Skip to main content

Akaba Wants the Win and the Time - Osaka International Women's Marathon Preview (updated)

by Brett Larner

Update: Yumiko Hara (Team Univ. Ent.), Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya), Adriana Fernandez (Mexico) and Tetyana Holovchenko have withdrawn with injuries.

The 30th anniversary Osaka International Women's Marathon takes place this Sunday, Jan. 30. With a new course which aims to be flatter and faster by eliminating the old course's most famous feature, the twisting and hilly turn through the ground of Osaka Castle, organizers are hopeful of seeing outstanding times in the first of the major domestic selection races for this summer's World Championships. 2009 World Championships marathoner Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) says she is going to deliver.

Akaba, one of Japan's top track and half marathon runners in the last few years, came to last year's Osaka with a knee injury, but despite being less than 100% she led the race through a 1:10:45 in cold rain. Akaba ultimately DNF'd but said afterwards that she had just wanted to see what she could do in the shape she was in, and returned later in the spring to set a modest PB of 2:24:55 at the London Marathon. This year Akaba says she is fit and going not only for a World Championships spot but the win, and not only the win but a fast time. If she follows through on last year's performance the Japanese all-comers' record of 2:21:18 could be in range.

Two overseas women have faster PBs, Russians Liudmila Petrova and Svetlana Zakharova, but with both in their 40's it's questionable whether they could still be factors in a fast race. That leaves Italian Anna Incerti as the probable top foreign entrant, with a PB of 2:27:42. Not far off is Romanian Adriana Pirtea, who improved her PB to 2:28:52 after her infamous near-win at the Chicago Marathon.

The biggest potential news could come from two follow-up marathoners who debuted in 2010, Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) and Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku). Kizaki was the best all-around Japanese woman of 2010, with strong track performances, a good run at the World Half Marathon, and a 2:27:34 debut at last year's Osaka after following Akaba's 1:10:45 first half. She says she is shooting for a 2:24, which should be enough for at least 2nd Japanese. Ito was 4th at last year's Nagoya International Women's Marathon in her debut. Her time of 2:29:13 was not particularly remarkable, but it does not tell the full story of her run. Despite committing to the marathon only a month beforehand, Ito ran head-to-head against the experienced Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) in the latter stages of the race, pushing the pace before falling apart in the final 5 km and losing two places. Since then she has run 3000 m, 5000 m and 10000 m PBs, and with experience and better stamina this time around her coach Tadasu Kawano says she is ready for the win.

Osaka also features a number of other women in the 2:26-2:39 range, most of whom could be in the pack late in the race. Chika Horie (Team Univ. Ent.), Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) and Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) all hold solid experience behind them, with Okunaga having shown potential for something higher by running in the lead pack at the 2009 London Marathon. 2010's top two Japanese half marathoners, identical twins Hiroko and Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) have yet to find success at the marathon but have the talent to be there.

The Osaka International Women's Marathon will be broadcast live on Fuji TV beginning at noon Japan time on Jan. 30. Overseas viewers should be able to watch for free online via Keyhole TV, available here. Live English commentary via Twitter will be available @JRNLive.

2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon
click here for complete field listing
1. Liudmila Petrova (Russia) - 2:21:29 (London '06)
2. Svetlana Zakharova (Russia) - 2:21:31 (Chicago '02)
4. Anna Incerti (Italy) - 2:27:42 (Milan '08)
5. Adriana Pirtea (Romania) - 2:28:52 (London '08)
33. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 2:24:55 (London '10)
34. Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:26:09 (Osaka '08)
35. Chika Horie (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:26:11 (Hokkaido '02)
36. Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) - 2:27:16 (Osaka '09)
37. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 2:27:34 (Osaka '10)
38. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:29:13 (Nagoya '10)
39. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:32:20 (Yokohama '09)
40. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:33:36 (Nagoya '10)
101. Ayumi Nakayama (Team Yamada Denki) - 2:28:50 (Osaka '08)
102. Saori Nejo (Team Hokuren) - 2:33:54 (Osaka '10)
106. Satoko Uetani (Kobe Gakuin Univ.) - 2:33:55 (Sapporo '09)


pacemakers
62. Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal)
61. Aniko Kalovics (Hungary)
63. Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya)

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Brett Larner said…
Current forecast is for rain Saturday night, then cloudy race day with a low of 0 and a high of 5 degrees. If the rain is late it could end up being a replay of last year's miserable weather.
Scott Brown said…
Just checked and it seems like it's going to clear by 9am Brett.

So it won't be as bad as last year! You ran the half, didn't you? And didn't do bad in those "miserables" condition so yes with a bit of clear weather, light wind too, it will be a fast race for the girls.

I'm doing the half this Sunday too and hope the reverse course of Osaka Castle to Nagai stadium will be an improvement.

Tanoshimi ni...
Brett Larner said…
Whoa, good memory! Yes, I did run the half last year and it was cold and slow. Hope you have better weather. Good run to you.
Brett Larner said…
Looks now like it'll be sunny, 2 degrees at the start and moderately windy.

Most-Read This Week

Kawabata Over Kawauchi at Takashimadaira 20 km

Like a distant echo of the thunder of yesterday's Yosenkai 20 km reverberating across the city, Tokyo's other major 20 km road race took place this morning in the northwestern suburb of Takashimadaira. Narrowly surviving the loss of its main sponsor last year, the Takashimadaira Road Race offers a unique 5 km loop course that delivers fast times. Now in its 42nd year, Takashimadaira is a favorite for upper-tier universities that don't have to run the Yosenkai to requalify for the Hakone Ekiden, for other schools' second-stringers, and for top-level independents and amateurs.

This year's race was fronted by a group of runners from Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University who didn't make Tokai's final Izumo roster, by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and others from yesterday's Yosenkai winner Teikyo University and the Hakone-qualified Juntendo University and Komazawa University. In the same cool and lightly rainy…

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…

Osaka Marathon Elite Field

One of the world's ten biggest marathons, in its six runnings to date the Osaka Marathon has continued to avoid the addition of a world-class elite field of the same caliber as at equivalently-sized races like Tokyo, Berlin and Boston. In place of doling out cash to pros, Osaka's women's field has developed into a sort of national championship race for amateur women.

In the field this year are six, probably all six, of the amateur Japan women to have broken 2:40 in the last three years. Last year's top three, Yoshiko Sakamoto (F.O.R.), Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) and Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) lead the way at the 2:36 +/- level, with a second trio of Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo), Mitsuko Ino (R2 Nishin Nihon) and Chika Tawara (RxL) all around the 2:39 level.

Last year's winner Sakamoto and 3rd placer Yoshimatsu squared off in September at Germany's Volksbank Muenster Marathon, Yoshimatsu tying Sakamoto's Osaka winning time of 2:36:02 to take 3rd over …