Skip to main content

Matsumoto Faces Tough Challenge in Best-Ever Grandma's Marathon Field

by Brett Larner
photos by Kenji and Jamie Ogura

With 22 men on its entry list having run under 2:14 in the last four years, 11 of them sub-2:12 and an unprecented sub-2:10 contingent led by former marathon junior world record holder Bazu Worku (Ethiopia), in its final year under the helm of race director Scott Keenan the 37th running of Grandma's Marathon may, if the weather cooperates, see a serious shot at the historic 2:09:37 set in 1981 by the great Dick Beardsley.  Only one athlete among the top 22 hails from a country other than Kenya or Ethiopia, 27-year-old Japanese independent Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business Services).  Appearing at Grandma's with support from JRN after a recommendation from Japan's most famous independent, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), Matsumoto faces a tough challenge in climbing up through the ranks toward the front end of the field.

A graduate of running-oriented Kobayashi H.S. where he ran the National High School Ekiden Championships twice, Matsumoto attended the academically elite University of Tokyo, making news for qualifying for the 2005 Hakone Ekiden as a member of the Kanto Region Select Team and earning a reputation as an intellectual scholar-athlete.  Post-graduation he was recruited by the TEPCO corporate team coached by 1991 World Championships gold medalist Hiromi Taniguchi, but the Fukushima disasters in his third year with the team spelled the end of his corporate league career as the TEPCO team was disbanded.  While his teammates moved to other teams or retired, Matsumoto opted to follow Kawauchi's example and go the independent route.

Taking a full-time job with the Tokyo-based Nikkei Business Services company Matsumoto spent time developing a workable training regimen before making a serious move to the marathon in the fall of 2012.  Going sub-2:20 for the first time in 2:19:26 at the Oct. 28 Oikawa Marathon, he followed up with a 2:18:59 best at the Dec. 2 Fukuoka International Marathon after going through halfway in 1:03:50, 10 seconds better than his half marathon best.  The Feb. 10 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon marked Matsumoto's big breakthrough. Running against a field of developing corporate runners at 2:11 pace, Matsumoto hit them with a hard surge at 30 km that broke the field apart.  Pushing on in the lead, he fell victim to winner Hiroaki Sano's closing speed but held on to improve his best by over 5 minutes to 2:13:38.

Matsumoto, course record holder Dick Beardsley and host family Jamie and Kenji Ogura.

Making his serious overseas debut in Grandma's, Matsumoto hopes to improve again to at least 2:12, a time that most years would put him at the front end of the field. Where it will put him this year, with possible tailwinds and strong competition lined up ahead of him to well below the 2:10 level, is anyone's guess, but Matsumoto has one point of history on his side.  At the start of his independent career in 2010, future 2:07 man and Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) outkicked Bazu Worku by 20 seconds over the final kilometer to set the Ottawa Marathon course record.  It would be a stretch for Matsumoto to do the same on Saturday, but if he did his position as another independent among Japan's leading men would be set.  The corporate league coaches and bureaucrats will be watching.

37th Grandma's Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Duluth, MN, 6/22/13

Men
Bazu Worku (Ethiopia) - 2:05:25 (Berlin 2010)
Gashaw Asfaw (Ethiopia) - 2:08:03 (Paris 2006)
Wegayehu Tefera (Ethiopia) - 2:08:25 (Seoul 2010)
Abraham Chelanga (Kenya) - 2:08:43 (Paris 2009)
Weldon Kirui (Kenya) - 2:09:06 (Eindhoven 2012)
Dereje Yadete (Ethiopia) - 2:09:51 (Tiberias 2012)
Tumicha Horsa (Ethiopia) - 2:10:53 (Saint Anthony 2012)
Ernest Kebenei (Kenya) - 2:10:55 (Nairobi 2011)
Tesfaye Sendeku (Ethiopia) - 2:11:18 (San Diego 2012)
Sammy Malakwen (Kenya) - 2:11:31 (Beirut 2012)
Meshack Kirwa (Kenya) - 2:11:45 (Nairobi 2009)
Francis Maundu (Kenya) - 2:12:09 (Toronto 2009)
Christopher Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:12:17 (Grandma's 2011)
James Kirwa (Kenya) - 2:12:54 (Des Moines 2011)
David Rutoh (Kenya) - 2:13:00 (Baltimore 2010)
Elijah Muturi (Kenya) - 2:13:17 (Zhenzhou 2012)
Joseph Mutinda (Kenya) - 2:13:19 (Torreon 2012)
Edward Mbuni (Kenya) - 2:12:32 (Nairobi 2010)
Lamech Mokono (Kenya) - 2:13:28 (Grandma's 2012)
Kennedy Kemei (Kenya) - 2:13:36 (Firenze 2006)
Sho Matsumoto (Japan) - 2:13:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Benjamin Metto (Kenya) - 2:13:45 (Grandma's 2012)

Women
Yihunlish Delelecha (Ethiopia) - 2:30:39 (Grandma's 2011)
Everlyne Lagat (Kenya) - 2:31:32 (Grandma's 2012)
Doreen Kitaka (Kenya) - 2:32:31 (Grandma's 2011)
Sarah Kiptoo (Kenya) - 2:33:42 (Cleveland 2013)
Hirut Guangul (Ethiopia) - 2:34:02 (Twin Cities 2012)
Tinibt Gidey (Ethiopia) - 2:34:43 (Twin Cities 2012)
Divina Jepkosgei (Kenya) - 2:34:53 (Grandma's 2011)
Gulume Tollesa (Ethiopia) - 2:36:05 (Marrakech 2013)
Tezeta Dengersa (Turkey) - 2:37:52 (Baltimore 2011)
Laurie Knowles (U.S.A.) - 2:38:11 (Grandma's 2011)

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photos (c) 2013 Kenji Ogura
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …

Guinness Certifies Kawauchi's World Record 78 Career Sub-2:20 Marathons After Half Marathon in Panda Costume

Known as the Civil Servant Runner, Saitama Prefectural Government employee Yuki Kawauchi's career record of 78 sub-2:20 marathons was officially recognized as the Guinness World Record at a ceremony in his hometown of Kuki, Saitama on Mar. 25.  Raised in Kuki, Kawauchi began working for the Saitama Prefectural Government after graduating from university. Running while working full-time as a civil servant, he has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic trial race.

Earlier this month on the 18th Kawauchi ran Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon, winning in 2:14:12. His 78th time running faster than 2 hours and 20 minutes, his achievement was certified as the official Guinness World Record. He actually broke the previous record on Jan. 1 at the Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon in the U.S.A. with his 76th sub-2:20 but followed up with two performances, one in February and the other last week, before Guinness could ratify the record.

The official recognition ceremony took place Mar. 2…