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Eight Japanese Runners Lining Up at Chicago Marathon

by Brett Larner

Half-marathon national record holders Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) at the 2011 Chicago Marathon press conference. 


Photo (c) 2011 Dr. Helmut Winter




Since Toshihiko Seko's 2:08:27 win in 1986 the Chicago Marathon has been kind to Japan's elite marathoners, with four of the five sub-2:10s by Japanese men in the U.S. and three of the five fastest Japanese women's performances in the U.S. run on the Chicago course.  This year sees a large contingent of one woman and seven men lining up to go for strong times ahead of the winter Olympic selection race cycle.

The biggest news is the return to the marathon of multiple women's national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), her first marathon since her spectacularly failed debut in 2008. Fukushi has had a difficult year, going through both the Christchurch and Tohoku earthquakes and having foot surgery and minor injury troubles in the summer, but this is offset by an outstanding 10000 m in May and a strong half marathon win earlier in the year.  In pre-race comments she says that she will be aiming for around 2:20 in Chicago, a time that should put her in contention and which would break Shibui's mark of 2:21:22 from Chicago '02 as the fastest-ever by a Japanese woman on U.S. soil.

The deep Japanese men's contingent is led by half-marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and 5000 m and 30 km national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta).  Sato, who spent the summer training in his native Fukushima prefecture, is making a return to the marathon for the first time since finishing 3rd in strong winds and sleet at last year's Tokyo Marathon but has largely been out of competition since then.  His only noteworthy result since then has been a win in the 8 km race at August's Hiroshima Cross-Country Meet, making him a large question mark.  In pre-race comments he said he hopes to run 2:08-2:09.  On paper Matsumiya should be national record material, but in five marathons so far he has not yet broken 2:10.  He ran 1:03:40 at the Sept. 25 Hakodate Half Marathon, but his pre-race statement that he is aiming for 2:07 suggest this may have been simply a marathon pace run.

The other five men in the field hold PBs of 2:12 and are coming to Chicago looking for PBs, the more ambitious among them aiming to join the four Japanese men to have broken 2:10 this year.  Sato's teammate Hironori Arai (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Matsumiya's teammate Masaki Shimoju (Team Konica Minolta) are the best-credentialed among them, Arai looking to have the best potential and Shimoju being the only runner in the Japanese contingent to have won a marathon.  Takashi Horiguchi (Team Honda) is coached by Kiyoshi Akimoto, also the coach of 10000 m world champion Ibrahim Jeilan (Ethiopia), and is the fastest of the five second-tier men, with the young Koji Gokaya (Team JR Higashi Nihon) running only two seconds off Horiguchi's best in his debut this year.  Yuki Moriwaki (Team JFE Steel) rounds out the group as its most prolific racer, Chicago being his fifteenth race of the year.

With no Japanese television broadcast this year despite the larger than usual size of the country's contingent live coverage will be available through the worldwide webcast offered by www.nbcchicago.com beginning Oct. 9 at 7 a.m. local time, 9 p.m. in Japan.

More detailed profiles and year summaries of each Japanese athlete follow below.

Women

Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal)
3000 m Jr., 3000 m, 5000 m Jr., 5000 m, 15 km, 20 km & half-marathon NR holder; former 15 km WR holder
PBs
Marathon: 2:40:54 – 19th, Osaka Int’l Women’s Marathon, 2008 (not listed on team website)
Half-marathon: 1:07:26 (AR)     10000 m: 30:51.81 (all-time Japanese #2)     5000 m: 14:53.22 (NR)
2011 Performances
1:17:19 – 10th, Shibetsu Half Marathon, Shibetsu, 7/24/11 (not listed on team website)
30:54.29 – 3rd, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m, Stanford, 5/1/11 (career 2nd-best, all-time 3rd-fastest 10000 m by a Japanese woman)
1:09:00 – 1st, Kagawa Marugame Half Marathon, Marugame, 2/6/11
31:53 – 1st, National Women’s Ekiden Ninth Stage (10 km), Kyoto, 1/16/11

Men

Hironori Arai (Chugoku Denryoku)
PBs
Marathon: 2:12:27 – 11th, Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 2011
Half-Marathon: 1:01:53              10000 m: 28:37.32                      5000 m: 13:45.74
2011 Performances
1:04:32 – 8th, Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon, U.S.A., 9/4/11
24:28 – 4th, Hiroshima Cross-Country Meet, Hiroshima, 8/20/11
13:56.70 – 10th, Oda Memorial T&F Meet 5000 m A-Heat, Hiroshima, 4/29/11
2:12:27 (PB) – 11th, Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, Otsu, 3/6/11
47:39 – 3rd, Himejijo 10-Mile Road Race, Himeji, 2/11/11
30:19 – 1st, Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden Fourth Stage (10.4 km), Yamaguchi, 1/30/11
47:21 – 11th, New Year Ekiden Seventh Stage (15.5 km), Maebashi, 1/1/11

Koji Gokaya (JR East Japan)
PBs
Marathon: 2:12:07 – 10th, Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 2011
Half-Marathon: 1:02:52              10000 m: 28:58.84                      5000 m: 14:18.64
2011 Performances
48:53 – 6th, Hachiman Towada Ekiden Third Stage (16.3 km), Kazuno, 8/7/11
1:05:46 – 33rd, Sapporo Int’l Half Marathon, Sapporo, 7/3/11
14:30.37 – 18th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 5000 m C-Heat, Abashiri, 6/22/11
14:39.70 – 12th, Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m Heat 25, Nittai Univ., Yokohama, 6/12/11
2:12:07 (debut) – 10th, Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, Otsu, 3/6/11
1:03:18 – 19th, Kagawa Marugame Int’l Half Marathon, Marugama, 2/6/11

Takashi Horiguchi (Honda)
PBs
Marathon: 2:12:05 – 10th, Tokyo Marathon, 2011
Half-Marathon: 1:02:33              10000 m: 28:07.57                      5000 m: 13:52.56
2011 Performances
29:46 – 15th, East Japan Corporate T&F Championships 10000 m Heat 2, 5/21/11
2:12:05 (PB) - 10th, Tokyo Marathon, 2/27/11
47:06 – 6th, New Year Ekiden Fifth Stage (15.8 km), Maebashi, 1/1/11

Takayuki Matsumiya (Konica Minolta)
5000 m, 25 km, 30 km NR holder, former 30 km WR holder
PBs
Marathon: 2:10:04 – 2nd, Rotterdam, 2007
Half-Marathon: 1:01:32              10000 m: 27:41.75                      5000 m: 13:13.20 (NR)
2011 Performances
1:03:40 – 4th, Hakodate Half Marathon, Hakodate, 9/25/11
28:14.43 – 24th, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, Stanford, 5/1/11
14:01.21 – 10th, Oregon Relays 5000 m, 4/22/11
30:13 – 20th, Fukuoka Int’l Cross-Country Meet, Fukuoka, 2/26/11
38:48 – 4th, New Year Ekiden Third Stage (13.6 km), Maebashi, 1/1/11

Yuki Moriwaki (JFE Steel)
PBs
Marathon: 2:12:34 – 6th, Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon 2011
Half-Marathon: 1:03:21              10000 m: 28:42.69                      5000 m: 13:58.74
2011 Performances
29:01.62 – 24th, National Corporate T&F Championships 10000 m, Naruto, 9/23/11
14:29.37 – Chugoku Corporate Long Distance Time Trials 5000 m, Hiroshima, 9/17/11
1:07:05 – 61st, Sapporo Int’l Half Marathon, Sapporo, 7/3/11
14:16.41 – 9th, Hiroshima Corporate T&F Championships 5000 m, 6/4/11
4:08.18 – 8th, Hiroshima Corporate T&F Championships 1500 m, 6/4/11
29:19.61 – 10th, Chugoku Corporate T&F Championships 10000 m, 5/14/11
14:23.00 – Chugoku Corporate T&F Championships 5000 m, 5/7/11
8:33.33 – 4th, East Hiroshima Time Trials 3000 m, 4/24/11
14:12.70 – 3rd, Okayama Time Trials 5000 m, 4/17/11
14:37.87 – 9th, Kanaguri Memorial T&F Meet 5000 m Heat 1, Kumamoto, 4/9/11
2:12:34 (PB) – 6th, Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, Oita, 2/6/11
36:25 – 4th, Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden Third Stage (11.9 km), Yamaguchi, 1/30/11
47:04 – 4th, Asahi Ekiden Fifth Stage (15.9 km), Fukuoka, 1/10/11
1:05:45 – 21st, New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage (22.0 km), Maebashi, 1/1/11

Atsushi Sato (Chugoku Denryoku)
10 km, 15 km, 20 km, half-marathon NR holder
PBs
Marathon: 2:07:13 – 3rd, Fukuoka International Marathon, 2007
Half-Marathon: 1:00:25 (AR)                       10000 m: 27:56.86                      5000 m: 13:33.62
2011 Performances
14:05.76 – 3rd, Chugoku Corporate Long-Distance Time Trials 5000 m, Hiroshima, 10/1/11
24:03 – 1st, Hiroshima Cross-Country Meet 8 km, Hiroshima, 8/20/11
1:07:40 – 77th, Sapporo Int’l Half Marathon, Sapporo, 7/3/11
29:34.76 – 18th, Chugoku Corporate T&F Championships 10000 m, Hiroshima, 5/14/11

Masaki Shimoju (Konica Minolta)
PBs
Marathon: 2:12:18 – 1st, Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon, 2010
Half-Marathon: 1:02:35              10000 m: 28:51.34                      5000 m: 13:56.69
2011 Performances
1:05:50 – 35th, Sapporo Int’l Half Marathon, Sapporo, 7/3/11
29:09.95 – 11th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet 10000 m A-Heat, Kitami, 6/19/11
2:13:07 – 7th, Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, Oita, 2/6/11
47:11 – 8th, New Year Ekiden Fifth Stage (15.8 km), Maebashi, 1/1/11

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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