Skip to main content

Fukuoka Marathon Post-Race Comments

translated and edited by Brett Larner
source articles at bottom of page

Joseph Gitau (24, Team JFE Steel) won the Dec. 2 Fukuoka International Marathon in a superb 2:06:58 with a hard surge after 33 km.  "Before the race I hadn't even thought about the possibility of winning," Gitau told the media.  "My marathons before this had both turned out badly.  I just went into this thinking that it was time to give it another try."  Gitau made his marathon debut in Fukuoka in 2009 but dropped out partway.  He finished his second marathon in Hokkaido two years ago but ran only 2:21:54.  A graduate of Hiroshima's Sera H.S., where he made an impact on the ekiden circuit, Gitau is a product of Japan's corporate team system.  In fluent Japanese he said, "I'm accustomed to the environment in Japan and that has made it easier for me to run."  Four-time Fukuoka winner Toshihiko Seko commented, "Gitau has bests of only 13:43, 27:58 and 1:01:19.  There are many Japanese athletes with better times than these, and they are doing the same training Gitau is.  He should be an inspiration to them to reach for the 2:06 level."

Top Japanese finisher Hiroyuki Horibata (26, Team Asahi Kasei) finished 2nd in 2:08:24, just short of the sub-2:08 requirement for a guaranteed place on the 2013 World Championships team but a PB by over a minute.  For the first 30 km he stuck behind the pacers.  "I wasn't thinking about anything, just trying to stay in the background of the scene," Horibata said.  As the best marathoner on Japan's most storied marathon team, Asahi Kasei, Horibata was in particular targeting the independent Arata Fujiwara (31, Miki House) and "Civil Servant Runner" Yuki Kawauchi (25, Saitama Pref.).  "Those guys are unique, but I knew how to deal with them.  I thought the best way to go was just to hide out for a while and then go for the time."  Despite not feeling well, just before 32 km he told himself, "Let's go!" and broke the race open with a powerful surge, living up to a pre-race promise to surprise everyone with an unexpected move.  "I did what I said I was going to do," he said.  "My confidence is back."

A favorite for the London Olympics team after finishing 7th at last year's Daegu World Championships, the 189 cm-tall Horibata had a disappointing run at April's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  In April he developed Achilles tendon problems in his right leg, keeping him out of serious training until the fall.  He was still able to succeed in Fukuoka, he said, "because I got in a lot of high-quality training for ekiden season."  His success served notice that with a traditional base of high-volume training, the corporate ekiden season training menu still plays an important role in sharpening speed.  A sub-2:08 time remains a goal.  "It's not completely fixed yet," Horibata said, "but [in the spring] I might race overseas to go for a faster time."  His goal if he is named to the World Championships team: "Top five."

Horibata's coach, 2:08:55 marathoner and newly-appointed Federation director of men's marathoning Takeshi Soh, was disappointed that Horibata's surge was not enough for the win.  "If you get into a good flow you can just cruise along without wasting energy.  He looked like he was going to be able to do that today, but then his expression suddenly changed.  I thought he was still going to make 2:07, but when he came through the gate onto the track all I could think was, 'Ah, man, so close.'  Still, though, the positive thing here is that he got where he did by taking control of the race.  His body and his running are both huge.  If he improves his efficiency he's capable of running a Japanese national record.  We have to stay conscious of time and not waste him."

London Olympian Fujiwara finished 4th despite a very short training cycle and sudden calf problems late in the race, breaking 2:10 for the fifth time in his career.  "This race was a challenge to myself to test my character or my courage," Fujiwara told reporters.  "It shows that if I trained more seriously there is no reason I couldn't go two or three minutes faster.  The calf problem was just something local and it doesn't give me any reason for doubt."  Targeting the Tokyo Marathon, where he ran 2:07:48 this year, Fujiwara said, "I want to go for a fast time."

Another of the Japanese favorites in the race, "Civil Servant Runner" Kawauchi lost touch with the lead pack at 28 km.  "All of a sudden I started having trouble following the pace, and then it got hard to stay optimistic.  I just started to slip away," he said.  "To put it simply, I wasn't strong enough."  Aiming to clear the 2:07:59 time requirement for the 2013 World Championships team, he missed breaking 2:10 and ended up as the 4th Japanese man, 6th overall in 2:10:29.  "I'm thinking about adding workouts with club teams and universities, maybe some corporate teams, to my training," he revealed.

The former world record holder known as "The Emperor" ended his bid for a second Fukuoka crown in rout, dropping out of the race.  Apparently running well in the lead pack, after rounding the turnaround point after 31 km Haile Gebrselassie (39, Ethiopia) suddenly stopped.  He later explained that he began experiencing pain in his left leg after 25 km.  "I couldn't lift my leg any more," he said unhappily post-race.  "At first I was feeling good so I thought I would just take it easy and run relaxed, but...."  Two years ago Gebrselassie announced his retirement following another DNF at the 2010 ING New York City Marathon before reversing his decision.  He is now age 39.  Despite the harshness of the reality facing him, Gebrselassie remained optimistic about the future, saying, "I still want to compete."

Another pre-race favorite for the win despite Fukuoka being his debut, 2007 Osaka World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Martin Mathathi (26, Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) also dropped out.  In his case Mathathi lasted until the 38 km point.  "The muscles in both my thighs were completely exhausted," he said with dejection.  "Forget about the marathon.  I'm giving up on it."  Mathathi can take consolation in the fact that winner Gitau also dropped out of his marathon debut in Fukuoka.

Comments

Matt said…
Thanks for the post race update Brett. Just curious, has Kawauchi mentioned a target time for the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon following his Fukuoka performance???
Brett Larner said…
I haven't heard anything, no. I don't imagine he'll go for a particularly fast time, just whatever it takes to win. If Ito is in shape then that could be 2:11-2:12ish.

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …

Kenyans Kabuu, Jemeli and Cheyech Lead Nagoya Women's Marathon Field

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, one with a long history as an elite race and adapting to the times with a mass-participation field of 20,000. The last few years it has seen a series of dynamic, high-level performances by top Japanese women, from Sairi Maeda's 2:22:48 in 2015 to the 2:23:19 to 2:23:20 sprint finish battle between Tomomi Tanaka and Rei Ohara in 2016 to Yuka Ando's stellar 2:21:36 debut and teammate Mao Kiyota's 2:23:47 breakthrough last year.

Maeda, Ohara and Kiyota all return this year to face the Kenyan trio of Lucy Kabuu, Valary Jemeli and Flomena Cheyech Daniel. Kabuu went to high school in Japan before moving on to the big leagues, but she hasn't finished a marathon since her 2:20:21 in Dubai 2015. Cheyech also used to be based in Japan as is a familiar face here, winning the last two Saitama International Marathons. Jemeli is making her Japanese debut, and with a 2:21:57 win in Prague and a 2:20:53 …

Kipsang Talking Loud and Aga Mumbling Bold - Tokyo Marathon Preview

After stepping up to the big leagues last year with course records in the 2:03 and 2:19 range, the Tokyo Marathon hopes to go one better this year. Men's course record setter Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) is back, stepping up from a 2:03:50 prediction for Tokyo in January to a 2:02:50 world record prediction at Friday's pre-race press conference. In the unmentioned absence of women's course record breaker Sarah Chepchirchir the top-ranked woman is Ruti Aga (Ethiopia), coming in hot off a 1:06:39 win last month in Houston and turning heads at the press conference with a boldly mumbled 2:18:00 prediction.

Management for both Kipsang and Aga were skeptical to JRN of their athletes' predictions, people from each camp saying times two minutes slower would be more likely, one minute slower in a best-case scenario. But whatever the prediction, Kipsang was clear to fellow past champs Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) and Dickson Chumba (Kenya) about one thing: he wants a more conservative fi…