Skip to main content

Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Preview - Will We See the Kawauchi Effect? Watch Online

by Brett Larner

The 66th running of the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, known throughout Japan simply as Biwako, takes place this Sunday, Mar. 6. The final selection race for the Japanese men's marathon team for this summer's World Championships, Biwako's elite field this year highlights the disparity in elite Japan's men's marathoning over the last two years.

On the one side is the overseas field of six, without a doubt the best Biwako's organizers have assembled to date. All six have PBs under 2:09, four of them set last year and none older than 2008. Kenyan Wilson Kipsang leads the way with a stellar 2:04:57 mark set at last fall's Frankfurt Marathon. Kipsang is here for one purpose: to do what Ethiopian Olympic medalist Tsegaye Kebede did for the Fukuoka International Marathon in 2009 and give the race a course record on par with the world's best. Kipsang is the heavy favorite, but he faces tough competition from Ethiopia's Deriba Merga, fresh from a dominating win at the Ras al Khaimah Half Marathon last month. Merga races hard and often crashes and burns, but he could be the catalyst Kipsang needs to run a historic mark. The winner will almost certainly be one of these two, the remainder of the overseas field having marks in the 2:08 range.

On the other side of the divide, none of the Japanese invited elites has a PB under 2:11. Top-seeded domestic man Naoto Yoneda (Team Konica Minolta) is out with shin splints, leaving veteran Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult) as the top-ranked Japanese runner, with a 2:11:17 PB from last year's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. Two other veterans in the general division, Takeshi Hamano (Team Toyota) and Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) hold sub-2:11 marks, Hamano's a 2:09:18 from 2002, and the talented Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) and Makoto Tobimatsu (Team Yasukawa Denki) will both be debuting, but on paper it looks as though the sub-2:09:30 time requirement for a guaranteed World Championships spot, let alone competing with even a single one of the overseas elites, would require an exceptional performance from any of the Japanese men. Even the minimum goal, beating the 2:10:54 run at Fukuoka by the man currently ranked as the fifth man on the Worlds team, Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta), is likely to be a challenge.

The question being discussed all week in Japan is: will we see the Kawauchi effect? Yuki Kawauchi, a self-trained amateur, ran 2:08:37 at last weekend's Tokyo Marathon off a 2:12:36 PB to pick up one of the five spots on the team for Worlds and shock the industry. Virtually every one of the corporate runners in the Biwako elite field has better credentials than Kawauchi over every distance. Will Kawauchi serve as a wakeup call, a target for the paid professionals making up the domestic field to step up their game? Will we see the Japanese runners ignore the foreigners and run another conservative intramural race to get a ticket to Korea or will we see them inspired to run without fear in pursuit of something higher?

If the latter, it's clear that the country's distance running fans virtually unanimously hope it will be by Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage legend Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), doubling in his third marathon after an aggressive and ambitious but ultimately failed bid for the national team at last December's Fukuoka. In university Imai had the kind of fire Kawauchi held so ably last week, and many will be watching in hopes of seeing it once more.

The Biwako Mainichi Marathon will be broadcast live and commercial-free on NHK beginning at 12:15 p.m. Japan time on Mar. 6th. Overseas viewers should be able to watch online for free via Keyhole TV using the password NHK. Click here to visit NHK's secondary race site, which will feature video highlights post race. JRN will again be doing live commentary via Twitter @JRNLive.

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)
104. Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:14:00 (Biwako '09)
105. Koichi Sakai (Team Fujitsu) - 2:14:29 (Beijing '09)
106. Shingo Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:14:03 (Tokyo '08)
107. Norihiro Nomiya (Team Toyota) - 2:14:36 (Nobeoka '10)
109. Tomohiro Seto (Team Kanebo) - 2:12:21 (Berlin '07)
111. Yohannes Abera (Ethiopia) - 2:16:14 (Moha '10)
112. Masatoshi Ibata (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:13:26 (Biwako '01)
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)
169. Masahiko Takeyasu (Team Chudenko) - 2:14:18 (Beppu-Oita '08)
227. Koji Gokaya (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - debut - 1:02:52 (Tachikawa Akishima '09)
228. Hironori Arai (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:13:04 (Biwako '08)
230. Shingo Mishima (Team Toyota) - debut - 1:02:58 (Jitsugyodan '10)
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)
236. Yoshihiro Yamamoto (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 1:02:03 (Jitsugyodan '04)
304. Makoto Tobimatsu (Team Yasukawa Denki) - debut - 1:02:26 (Marugame Half '09)


(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Brett Larner said…
The current situation for the 5 spots on the men's WC team:

in:
Yukihiro Kitaoka - silver, Asian Games
Yuki Kawauchi - 2:08:37, Tokyo (1st Japanese, 3rd overall)

provisional:
Kazuhiro Maeda - 2:10:29, Beppu-Oita (1st Japanese, 3rd overall)
Yoshinori Oda - 2:09:03, Tokyo (2nd Japanese, 4th overall)
Takayuki Matsumiya - 2:10:54, Fukuoka (1st Japanese, 3rd overall)

I'm fairly sure Maeda will be in no matter what. If someone runs under 2:09:30 in Biwako it will come down to a choice between Oda and Matsumiya for the last spot. Oda's run was superior in every respect but it would not be suprising to see him named alternate because he was not the top Japanese finisher, while Matsumiya was.
Brett Larner said…
Looks like good weather for tomorrow. 11 degrees at the start peaking at 13 degrees, sunny but clouding over during the race, and minimal wind.
Brett Larner said…
No real change in the forecast this morning. 10 degrees at the start peaking at 13, sunny with clouds rolling in and slight wind. Rain later in the evening but racetime should be perfect.

Most-Read This Week

Daniel and Kawauchi Win Saitama International Marathon

After missing a medal by 3 seconds at August's London World Championships, defending champ Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) made it two in a row as she won a tight battle against Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) to win the Saitama International Marathon in 2:28:39.

With the onus on Japanese women Reia Iwada (Dome) and Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) to break 2:29:00 in order to qualify for Japan's new-format 2020 Olympic trials race, the pair of them did most of the heavy lifting for the first two-thirds of the race. Yoshida led the early kilometers before Iwade took over, and through strong head and tailwinds, over rolling hills and around sharp turns Iwade kept things moving just under target pace, shaking the pack down to just her, Daniel, Habtegebrel and relative unknown Bekelech Daba (Ethiopia) by 15 km.

Little changed up front until after the lead group hit the start of the hilliest 10 km on the course after 25 km. For the first time Iwade slipped to the rear of the pack, and on a …

Breaking Down the Best-Ever Japanese Marathon Times By Country

Japanese marathoners these days have the reputation of rarely racing abroad, and of rarely racing well when they do. Back in the day that wasn't true; Japanese marathoners have won all the World Marathon Majors-to-be except New York, and two of the three Japanese men to have run 2:06 and all three women to have run 2:19 did it outside Japan. Whatever the extent to which things did turn inward along the way, the last few years have seen an uptick in Japanese runners going farther afield and running better there than any others before them.

The lists above and below show the fastest times run by Japanese athletes in different countries to 2:20:00 for men and 2:45:00 for women. Japanese men have run sub-2:20 marathons in 37 countries around the world including Japan, with Japanese women having cleared 2:45 in 33 countries including at home. Breaking it down by IAAF label times, more Japanese men have run label standard times abroad, but women have typically performed at a higher label…

Kosimbei, Kwemoi and Shitara Lead Hachioji 10000 m Field

Nestled deep in the misty foothills of the western Tokyo mountains, Hosei University's late November Hachioji Long Distance meet has quietly turned into one of the world's premier track 10000 m, its A-heat never quite dipping under 27 minutes yet but still producing record-setting depth and the two fastest Japanese men's 10000 m in history.
This year's entry list is another monster, with 27:02.59 man Nicholas Kosimbei (Toyota) leading 17 men with recent times under 28 minutes, twelve of them Kenyan, three Japanese and two Ethiopian. Fresh off a 27:22.73 win at last weekend's Nittai University Time Trials, two-time steeplechase junior world champion Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu) is slated to pace what is scheduled to be a sub-28 race, but with Kosimbei, sub-27:30 men John Maina (Fujitsu) and Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Aisan Kogyo) and five others under 27:45 including last year's winnerRonald Kwemoi (Komori Corp.) on the list the front end should go faster. 
Rig…