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World Championships Marathon Japanese Women's and Men's Previews

by Brett Larner

Click here for JRN's men's and women's long distance track previews.

It's a clear sign of the shift in strength and popularity in Japanese distance running from the women to the men that this year's World Championships marathon team includes only three women but five men.  The Federation laid down strict standards this time, sub-2:24, sub-2:08 or impress us in a domestic race, hit those times in an overseas race or don't come back, and stuck to them.  Tough love for the women, where the almost-always reliable Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) ran 2:24:43 for 3rd at the London Marathon, arguably a more impressive achievement than a bronze medal in Moscow, and was not given consideration because hey, those are the rules, while the great Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) and Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) got in with comparable over-2:24 times and placings in the far less competitive Osaka and Nagoya Women's Marathons.  To say nothing of at least one promising young talent, Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion) who was left off in favor of an empty seat, well, just because. The question of why the rules were set up to facilitate this kind of outcome is one that will not be asked publicly as there is nothing to see behind that particular curtain except maybe doubt about the judgment and priorities of the people making the decisions, and so moving on to the three women on the team the question that will be asked instead is how will marathon national record holder Noguchi, half marathon national record holder Fukushi and team leader Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), the only athlete male or female to match wits with the Federation's hubris via a 2:23:34 win in Nagoya in March, do?

In all three cases, there is little to indicate their current fitness.  Only Noguchi has run a significant race since qualifying in the marathon, winning May's Sendai International Half Marathon in 1:10:36.  But on the other hand, all three women trained together at altitude in the U.S. in June, reportedly working on team tactics to try to maximize their chances of coming home with hardware.  How would such tactics play out?  Fukushi and Noguchi seem most likely to roll up front with any early fast pace and to push things if it goes out slow, with Fukushi apt to be the punchier in the early going and the fadier in the late going. Noguchi is sure to push things in the middle stages of the race, and Kizaki has twice won major domestic Japanese women's marathons via a superb and strong finish, beating Noguchi in the process in the latter of the two.  If the trio shares the load in this way and all are fit Kizaki seems like the best bet for a medal prospect, but how sweet would it be to see Noguchi back on the podium nine painful years after her Olympic gold in Athens?  Or to see Fukushi finally get the marathon together?

The Japanese men are kicking themselves that the Marathon World Cup team medals have been eliminated this time around, with all five men on the squad having run 2:08 to get there, four of them with PBs.  Curiously, the Japanese men's team includes both the world record holders for the shortest time ever between two successive 2:08 marathons, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) at 42 days, and for the longest time ever between two successive 2:08 marathons, Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) at exactly 10 years.  The team leader, Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), cleared the flaming 2:08 hoop on net time in Tokyo this year but came out at 2:08:00 on gross, powered by media-hyped animosity toward freely-speaking independent Kawauchi.  Maeda ran two decent 10000 m races during the spring track season, suggesting that his recovery from Tokyo went smoothly.  Look for him to be gunning for Kawauchi.

Of whom what is to be said?  You could say he is the only Japanese marathoner male or female with a substantial number of races leading into the World Championships. Moscow will be Kawauchi's seventh of eleven planned marathons this year, five so far having been wins, four course records and two PBs.  One of the most spectacular of his twenty-two races so far in 2013 was a one-on-one battle with London Olympics marathon 6th-placer Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon where each pushed the other to a PB, Kawauchi coming out on top in a course record 2:08:15.  He is not strong in the heat, but a 1:33:27 course record win at the July 28 Kushiro Shitsugen 30 km on a 27-degree day in his final pre-Moscow tuneup seems to say Kawauchi is ready. Public expectations weigh more heavily on him than any other member of the Japanese team in Moscow.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) has not been seen since finishing 16th on his New Year Ekiden stage well behind Nakamoto and Maeda in his only race after running 2:08:24 in Fukuoka last December.  It was reported in the spring that he was injured but expected to recover in time, and to his credit he went through a similar cycle last year ahead of Fukuoka, with no races from March through October but no issues in the main event.  But in that case he turned in a string of three excellent ekiden runs before the marathon, while this time around he is still M.I.A.  He may well come out strong, but at this stage improving on his 7th place finish at the Daegu World Championships marathon doesn't look probable.

Nakamoto, Japan's most stable marathoner, is also on the team.  He has run a marathon PB every year since debuting in 2008 and has never finished outside the top ten in any marathon including the Daegu World Championships and the London Olympics, a trend that has continued this year with a 2:08:35 for 2nd behind Kawauchi in Beppu-Oita.  Since then he has only one race to his name, but it was a good one, clearing 29 minutes for only the second time in his career at May's Kyushu Corporate Championships 10000 m. Sooner or later he has to have a bad marathon, but there is no reason to think this will be that race.  If it comes down to a quick finish he will falter, but look for Nakamoto to sustain a strong pace over the second half.

Which brings us back to Fujiwara.  Ten years.  Most of them injured.  How many people could have kept the faith that they would some day live up to a 2:08:12 national collegiate record debut?  The last few years saw him edge back toward the light, with a few unremarkable 2:12 performances, the only Japanese men's win yet at the Tokyo Marathon, and a 2:11:31 at last year's Berlin Marathon.  Finally, at Lake Biwa this year things clicked and Fujiwara was back on familiar ground, running 2:08:51 for 4th. With his 2:08:12 in 2003 he qualified for the Paris World Championships but did not start the race after sustaining a last-minute injury.  His results since Lake Biwa this year have not been impressive, only cracking 30 at the Great Manchester Run and Peachtree 10 km road races, but if he even makes it to the starting line on August 17 Fujiwara will achieve a measure of closure on ten years of heartache regardless of the time on the clock when he crosses the finish line.


Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu)

2:23:34 – 1st, 2013 Nagoya Women’s Marathon - PB/CR

Born: 6/21/85, Kyoto
Graduated: Bukkyo University
Coach: Kiyoji Hayashi

5000 m: 15:22.87 (2011)
10000 m: 31:38.71 (2010)
half marathon: 1:10:16 (Nat'l Corporate Half Championships 2009)
marathon: 2:23:34 (Nagoya Women’s Marathon 2013)

Major performances in 2013
1st, 2013 Nagoya Women’s Marathon – 2:23:34 - PB, CR
5th, 2013 National Women's Ekiden 1st Stage (6.0 km) - 19:27

Other major performances
16th, 2012 London Olympics Marathon – 2:27:16
1st, 2011 Yokohama International Women’s Marathon – 2:26:32
5th, 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon - 2:29:35
6th, 2010 Osaka International Women’s Marathon – 2:27:34
10th, 2010 Nanning World Half Marathon Championships - 1:11:03
12th, 2009 Birmingham World Half Marathon Championships - 1:10:32
19th, 2006 Debrecen World Road Running Championships 20 km - 1:07:52

Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex)

2:24:05 – 3rd, 2013 Nagoya Women’s Marathon

Born: 7/3/78, Mie
Coach: Hisakazu Hirose

5000 m: 15:30.04 (Amagasaki 2007)
10000 m: 31:21.03 (Kobe 2004)
half marathon: 1:07:43 (Marugame 2006)
marathon: 2:19:12 (Berlin 2005) - NR

Major performances in 2013
1st, 2013 Sendai International Half Marathon - 1:10:36
3rd, 2013 Nagoya Women’s Marathon – 2:24:05

Other major performances
6th, 2012 Nagoya Women’s Marathon – 2:25:33
1st, 2007 Tokyo International Women’s Marathon – 2:21:37 - CR
1st, 2005 Berlin Marathon – 2:19:12 - NR
1st, 2004 Athens Olympics Marathon – 2:26:20
2nd, 2003 Paris World Championships – 2:24:14
1st, 2003 Osaka International Women's Marathon - 2:21:18
1st, 2002 Nagoya International Women's Marathon - 2:25:35
2nd, 1999 Palermo World Half Marathon Championships - 1:09:12

Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal)

2:24:21 – 2nd, 2013 Osaka International Women’s Marathon - PB

Born: 3/25/82, Aomori
Coach: Tadayuki Nagayama

5000 m: 14:53.22 (Rome 2005) - NR
10000 m: 30:51.81 (Busan 2002)
half marathon: 1:07:26 (Marugame 2006) - NR
marathon: 2:24:21 (Osaka Int’l Women’s Marathon 2013)

Major performances in 2013
4th, 2013 Hokuren Distance Challenge Fukagawa Meet 10000 m - 32:42.56
2nd, 2013 Osaka International Women’s Marathon – 2:24:21

Other major performances
10th, 2012 London Olympics 10000 m - 31:10.35
3rd, 2011 Chicago Marathon – 2:24:38
9th, 2009 Berlin World Championships 10000 m - 31:23.49
11th, 2008 Beijing Olympics 10000 m - 31:01.14
10th, 2007 Osaka World Championships 10000 m - 32:32.85
6th, 2006 Debrecen World Road Running Championships 20 km - 1:05:32
6th, 2006 Fukuoka World XC Championships 8 km - 25:51
11th, 2005 Helsinki World Championships 10000 m - 31:03.75
26th, 2004 Athens Olympics 10000 m - 33:48.66
11th, 2003 Paris World Championships 10000 m - 31:10.57


Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko)

2:08:00 - 4th, 2013 Tokyo Marathon - PB

Born: 4/19/81, Saga
Coach: Kenji Ayabe

5000 m: 13:25.24 (Heusden 2008)
10000 m: 27:55.17 (Nittai Univ. 2007)
half marathon: 1:02:08 (Udine World Half 2007)
marathon: 2:08:00 (Tokyo Marathon 2013)

Major performances in 2013
6th, 2013 Kyushu Jitsugyodan Championships 10000 m - 28:45.37
12th, 2013 Hyogo Relay Carnival 10000 m - 28:32.23
4th, 2013 Tokyo Marathon – 2:08:00 - PB
14th, 2013 New Year Ekiden 4th Stage (22.0 km) - 1:04:55

Other major performances
6th, 2012 Tokyo Marathon – 2:08:38
6th, 2011 Fukuoka International Marathon – 2:11:46
3rd, 2011 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon – 2:10:29
39th, 2009 Berlin World Championships Marathon - 2:19:59
2nd, 2009 Tokyo Marathon – 2:11:01
30th, 2007 World Road Running Championships Half Marathon - 1:02:08

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t)

2:08:15 - 1st, 2013 Beppu-Oita Mainchi Marathon - CR

Born: 3/5/87, Saitama
Graduated: Gakushuin University
Coach: none

5000 m: 13:58.62 (Nittai Univ. 2012)
10000 m: 29:02.33 (Hokuren Distance Challenge 2010)
half marathon: 1:02:18 (Marugame 2012)
marathon: 2:08:14 (Seoul Int’l Marathon 2013)

Major performances in 2013
1st, 2013 Gold Coast Airport Marathon - 2:10:01 - CR
4th, 2013 Seoul International Marathon – 2:08:14 - PB
1st, 2013 Kumanichi 30 km - 1:29:31 - CR
1st, 2013 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon – 2:08:15 – CR

Other major performances
1st, 2012 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon – 2:10:46
6th, 2012 Fukuoka International Marathon – 2:10:29
21st, 2012 Kavarna World Half Marathon Championships - 1:04:04
1st, 2012 Sydney Marathon – 2:11:52 - CR
3rd, 2011 Fukuoka Internatonal Marathon – 2:09:57
18th, 2011 Daegu World Championships Marathon – 2:16:11
3rd, 2011 Tokyo Marathon – 2:08:37
4th, 2010 Tokyo Marathon – 2:12:36

Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei)

2:08:24 – 2nd, 2012 Fukuoka International Marathon - PB

Born: 10/28/86, Kumamoto
Coach: Takeshi Soh

5000 m: 13:53.07 (Nobeoka 2011)
10000 m: 28:30.32 (Nobeoka 2011)
half marathon: 1:04:11 (Tamana 2007)
marathon: 2:08:24 (Fukuoka Int’l Marathon 2012)

Major performances in 2013
16th, 2013 New Year Ekiden 4th Stage (22.0 km) - 1:05:19

Other major performances
2nd, 2012 Fukuoka International Marathon – 2:08:24 - PB
11th, 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon – 2:10:05
7th, 2011 Daegu World Championships Marathon – 2:11:52
3rd, 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon – 2:09:25
9th, 2008 Tokyo Marathon - 2:11:47

Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki)

2:08:35 – 2nd, 2013 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon - PB

Born: 12/7/82, Yamaguchi
Graduated: Takushoku University
Coach: Naoki Yamagashira

5000 m: 14:04.31 (Nobeoka 2011)
10000 m: 28:54.59 (Sayagatani 2012)
half marathon: 1:02:29 (Marugame 2009)
marathon: 2:08:35 (Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon 2013)

Major performances in 2013
10th, 2013 Kyushu Jitsugyodan Championships 10000 m - 28:59.14
2nd, 2013 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon – 2:08:35 - PB
9th, 2013 New Year Ekiden 4th Stage (22.0 km) - 1:04:32

Other major performances
6th, 2012 London Olympics Marathon – 2:11:16
5th, 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon – 2:08:53
10th, 2011 Daegu World Championships Marathon – 2:13:10
4th, 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon – 2:09:31
8th, 2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon – 2:11:42

Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda)

2:08:51 – 4th, 2013 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon

Born: 3/6/81, Hyogo
Graduated: Chuo University
Coach: Yosuke Osawa

5000 m: 13:49.33 (2004)
10000 m: 28:17.38 (Nittai Univ. 2000)
half marathon: 1:02:23 (Hakodate 2004)
marathon: 2:08:12 (Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon 2003)

Major performances in 2013
27th, 2013 Peachtree 10 km - 29:45
8th, 2013 Great Manchester Run 10 km - 29:32
4th, 2013 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon – 2:08:51
8th, 2013 New Year Ekiden 7th Stage (15.5 km) - 48:01

Other major performances
9th, 2012 Berlin Marathon – 2:11:31
9th, 2010 Berlin Marathon – 2:12:00
1st, 2010 Tokyo Marathon – 2:12:19
DNS – 2003 Paris World Championships Marathon
3rd, 2003 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon – 2:08:12
1st, 2001 Beijing World University Games Half Marathon - 1:04:12

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


World News said…
Athletes is my best games that I love to watch. I never miss to watch Olympic games. It would be nice if you could upload some videos regarding Japanese world championship marathon.
TokyoRacer said…
Thanks, Brett. i hope we see some good performances from some of these runners.

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