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2014 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

With just a month until the race date, the Tokyo Marathon organizers have released the men's and women's entry lists for Tokyo's second edition since working its way into the World Marathon Majors. Compared to the London and Boston fields it is the very model of a minor Major marathon with Kenyans, Ethiopians and even an Eritrean, but though the best have gone elsewhere the depth and quality are there to bring some overseas interest and make this field one of the best Japan has ever seen.

Tadesse Tola (Ethiopia) leads the way among the men with a sub-2:05 best from Dubai last year, tailed closely by two-time world champion Abel Kirui (Kenya) who returns to Tokyo after a DNF in 2008, Sammy Kitwara (Kenya) and three other men who have broken 2:06 in the last two years.  2011 World Jr. XC champion Geoffrey Kipsang (Kenya), past Tokyo winners Michael Kipyego (Kenya) and Viktor Rothlin (Switzerland) and five other internationals make up the next pack where the top Japanese are likely to be found.

London Olympians and former Takushoku University roommates Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) are the best domestic men, with the promising Takehiro Deki (Team Chugoku Denryoku) making his pro debut follow-up to his 2:10:02 while a junior at Aoyama Gakuin University in 2012, and the even more promising 22-year-old Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) making his marathon debut off an all-time #3 Japanese 1:00:53 half marathon best.  10000 m national champion Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) is also on the list, having run a lukewarm 2:16:31 debut at last year's Tokyo, but with injury issues hitting him at this year's New Year Ekiden it's a question mark whether he will actually start let alone approach fully operational status.  It's worth noting that despite nominally being an IAAF gold label World Marathon Major, Tokyo's domestic field is roughly the same quality as that at next weekend's silver label Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, a curious state of affairs.

Aomori Yamada H.S. graduate and former Suzuki corporate team member Lucy Kabuu Wangui (Kenya) is the clear favorite in the women's race, her 2:19:34 best from Dubai almost two minutes better than her nearest competition.  Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia) leads the next group of seven sub-2:24 women, four of them Ethiopian, with a best of 2:21:19. 35-year-old Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) tops the Japanese women's list with a best of 2:19:41, but given its distance in the past and the point in her career at which Shibui stands, the more likely homeground favorites are probably 2:24:57 independent Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) and corporate league runner Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) with a 2:25:26 from 2012.  The exclusion of Tokyo from women's national team selection consideration has in the past meant that the best Japanese women only run there when they are about to retire, so hopefully the listing of Ito, who turns 30 this year, is not an indication that she is about to follow that trend.

2014 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field
Tokyo, 2/23/14
click here for detailed field listing

Men
Tadesse Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:04:49 (Dubai 2013)
Abel Kirui (Kenya) - 2:05:04 (Rotterdam 2009)
Sammy Kitwara (Kenya) - 2:05:16 (Chicago 2013)
Peter Some (Kenya) - 2:05:38 (Paris 2013)
Deressa Chimsa (Ethiopia) - 2:05:42 (Dubai 2012)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:05:46 (Eindhoven 2012)
Geoffrey Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:06:12 (Berlin 2012)
Michael Kipkorir Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:48 (Eindhoven 2011)
Viktor Rothlin (Switzerland) - 2:07:23 (Tokyo 2008) - withdrawn
Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) - 2:07:27 (Chuncheon Int'l 2011)
Abderrahime Bouramdane (Morocco) - 2:07:33 (London 2010)
Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:07:48 (Tokyo 2012)
Kentaro Nakamoto (Japan/Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:08:35 (Beppu-Oita 2013) - withdrawn
Suehiro Ishikawa (Japan/Team Honda) - 2:09:10 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo 2011)
Takashi Horiguchi (Japan/Team Honda) - 2:09:16 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Takehiro Deki (Japan/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:10:02 (Lake Biwa 2012) - withdrawn
Kohei Matsumura (Japan/Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:10:12 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Tomoya Adachi (Japan/Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:22 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:39 (Fukuoka 2013)
Koji Kobayashi (Japan/Team Subaru) - 2:10:40 (Chicago 2012)
Hideaki Tamura (Japan/Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:54 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Mekubo Mogusu (Japan/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:11:02 (Tokyo 2013)
Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Japan/Team Konica Minolta) - 2:12:22 (Nobeoka 2013)
Kota Noguchi (Japan/Team Toyota) - 2:12:24 (Fukuoka 2012)
Keisuke Wakui (Japan/Team Yakult) - 2:12:55 (Beppu-Oita 2012)
Yuki Sato (Japan/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:16:31 (Tokyo 2013) - withdrawn
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Team Monteroza) - 1:01:06 (Marugame 2012) (Ngandu DNF'd in his debut at Fukuoka 2013)

Debut
Chihiro Miyawaki (Japan/Team Toyota) - 1:00:53 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2012)
Hiroki Yamagishi (Jobu University) - 1:02:51 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2013)

Women
Lucy Kabuu Wangui (Kenya) - 2:19:34 (Dubai 2012)
Yoko Shibui (Japan/Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:19:41 (Berlin 2004)
Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia) - 2:21:19 (Berlin 2012)
Atsede Baysa (Ethiopia) - 2:22:03 (Chicago 2012)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:23:01 (Frankfurt 2013)
Merima Mohammed (Ethiopia) - 2:23:06 (Toronto Waterfront 2010)
Caroline Rotich (Kenya) - 2:23:22 (Chicago 2012)
Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine) - 2:23:32 (Berlin 2012)
Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:23:52 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:24:57 (Osaka Women's 2012)
Mai Ito (Japan/Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:25:26 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
Yoshiko Fujinaga (Japan/Isahaya T&F Assoc.) - 2:25:40 (London 2011)
Mika Okunaga (Japan/Hammock AC) - 2:27:16 (Osaka Women's 2009)
Janet Rono (Kenya) - 2:28:36 (Koln 2013)
Sumiko Suzuki (Japan/Team Hokuren) - 2:29:26 (Tokyo 2012)
Chihiro Tanaka (Japan/Athlec AC) - 2:29:30 (Nagoya Women's 2002)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/First Dream AC) - 2:31:28 (Tokyo 2013)

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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Lexicon

Betsudai - the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
daigaku - university
ekiden - a long-distance relay race
faito - a courseside audience cheer; see ganbatte
ganbatte (ganbare) - a courseside audience cheer; see faito
gasshuku - an intensive training camp
Hakone Ekiden - the annual university men`s championships
jitsugyodan - corporate-sponsored professional running teams
onsen - a hot spring
Q-chan - Naoko Takahashi, the 2000 Sydney Olympics women`s marathon gold medalist, Olympic record holder and first woman to break 2:20 in the marathon
rikujo - track and field, the marathon, and other running events
Rikuren - the JAAF
tasuki - the sash which is handed off during an ekiden
zannen - too bad
otaku - a nerdy, socially awkward person, usually male, who is obsessed with some esoteric topic

Calendar of Major Races

Race Entries

Races in Japan usually close entry at least a month beforehand, often much longer. They generally do not have race day entry and race organizers are not willing to make special exceptions for foreigners. If you are coming to Japan for, say, a business trip in two weeks, it is not possible to enter a race. If you are making longer-range plans then it may be possible to find a suitable event using the following services:

Samurai Running Japan is a long-standing entry service that focuses on smaller races to help overseas visitors "experience the 'real' Japan."  Along with entry it assists with accommodations and transportation.

Launched in September, 2015, Runnet Japan is an English-language branch of Runnet, Japan's dominant online entry service, catering to the international community.  The number of races offered on Runnet Japan is still limited but constantly expanding.

Other entry services like Sports Entry, TecNet and the new Sportsnavi Do still offer only Ja…