by Brett Larner
After a long push starting at 25 km Moroccan Ahmed Baday ran a PB 2:10:14 to win the 60th anniversary Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon on Feb. 6. In a race targeted to be in the mid-2:08's Baday ran in a pack with longtime Japan resident Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult) and a dozen Japanese competitors including pre-race domestic favorites Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu), the 2007 Beppu-Oita winner and former national record holder, and Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), who had a promising marathon debut with a 2nd-place finish at the 2009 Tokyo Marathon only to miss most of last year following ankle surgery. Early pacemaking irregularities by course record holder Gert Thys (South Africa) and two other pacers resulted in an opening 5 km split of 14:55 followed by 15:32 versus the targeted pace of 15:15 / km. The fast opening left the top two seeds, 2003 Beppu-Oita winner Samson Ramadhani (Tanzania) and Abiyote Guta (Ethiopia) playing catchup, and neither ever factored into the race.
As the large lead pack ground down after halfway, Baday surged ahead with the lone pacer at 25 km following Thys' departure. Njenga was quick to follow, and although the lead pair's pace settled down and was not distinctly faster than the chase pack of Japanese runners Fujita, Maeda, Yuki Moriwaki (Team JFE Steel) and Masaki Shimoju (Team Konica Minolta), the Japanese athletes seemed to collectively give up on going for the win and settled into an internal battle to be the one to pick up a World Championships qualifying spot.
Despite being well on track for good times, both the lead pair and the chasers slowed dramatically. Shimoju fell out of the chase pack, while Moriwaki could not keep up when Fujita and Maeda began to trade surges after 35 km. Fujita was the next to crack, holding his right side and tying up as Maeda threw it down to try to recatch the leaders. Ahead, at 41 km the 37 year-old Baday broke away from Njenga to become the second Moroccan to win Beppu-Oita in the last three years. Maeda, down 31 seconds, closed to within 5 seconds of Njenga and had to be content with a 32 second PB as he missed the sub-2:10 clocking which seems to have become bafflingly out of reach for Japanese men, finishing in 2:10:29. Fujita fell to 5th as he was overtaken by Kenyan Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.), who worked together with last year's 3rd placer Jeff Hunt to make up ground after a conservative first half. While Hunt used the same strategy last year to great effect, this year he struggled to a 2:13:14 finish for 8th overall.
As a selection race for the 2011 World Championships the top Japanese man in Beppu-Oita was guaranteed a spot on the team if sub-2:09:30. One of the five berths on the team is already taken by 2010 Asian Games silver medalist Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN). Neither winning nor breaking the time mark, Maeda must wait until after this month's Tokyo Marathon and March's Biwako Mainichi Marathon to find out whether he will make his second-straight World Championships marathon squad. However, his performance today puts him ahead of 5000 m and 30 km national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta), who was likewise 3rd overall at December's Fukuoka International Marathon but clocked only 2:10:54.
This year's Beppu-Oita featured a women's field for the first time in 30 years. Roughly 150 women including 17 in the sub-elite category were entered. Paced by her coach Akira Shimizu, the 1998 Beppu-Oita winner, local Chiyuki Mochizuki (Canon AC Kyushu) won in a women's course record at PB time of 2:39:57.
59+ world record holder Yoshihisa Hosaka (Natural Foods) fell short of his goal of becoming the first 62 year old to break 2:40 but still finished in strong a 2:42:41, 2 1/2 minutes better than his time from December's Fukuoka International Marathon. Having just turned 62 last month Hosaka still has plenty of time to pursue his fourth consecutive world record. His next marathon will be April's Nagano Marathon.
2011 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
click here for complete results
1. Ahmed Baday (Morocco) - 2:10:14 - PB
2. Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult) - 2:10:24
3. Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - 2:10:29 - PB
4. Harun Njoroge (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) - 2:11:43 - PB
5. Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu) - 2:12:26
6. Yuki Moriwaki (Team JFE Steel) - 2:12:34 - PB
7. Masaki Shimoju (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:13:07
8. Jeff Hunt (Australia) - 2:13:14
9. Kenichiro Setoguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:15:01
10. Tomonori Onitsuka (Team Kyudenko) - 2:16:52
1. Chiyuki Mochizuki (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:39:57 - PB, CR
2. Chika Kawano (Fukuoka T&F Assoc.) - 2:53:11
3. Yuka Ezaki (Team Kyudenko) - 2:53:19
(c) 2011 Brett Larner
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