by Brett Larner
The ING New York City Marathon has rarely seen top-level Japanese athletes in its field, largely as a consequence November's series of regional qualifying ekidens for the corporate league's men's and women's national championships ekidens in late December and early January. This year New York scored one of Japan's best along with two more quality corporate runners.
Following New York Kawauchi wraps up his season-ending quadruple with the Fukuoka-Hofu double he has done the last two years. A sub-2:10 in both New York and Fukuoka would shorten his own world record of 42 days for the least time ever between two sub-2:10 marathons by 14 days. Another sub-2:10 in Hofu would take another 14 days off the record.
Another name on Kawauchi's list is Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), a former star of the Hakone Ekiden's uphill Fifth Stage while in university and now coached by Barcelona Olympics silver medalist Koichi Morishita. Best-known outside Japan for his thrilling loss to Kawauchi in Fukuoka in 2011, Imai has struggled to live up to the expectations of his domestic fans in his marathon to date, incrementally improving his best over the last three years from 2:10:41 to 2:10:32 to its current 2:10:29 status from this year's Tokyo Marathon. Like Kawauchi he is well-suited to a hilly course, and with a good year since Tokyo behind him, including a win over Kawauchi at July's Shibetsu Half Marathon, he looks ready for a good international debut.
Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) won the 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon in a solid 2:23:23 to join the all-time Japanese top ten and make the London Olympics. Since then she has followed the same general pattern as other top-level Tenmaya women before her and steadily declined. In her last signifcant race, the Hokkaido Marathon on Aug. 25 this year, she was 13th in only 2:51:55. In early September her coach Yutaka Taketomi described her condition to JRN as, "Bad, bad....." Given these circumstances a strong debut on the challenging New York course just two months later looks iffy at best.
The ING New York City Marathon will be streamed live online starting at 7:00 a.m. local time at this link. Check back on JRN and our Twitter feed @JRNHeadlines for more coverage throughout race weekend.
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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