by Brett Larner
click here for JRNLive's detailed race commentary
Click photo for a gallery of images from the 2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon.
In a tactical race of few surprises, Jonathan Kipkorir (Kenya), the strongest man of '09 in the field, took the 2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon on Feb. 7 in a sprint finish over the final 500 m against aging 2:06:16 runner Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult), holder of the fastest PB in the field. Japanese debutant Atsushi Ikawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) had a good race, 4th overall in 2:11:04 after repeatedly attacking the lead pack of eight over the final 10 km. Track darling Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) performed below expectations in his own marathon debut, 9th in 2:12:59. However, the biggest news of the race was Australian Jeffrey Hunt.
Debuting at the marathon, Hunt spent the early parts of the race far back in the third pack while the leaders ran on track for 2:08. Despite a fast new course and good conditions, the pacemakers sagged in the middle stages to 3:10 pace and put a new record out of reach. The pack accelerated over the second half, but Hunt was running even faster and clocked 15:03 between 30 and 35 km. With 6 km to go he suddenly appeared in the cameras, flying past Mitsuya and rapidly closing on the lead pack of seven. Race announcers immediately fixed their attention on Hunt and marathon great Shigeru Soh was full of praise for the Australian. Hunt made contact with the leaders with 3 km to go, and when Njenga attacked in the final 2 km went in pursuit with Kipkorir. Unable to match strides with the two Kenyans, Hunt nevertheless held on for an outstanding debut of 2:11:00. It was a near-miss for a show-stealer but an extremely impressive performance nevertheless considering that he finished within 10 seconds of a man who ran 2:07:31 last year.
After Achilles tendon problems in the two weeks before the race Ikawa was pleased with his debut. "That was fun," he said afterwards. "It wasn't as hard as I expected." Njenga's teammate Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult) survived some difficulties in the last 5 km to clock a PB of 2:11:07 for 6th, while Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) likewise made the top 10 with a PB of 2:11:42. For Mitsuya, the marathon was a tough challenge. With the country hungry for its men to step back up to the world level Mitsuya was under tremendous pressure as one of the top young track runners. His run will no doubt be viewed as a disappointment, but at age 25 he still has plenty of time and room for improvement.
2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Top Finishers
click here for complete results
1. Jonathan Kipkorir (Kenya) - 2:10:50
2. Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult) - 2:10:55
3. Jeffrey Hunt (Australia) - 2:11:00 - debut
4. Atsushi Ikawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:11:04 - debut
5. Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) - 2:11:05
6. Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult) - 2:11:17 - PB
7. Chala Lemi (Ethiopia) - 2:11:37
8. Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:11:42 - PB
9. Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 2:12:59 - debut
10. Toshinari Suwa (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:13:16
(c) 2010 Brett Larner
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