Skip to main content

Osaka International Women's Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

Update: Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) and Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko) have all withdrawn.

The first major Japanese marathon of the year takes place this Sunday with the Osaka International Women's Marathon.  A small, elite-only event with an accompanying mass-participation half marathon, Osaka Women's is the second of three chances for Japanese women to make the 2013 World Championships team on home ground.  The race will be broadcast live by Fuji TV starting at noon and should be available to international viewers by using Keyhole TV.  JRN will also once again cover the race live on Twitter.

Last year the Japanese federation declared ambitious standards for the World Championships team, sub-2:08 for men and sub-2:24 for women.  Last year's Osaka Women's winner Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) did it, but only fourteen Japanese women have ever cleared that standard and only two in the last five years.  Amid a distinct sense of leaves changing colors three of the people who have done it will line up in Osaka, marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex), 10000 m national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and two-time World Championships marathoner Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz).  Shibui, the former Japanese marathon national record holder, last broke 2:24 while winning Osaka Women's in 2009 to make the Berlin World Championships team, but injuries she sustained in training for Berlin knocked her out of the top level of Japanese marathoning for almost three years until last March's Nagoya Women's Marathon where she ran a surprising 2:25:02.  Noguchi has had perpetual injury problems and has only run two marathons since setting the national record in 2005, last breaking 2:24 in 2007 while setting the Tokyo International Marathon course record of 2:21:37 and making a comeback in Nagoya last year in 2:25:33.  Ozaki is aiming to make a comeback of her own from childbirth, her last quality marathon coming in 2010 and her last sub-2:24 in Osaka in 2005.

Four years is a long time for an elite marathoner, let alone six or eight, but while the question facing them is whether any of them can take another step back toward their old selves, the bigger question may be whether half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) is ready to join them sub-2:24.  Fukushi has run three marathons to date, two of them in Osaka and both disasters.  Her only success came in Chicago two years ago where she ran 2:24:38 off a fast first half.  Strong through the fall ekiden season, she was set to run the doomed New York City Marathon and carried her fitness over to a stunning run at December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden.  Osaka has been unlucky for Fukushi, but with good conditions forecast at this stage this could be the race where she picks up the fallen mantle of Japanese women's marathoning and does what fans have been hoping for for years.

There isn't much international competition in Osaka Women's at the sub-2:24 level, with only two real contenders should Fukushi or the others take a serious shot at meeting the Federation's standard.   Mariya Konovalova (Russia) had a long track career prior to her 2:23:50 at the 2010 Chicago Marathon, but since then she has stalled at the 2:25 level. Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) seemed to come out of nowhere last year, arriving at the 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon with only a 2:28:14 PB and a 2:31:58 at the Daegu World Championships to her name but running near her half marathon best in the first half, faster in the second half, and clocking one of the fastest closing splits ever by a woman, 7:06 for the final 2.195 km, to set a Ukrainian national record of 2:24:46 for 2nd. And she did it again at the London Olympics, closing fast for another national record of 2:24:32 in 5th.  All told she looks like the favorite on Sunday.

If the race plays out closer to 2:25 a second tier of athletes including Japanese runners Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya), Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko), Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) and Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion) and overseas elites Mihaela Botezan (Romania), Karolina Jarzynska (Poland) and Lisa Jane Weightman (Australia) should add variables to the equation.  Among the Japanese runners the Manabu Kawagoe-coached Watanabe is the one to watch, with 10000 m and half marathon PBs since her 2:29:20 marathon best in Nagoya last year including a 1:10:06 for 2nd at last month's Sanyo Women's Half Marathon, a minute and a half faster than Ozaki ran in the same race.  2012 winner Shigetomo's teammate Yoshie Kurusu (Team Tenmaya) in the general division is also worth keeping an eye on.

2013 Osaka International Women's Marathon Elite Field
Osaka, 1/27/13
click here for detailed field listing

31. Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) - 2:19:12 (Berlin 2005) - withdrawn
32. Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:19:41 (Berlin 2004)
38. Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 2:23:30 (Osaka Women's 2003)
1. Mariya Konovalova (Russia) - 2:23:50 (Chicago 2010)
2. Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:24:32 (London Olympics 2012)
33. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 2:24:38 (Chicago 2011)
3. Mihaela Botezan (Romania) - 2:25:32 (London 2003)
34. Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - 2:25:51 (Nagoya Women's 2008) - withdrawn
35. Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 2:26:55 (Osaka Women's 2008) - withdrawn
4. Karolina Jarzynska (Poland) - 2:27:16 (Yokohama Women's 2011)
5. Lisa Jane Weightman (Australia) - 2:27:32 (London Olympics 2012)
36. Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) - 2:28:49 (Tokyo 2011)
104. Ayumi Nakayama (Team Yamada Denki) - 2:28:50 (Osaka Women's 2008)
37. Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion) - 2:29:20 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
105. Yoshie Kurusu (Team Tenmaya) - 1:11:22 (half)
103. Maiko Murayama (Team Yamada Denki) - 1:12:46 (half)

Pacers
61. Philes Ongori (Kenya)
62. Alevtina Ivanona (Russia)
63. Azusa Nojiri (Toyama T&F Assoc.)
64. Tomomi Higuchi (Team Daihatsu)

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Toyo University Leads Defending Champ Aoyama Gakuin on Hakone Ekiden Day One

The team that brought Japan's greatest race into the modern era with its historic 2012 sub-3 min/km win, Toyo University came out swinging to win Day One of the 2018 Hakone Ekiden.

Intensely popular with fans, Toyo has struggled this season with its entire senior class out with injury. With its fate in the hands of its younger members Toyo 1st-year Kazuya Nishiyama, freshly 19 in November, stepped up and took control of the race with both hands. Midway through the fast First Stage Nishiyama surged hard to go out front alone, 2017 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Kei Katanishi (Komazawa Univ.) and relative unknown Yuhei Urano (Koku Gakuin Univ.) the only ones to try to go with him. Nishiyama covered the 21.3 km stage in 1:02:16, equivalent to a 1:01:40 half marathon, with Urano and Katanishi around 15 seconds back. 3-time defending champ Aoyama Gakuin University was 25 seconds behind in 5th at the first exchange, 2017 Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University another …

Nakamoto and Kawauchi to Run Boston

Japan's Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) will run the 2018 Boston Marathon as part of the John Hancock Elite Athlete Team. Kawauchi holds world records for everything from most career sub-2:12 marathons to most sub-2:20, while Nakamoto is Japan's best championships marathoner of modern times with four top 10 finishes at the Olympics and World Championships.

Longtime rivals, their duel at the 2013 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon was one of the classics of Japanese marathoning, both running sub-2:09 PBs as Kawauchi set a still-standing course record of 2:08:15. The pair has a 3-3 record in the marathon so far, their most recent meeting coming at last summer's London World Championships where Kawauchi ran Nakamoto down in the last kilometer to take 9th. Boston will be their 7th and likely final face-off.

Our 2018 #BostonMarathon International Elite Field includes 46 of the world’s best marathoners from 13 countries. Watch to see the …

Kawauchi Breaks Sub-2:20 World Record in Sub-Zero Temperatures

Battling freezing temperatures and wind chill that took things down to -23C, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran a 2018 world-leading 2:18:59 at the Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, taking 30 minutes off the course record and breaking American Doug Kurtis' historic sub-2:20 world record with his 76th career sub-2:20.

Kawauchi spent Dec. 29 to 31 training on the Boston Marathon course ahead of his upcoming appearance as part of the John Hancock Elite Athlete Team and planned to run Marshfield at the tail end of his trip. The Marshfield Road Runners club, organizers of the marathon, had their longstanding race USATF certified ahead of his appearance.


Wearing full-length tights in a marathon for the first time, in Marshfield Kawauchi planned to run the first of the hilly course's two laps in 1:09 flat to give himself room to work with in breaking 2:20. But in the wind and cold he struggled to stay on pace, ice crystals coating his face as he hit halfway in 1:10:29…