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Defending Champions Hara, Njui to Return to Hokkaido Marathon

by Brett Larner

This year's Hokkaido Marathon is set for Sunday, Aug. 28, directly opposite the Daegu World Championships.  With a 12:10 start time Hokkaido is always hot and has some of the most strategic racing on the Japanese calendar.  The men's race features both defending champion Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable) and 2009 winner Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult) along with sub-2:12 domestic men Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki), Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei) and Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult).  Njui is in good shape to defend his title after his second-straight win at last month's Sapporo International Half Marathon.  A number of competitive men are also entered in the general division, the best among these being 2:11:44 marathoner Kenichiro Setoguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) and Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu), Samuel Wanjiru's main training partner during Wanjiru's pro years in Japan.

The women's race likewise features the 2010 and 2009 winners, defending champ Yumiko Hara (Team Univ. Ent.) and course record holder Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC), along with 2006 winner Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC), who returns to Hokkaido off a sub-2:30 PB at last fall's Chicago Marathon.  Also in the race are former national record holder Yoko Shibui and two-time World Championships marathon medalist Reiko Tosa (both Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), Tosa seeking to make a comeback after giving birth to her first baby last year.  The strongest challenge may come from 2011 Asian Marathon champion Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal), who finished 2nd at February's Tokyo Marathon.

2011 Hokkaido Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Men
Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult) - 2:06:16 (Chicago 2002)
Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo 2011)
Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:10:38 (Beppu-Oita 2009)
Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:50 (Biwako 2009)
Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult) - 2:11:17 (Beppu-Oita 2010)
Harun Njoroge (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) - 2:11:43 (Beppu-Oita 2011)
Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:12:44 (Fukuoka 2010)
Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem) - 2:14:44 (Tokyo 2011)

Women
Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:19:41 (Berlin 2004)
Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:22:46 (Boston 2002)
Yumiko Hara (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:23:48 (Osaka 2007)
Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) - 2:24:33 (Vienna 2006)
Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 2:25:10 (Hokkaido 2009)
Noriko Higuchi (Noriko Higuchi) - 2:28:49 (Tokyo 2011)
Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC) - 2:29:45 (Chicago 2010)
Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren) - 2:32:02 (Tokyo 2011)
Chinami Fukaminato (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:34:16 (Hokkaido 2009)

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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