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Kipruto Wins Cold Lake Biwa in 2:08:34, Fujiwara 4th in 2:08:51

by Brett Larner

A cold northern wind kept the 68th running of the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon slower than planned, but Kenyan winner Vincent Kipruto's 2:08:34 meant the race stayed tight and exciting until the last corner of the track, where Kipruto outkicked Ethiopian Tariku Jufar to take it by 3 seconds.  Longtime Japan resident James Mwangi (Team NTN) was 3rd in 2:08:48 in his final race before moving back to Kenya, while 2010 Tokyo Marathon winner Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) cleared 2:09 for the first time since his 2003 debut and collegiate national record 2:08:12, taking 4th in 2:08:51 and getting on to the short list for the Moscow World Championships team.

Twin pacers Kota and Kenta Otani (Team JFE Steel) tried to get things going over the first 15 km, but accompanied only by the debuting Shinobu Kubota (Komazawa Univ.) they were left looking over their shoulders until they finished their stint up front.  The pace slowed again after their departure, but a 2:52 surge at 22 km by Jufar shook up the lead pack of 49 in a hurry.  Things soon regrouped, but Jufar's move got rid of roughly a third of the competition as the race began to get serious.  #2-ranked Peter Kirui (Kenya) was a surprise casualty, losing touch after 25 km, catching up again, then falling back once more before dropping out at 29 km.

Kipruto took charge when the last of the pacers stopped at 30 km, his sustained surge steadily thinning the numbers.  With 10 km to go it was down to 7, Kipruto and Mwangi up front with Jufar and Fujiwara's teammate Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) in the front row and Fujiwara, London Olympian Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) and relative unknown Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) right behind.  Fujiwara went to the front 2 km later, getting a gap on Matsumura and Mwangi.  Both fought their way back, and at 37 km Mwangi and Kipruto attacked and dropped Matsumura and Yamamoto.

The five men left stuck together a short while, but the sustained pace of the two leaders was too much for 2:11 man Ishikawa, and shortly after he lost touch Fujiwara also began to slip, then Mwangi.  At 40 km Jufar made a move, but Kipruto was ready and answered.  Onto the track together, Jufar moved again with 400 m to go.  Again Kipruto was ready, staying on the Ethiopian's heels and going into the lead for the last time coming off the final corner.  Mwangi and Fujiwara each pushed on alone to clear 2:09.  A short distance back the fast-closing Yamamoto caught Ishikawa, the pair dueling over the final kilometers and Yamamoto coming out ahead despite Ishikawa running a two-minute PB.

Matsumura also held on for a PB in 2:10:12, holding off 2008 Tokyo Marathon winner Viktor Rothlin (Switzerland).  Yamamoto, Ishikawa and Matsumura all ran well a month ago at the Marugame Half, an indicator of its importance to the Japanese marathon season.  2008 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner Tomoya Adachi (Team Asahi Kasei) ran a PB 2:10:22 for 9th, with Hideaki Tamura (Team JR Higashi Nihon) rounding out the top ten with a solid 2:10:54 PB just ahead of Fujiwara and Ishikawa's teammate Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team Honda) in a 2:10:59 PB.

Post-race Kipruto was happy with his performance, his first time under 2:10 since 2011, but said he had trouble with the cold wind.  Fujiwara was all smiles, finally getting back to 2:08 after ten years.  How many people have had that kind of career trajectory?  A 2:08:12 debut in college, almost ten years of 2:12 marathons, a 2:11 last fall, then at last at age 31, from the depths of the general division following through on the promise of his debut with a World Championships place on the line.  How good must that have felt?  You could almost see the joy radiating out of him.

Fujiwara's 2:08:51 at 4th place overall means Japan's current probable lineup for the Moscow World Championships is:
  • Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - 2:08:00 - PB (4th, Beppu-Oita)
  • Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Prefecture Gov't) - 2:08:15 - PB (1st, Beppu-Oita)
  • Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:08:24 - PB (2nd, Fukuoka)
  • Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:08:35 - PB (2nd Beppu-Oita)
  • Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) - 2:08:51 (4th, Lake Biwa)
Three of them were on the last World Championships team, Horibata and Nakamoto making the top ten in Daegu and Nakamoto also finishing 6th at the London Olympics.  But it's not over yet.  The London and Boston Marathons remain in the team selection process, and at least one promising man, Nakamoto's teammate Bunta Kuroki (Team Yasukawa Denki), is slated to run London.  Kuroki has been on the same kind of steady improvement curve since his debut as Nakamoto, setting up a situation where he may well run 2:08.  If he is faster than them, who will be cut, Nakamoto or Fujiwara?  Regardless, a team with five 2:08 men, four of them running 2:08 for the second time to get there, would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.  The fact that this scenario is possible says a good deal about the rebound of Japanese men's marathoning.  It's a shame the powers that be have done away with the team medals.

68th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
Otsu, Shiga, 3/3/13
click here for complete results

1. Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:08:34
2. Tariku Jufar (Ethiopia) - 2:08:37
3. James Mwangi (Kenya/Team NTN) - 2:08:48
4. Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) - 2:08:51
5. Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:09:06
6. Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) - 2:09:10 - PB
7. Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:10:12 - PB
8. Viktor Rothlin (Switzerland) - 2:10:18
9. Tomoya Adachi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:22 - PB
10. Hideaki Tamura (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:54 - PB
11. Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team Honda) - 2:10:59 - PB
12. Noritaka Fujiyama (Team Sumitomo Denko) - 2:11:34 - PB
13. Aleksey Reunkov (Russia) - 2:11:41
14. Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult) - 2:12:17
15. Masayuki Obata (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:13:17 - PB
16. Yoshihiro Yamamoto (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 2:13:22 - debut
17. Dishon Karukuwa Maina (Kenya/Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:13:38
18. Kazuki Ikenaga (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:13:52
19. Yoshiaki Shiota (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 2:14:10 - debut
20. Koji Kobyashi (Team Subaru) - 2:14:11
21. Abderrahim Bouramdane (Morocco) - 2:14:14
22. Makoto Fukui (Team Fujitsu) - 2:14:18
23. Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo) - 2:14:23
24. Tomoyuki Kawakami (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:14:36 - PB
25. Koji Matsuoka (Team Mazda) - 2:14:42
26. Nobuhiro Nakao (Team Honda) - 2:14:57 - debut
27. Yasushi Yamamoto (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:15 - PB
28. Shinobu Kubota (Komazawa Univ.) - 2:15:48 - debut
29. Makoto Iwase (SDF Academy) - 2:16:03
30. Takashi Horiguchi (Team Honda) - 2:16:34

DNF - Peter Kirui (Kenya)
DNF - Paulo Roberto Paula (Brazil)
DNF - Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu)

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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