by Brett Larner
One month to the day from Arata Fujiwara's course-record win at the Ottawa Marathon, the organizers of the Sept. 26 Toronto Waterfront Marathon have announced that they will invite four Japanese athletes to this year's race as part of their International Team Challenge team competition. The Japanese contingent, the first in the history of the event, will consist of Yamada Denki women's team runners Ayumi Nakayama and Maki Suzawa and Honda men's team athletes Takashi Horiguchi and Minoru Okuda. Race director Alan Brookes commented, "This is the first time we'll have had elite Japanese athletes on our flat, fast course. We're delighted to welcome Team Japan, a strong team from one of the great marathon-running nations, to Toronto Waterfront for the first time, and expect them to do very well against teams from around the world."
Nakayama holds a PB of 2:28:50 from the 2008 Osaka International Ladies Marathon. Freezing rain at this year's Osaka prevented her from improving on this mark but since then she has clocked her best half marathon since before beginning to run marathons. Her teammate Suzawa is an outstanding half marathoner who will be making her marathon debut at Toronto Waterfront. Both women are expected to be among the race's top competitors.
On the men's side, Horiguchi is a veteran with a history of running well overseas, his marathon best of 2:12:06 coming at the 2003 Los Angeles Marathon. Like Nakayama, he comes to Toronto Waterfront fresh from his best half marathon in five years. His junior teammate Okuda was a star university runner in the prestigious Hakone Ekiden and has made a succesful transition to Japan's corporate team running world. Toronto Waterfront will be his marathon debut.