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2:04 Man Wilson Kipsang & Deriba Merga Headline Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon

by Brett Larner

The organizers of the 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon announced their elite field today for this year's 66th running on Mar. 6, and they have done an outstanding job of assembling a world-class overseas field. All six foreign elites hold sub-2:09 PBs, four set last year and none older than 2008. Wearing bib #1 will be Kenyan Wilson Kipsang, who ran a stunning 2:04:57 to win last fall's Frankfurt Marathon. With the trend in Japan moving away from small, elite-only marathons and toward the big city marathon format there is no doubt that Biwako, as the race is universally called within in Japan, is bringing Kipsang in hopes of a 2:04 clocking to stay competitive in the arms race with Fukuoka, with a 2:05:17 course record courtesy of Beijing Olympics and Berlin WC bronze medalist Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia), and Tokyo, which has called upon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) to summon up a course-record run later this month. Kipsang should have a sparring partner in the form of the aggressive and, lately, perpetually-DNF'ing Deriba Merga (Ethiopia). Mohamed El Hachimi (Morocco), Iaroslav Musinchi (Moldova), Yased Asmerom (Eritrea) and Moses Kangogo (Kenya) round out the overseas field, all with fresh 2:08 PBs.

For all the strength of the overseas field, the domestic field highlights the ailing situation of contemporary Japanese marathoning. The final selection race for this summer's World Championships team, the elite Japanese field features four men with 2:11 PBs and two with 2:12's, with five of the six marks set last year and the sixth in 2009. It's an excellent field of many of the best and freshest Japanese men, but their overall level stands in sharp contrast to that of the overseas field. Veteran Masahi Hayashi (Team Yakult) leads the way along with younger runners Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) and Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki). Any of the four could take the top Japanese spot but all will need to significantly step up their game to have a chance of meeting the 2:09:30 time requirement for an automatic WC spot let alone to compete against the excellent foreign elites. It's a tough time for the Japanese men and the outcome will be indicative of the current direction of the sport domestically, a continuation of last year's slight turnaround or a further slide from past achievement levels.

The general division actually contains a larger than usual number of quality men hoping to pick up one or two of the national team spots on the line. Some of the best include former Hakone Ekiden star Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) doubling up after an aggressive but ultimately failed bid at December's Fukuoka International Marathon, 2009 World Championships team alternate Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki), ekiden ace Makoto Tobimatsu (Team Yasukawa Denki) and 28:07 track runner Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) in their marathon debuts, 2008 Gold Coast Marathon winner Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) and, holder of the fastest PB in the domestic field, veteran Takeshi Hamano (Team Toyota). Any of these men or another of the seemingly countless 2:11-2:13 runners in the field could step up with a good run to take a place on the Daegu team.

2011 Biwako Mainichi Marathon Elite Field
click here for complete field listing
1. Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:04:57 (Frankfurt '10)
2. Deriba Merga (Ethiopia) - 2:06:38 (London '08)
3. Mohamed El Hachimi (Morocco) - 2:08:17 (Seoul '10)
4. Iaroslav Musinchi (Moldova) - 2:08:32 (Dusseldorf '10)
5. Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) - 2:08:34 (Biwako '08)
6. Moses Kangogo (Kenya) - 2:08:58 (Dublin '10)
32. Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult) - 2:11:17 (Beppu-Oita '10)
33. Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) - 2:11:25 (Tokyo '09)
34. Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:11:42 (Beppu-Oita '10)
35. Satoshi Yoshii (Team Sumco) - 2:12:24 (Biwako '10)
101. Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 2:13:23 (Fukuoka '10)
102. Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:10:38 (Beppu-Oita '09)

103. Keisuke Wakui (Team Yakult) - 2:13:43 (Beppu-Oita '10)
109. Tomohiro Seto (Team Kanebo) - 2:12:21 (Berlin '07)
115. Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:47 (Tokyo '08)
121. Yusuke Kataoka (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:12:28 (Beijing '07)
127. Takeshi Hamano (Team Toyota) - 2:09:18 (Biwako '02)
142. Kazushi Hara (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:12:11 (Biwako '04)
231. Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) - debut - 1:02:23 (Kyoto Half '03)
234. Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 2:12:37 (Tokyo Int'l '01)
304. Makoto Tobimatsu (Team Yasukawa Denki) - debut - 1:02:26 (Marugame Half '09)

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
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