edition of the race in 2:13:58. Following the departure of pacemaker Samuel Ganga (Team Mazda) at 25 km after a 1:06:38 first half Shibutani emerged from the pack to first edge and then cruise away to victory. It was a major triumph for Shibutani, a former teammate of national record holder Toshinari Takaoka at Team Kanebo, who found a position with the minor-league Team Yanagawa Seiki after losing his place on the Kanebo lineup several years ago. For his win Shibutani picks up an invitation to the 2010 Berlin Marathon.

2003 Fukuoka International Marathon winner and Athens Olympian Tomoaki Kunichika (Team S&B) initially remained behind in the pack when Shibutani broke away and was followed by Fumiyuki Watanabe (Team Asahi Kasei) and 2009 Copenhagen Marathon winner Toyokazu Yoshimura (Osaka T&F Assoc.). Timing his move carefully, by 35 km Kunichika had drawn even with Yoshimura again and by 40 km was in 2nd and gaining on Shibutani. He was ultimately unable to close the gap and had to settle for 2nd in 2:14:38 in what may be the last marathon of his career.

Yoshimura, the #1-ranked amateur in Japan, hoped to improve on his 5th place finish last year and 3rd place finish in 2007 but was only able to overtake the fading Watanabe for another 3rd. His time of 2:15:05 was, however, a nearly two-minute PB over his 2:16:58 best from March's Biwako Mainichi Marathon, meaning his three marathons this year have been a win and two large PBs. Yoshimura will be racing again in February and then hopes to run for the win overseas this summer in either Grandma's Marathon in the U.S. or the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, where he was the 2007 winner.

Defending champion Kentaro Ito (Team Kyowa Hakko Bio) ran only 47 seconds off his winning time from last year but finished 6th in 2:16:48. Serod Bat-Ochir of Mongolia was the top overseas athlete, 7th in 2:17:19.

In the talented amateur-level women's race, Noriko Hirao (F-Dream AC) led start to finish for a comfortable win over 2006 winner Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall), 2:45:08 to 2:48:10. Hirao's teammate Akiko Aoki (F-Dream AC) overtook several competitors for 3rd in 2:54:32. 2007-2008 winner Miyuki Yamaguchi (Kobe T&F Assoc.) was 4th in 2:55:38.

2009 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon - Top Finishers
click here for detailed results
Men
1. Akinori Shibutani (Team Yanagawa Seiki) - 2:13:58
2. Tomoaki Kunichika (Team S&B) - 2:14:38
3. Toyokazu Yoshimura (Osaka T&F Assoc.) - 2:15:05 - PB
4. Fumiyuki Watanabe (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:15:18
5. Koji Harada (Kure T&F Assoc.) - 2:15:45
6. Kentaro Ito (Team Kyowa Hakko Bio) - 2:16:48
7. Serod Bat-Ochir (Mongolia) - 2:17:19
8. Hiroyuki Kamiguchi (Team Suzuki) - 2:17:21
9. Kiyotaka Shimamura (Team S&B) - 2:18:01
10. Yuji Iwakuma (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:20:54

Women
1. Noriko Hirao (F-Dream AC) - 2:45:08
2. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) - 2:48:10
3. Akiko Aoki (F-Dream AC) - 2:54:32
4. Miyuki Yamaguchi (Kobe T&F Assoc.) - 2:55:38
5. Hiromi Yamazaki (Yokochi Pediatrics) - 2:57:24

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
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