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

2020 Olympic Marathon Trials Winner Shogo Nakamura Wins First Race of Year in PB Time

2020 Olympic marathon trials winner Shogo Nakamura (27, Fujitsu) ran a course record 1:01:40 to win the Jan. 12 Takanezawa Genki Up Half Marathon in Tochigi. His time bettered his 2016 PB of 1:01:53 by 13 seconds. "I ran pretty much according to plan," he commented afterward.

Nakamura's sponsor team Fujitsu finished 17th at November's East Japan Corporate Ekiden, failing to qualify for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national championships. As a result, Takanezawa was his first race of the Olympic year. Alongside him were members of 2020 Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University, runner-up Tokai University and other top collegiate programs. Most fielded 3rd-year and younger team members who didn't make this year's Hakone lineups, giving them valuable experience for the buildup to next year's 97th running.

Next up Nakamura plans to run in the Mar. 29 World Half Marathon Championships. His coach Hiroaki Oyagi, 61, commented, "At the World Half we wil…

2020 Japanese Distance Rankings

2020 Japanese track and road distance running rankings. Overall rankings are calculated using runners' times and placings in races over 5000 m, 10000 m, half-marathon and marathon and the strength of these performances relative to others in the top ten in each category. Distances will be added as the season progresses. Click any image to enlarge.


Past years:
2019 ・ 2018 ・ 2017 ・ 2016・ 2015 ・ 2014 ・ 2013 ・ 2012 ・ 2011

© 2020 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Coming Down From Hakone - This Year's Race in the Cold, Hard Light of Day

Damn, has it already been a week? Time goes by so fast. Times at the HakoneEkiden this year were fast too. Eight guys broke course records on four of the five stages on Day One, and another five broke the records on three of the five stages on Day Two. Two of the three stages that didn't have new records were just seconds off. Four teams broke the Day One course record, two broke the overall course record, and one broke the Day Two record. This all mirrored what happened a day earlier at the New Year Ekiden, where eight men broke the records on four of the seven stages, at least one other missed by seconds, the top two teams broke the official overall course record and two more broke the record for the actual current version of the course.


And not just records. Some of them were historic, epoch-making marks. None more so than Tokyo Kokusai University's Vincent Yegon, who busted the greatest performance in Hakone history, a 59:25 course record for the 21.4 km Third Stage, 2:01…