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Jepkemboi, Okunaga, Kawauchi and Sang the Favorites at April 21 Nagano Marathon

by Brett Larner

The Nagano Marathon has released the names of its elite field lineup for its 15th running, to be held Apr. 21.  It's a field heavy on veterans, including 40+ runners William Kiplagat (Kenya), Chihiro Tanaka (Athlec RC) and Yoshimi Hoshino (eAthletes Shizuoka), imminently retiring former national record holder Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu) and, freshly departed from the Kyudenko corporate team, top-ranked woman Mika Okunaga (Yufuin Hammock AC).

Two of last year's top four men return in the form of Silas Sang (Kenya) and Alexey Sokolov (Russia), joined from overseas by silver label Eritrean Isaias Beyn.  The domestic favorite in his fourth marathon of 2013 is Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), but the interest level in the Japanese field extends further to include silver label men Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) and Kazuya Ishida (Team Nishitetsu) and three men with promising runs at February's Nobeoka Nishi Nihon Marathon, Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Team Konica Minolta), Tatsunari Hirayama (Team Yasukawa Denki) and amateur Sho Matsumoto (Dream AC).

Okunaga's main competition in the women's race comes from Kenyan Beatrice Jepkemboi with a 2:27:41 best from last year's Hamburg Marathon.  First-time marathoner Esther Nganga could prove another rival, along with 2:30:17 Russian Natalia Puchkova and, just 22, the up-and-coming Shoko Shimizu (Team Aichi Denki).

2013 Nagano Marathon Elite Field
Nagano, 4/21/13
click here for complete elite field listing

Men
William Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:06:50 (Amsterdam 1999)
Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu) - 2:06:51 (Fukuoka 2000)
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:08:14 (Seoul 2013)
Silas Sang (Kenya) - 2:09:10 (Nagano 2012)
Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 2:10:51 (Lake Biwa 2010)
Alexey Sokolov (Russia) - 2:10:59 (Nagano 2012)
Isaias Beyn (Eritrea) - 2:11:53 (Frankfurt 2012)
Chihiro Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:11:53 (Tokyo 2013)
Kazuya Ishida (Team Nishitetsu) - 2:11:57 (Nobeoka 2012)
Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:12:22 (Nobeoka 2013)
Tatsunari Hirayama (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:12:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Sho Matsumoto (Dream AC) - 2:13:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Hiro Tonegawa (Alps Tool) - 2:19:34 (Tokyo 2011)

Women
Mika Okunaga (Yufuin Hammock AC) - 2:27:16 (Osaka Int'l 2009)
Beatrice Jepkemboi (Kenya) - 2:27:41 (Hamburg 2012)
Chihiro Tanaka (Athlec RC) - 2:29:30 (Nagoya Int'l 2002)
Natalia Puchkova (Russia) - 2:30:17 (Hannover 2012)
Shoko Shimizu (Team Aichi Denki) - 2:32:43 (Tokyo 2013)
Seika Iwamura (Team Higo Ginko) - 2:33:15 (Osaka Int'l 2010)
Yoshimi Hoshino (eAthletes Shizuoka) - 2:35:58 (Ohtawara 2005)
Sayaka Maeda (Second Wind AC) - 2:42:27 (Tsukuba 2012)
Esther Nganga (Kenya) - debut - 1:12:27 (Singapore Half 2012)

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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