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

Yuta Shitara Breaks Japanese Men's Half Marathon National Record in Berlin Marathon Tuneup at Usti nad Labem Half

A week after his 28:55 at the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10 km and just eight days out from the Berlin Marathon, Yuta Shitara (Honda) made the great leap forward, taking 8 seconds off Atsushi Sato's 2007 half marathon Japanese national record, finishing 8th at the Czech Republic's Usti nad Labem Half Marathon.

Shitara is probably most well-known outside Japan for going through halfway under 62 minutes during his marathon debut at this year's Tokyo Marathon and still ending up with a 2:09:27, but he's been turning heads in Japan since his second year at Toyo University when he broke a stage record at the 2012 Hakone Ekiden and outkicked the U.S.A.'s Dathan Ritzenhein to finish in 1:01:48 at the NYC Half two months later, until this year the fastest time ever by a Japanese man on U.S soil.

Three weeks before Tokyo this year he ran a 1:01:19 PB at the Marugame Half. Many people would call that a solid tuneup three weeks out from a serious marathon, but eight days? In P…

Hattori Becomes Third-Straight Japanese Men's Sydney Marathon Winner

Following within 24 hours of Yuki Kawauchi's win at the BMW Oslo Marathon and Yuta Shitara's national record at the Usti nad Labem Half Marathon, Shota Hattori (Honda) made it an overseas hat trick for men from Japan's Saitama prefecture when he won the Sydney Marathon in 2:15:16. Having debuted at February's Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon with a 2:14:19 for 2nd, Hattori outlasted Ethiopian Werkuneh Seyoum Aboye, Kenyan Sammy Kigen Korir (Kenya) and compatriot Ryoma Takeuchi (Hitachi Butsuryu) to become the third-straight Japanese men's Sydney champ, winning by a margin of 20 seconds over Aboye.

Congratulations to Shota Hattori, male winner of the Blackmores Marathon – with a time of 02:15:16. #SydneyRunningFestivalpic.twitter.com/R47w8TCG2X — SydneyRunFestival (@officialbsrf) September 17, 2017
No Japanese women made the podium in the marathon, but in the accompanying half marathon both the men's and women's races saw Japanese runners-up. In the men's …

Kawauchi Wins BMW Oslo Marathon in Fastest Time Since 1986

Running his first race of any distance since finishing 9th at last month's London World Championships, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) won Saturday's BMW Oslo Marathon in the fastest time in Oslo since before he was born.

Pre-race Kawauchi's goal was to take a shot at the 2:12:58 Norwegian all-comers record, the fastest time ever run on Norwegian soil. With a new two-loop course featuring a pair of tough hills interspersed by a flat seaside section on each loop his game plan was to try to run 3:10/km until midway through the second lap, then try to push it on the climb and descent of the last hill to make up whatever seconds he needed.

15 km into the first lap he was 10 seconds ahead of schedule in 47:20 and 90 seconds clear of 2nd place, but the steep hill starting a kilometer later took its toll and by 20 km he was 24 seconds behind.  Over the second lap the strong sunlight and warmer than usual temperatures and the two weeks he took off after London also began …